Local Spotlight: Circleville Pumpkin Show

Photo Courtesy Circleville Pumpkin Show Inc.

When the Circleville Pumpkin Show opens next month, it will be a welcome return to normalcy for the city after taking a year off in 2020. This will be the 114th edition of the Pumpkin Show and, while there will be a few pandemic related changes, organizers say it will be the same incredible hometown event that visitors have come to expect.

Circleville native Barry Keller has been Pumpkin Show Vice President for 25 years and says that volunteers have stayed busy preparing for the event. “This year there will be some changes because of Covid but we are excited to welcome people back to downtown Circleville and the Pumpkin Show,” he said. “This is a mostly outdoor event so we believe it is as safe as other large outdoor events and we look forward getting back to normal this year.”

Visitors will see a few pandemic related changes. For example, their longtime ride company has retired so there will be new rides with a new company and a completely different layout. The family owned and Indiana based Poor Jack Amusements will bring traditional family favorites like the carousel along with some modern thrill rides.

Meanwhile cherished traditions like their seven parades, live music, outdoor vendors, contests and pumpkin goodness will continue as normal.

But this isn’t a normal event. The Circleville Pumpkin Show attracts 400,000 people in four days and is the sixth largest festival of any kind in the country.  With pumpkin food, pumpkin carving and giant pumpkins topping as much as 1,700 pounds, it’s the oldest and largest festival in Ohio. In other words, they don’t call it “The Greatest Free Show On Earth” for nothing.

There are parades to celebrate pets, community, queens and even bands. In fact, Gary and Connie Sharpe, owners of Circleville-based Health Care Logistics are sponsoring the Ohio State University Marching Band to participate in the Parade of Bands on Thursday night. This is the third time the Sharpes have made this generous sponsorship and a shining example of how volunteers, sponsors and the entire community come together to make this event successful.

Photo Courtesy Circleville Pumpkin Show Inc.

“This isn’t just another festival. It’s a community homecoming. It’s an attraction for people from all over the country and all over the world. It’s the Pumpkin Show and people look forward to it all year,” Keller explained. “You can always tell when it’s Pumpkin Show time because people start to freshen up their storefronts, they clean up, paint buildings, freshen up mulch. Pumpkins and mums start to appear at homes and everyone gets in on the act of helping the town put our best foot forward.”

It’s also the biggest fundraiser of the year for civic groups, churches, school organizations, small businesses and vendors of all kind. “For some of these organizations, the money they make at the Pumpkin Show funds their activities for the year. It’s important that they have a good year,” he explained.

Courtney Hart owns Ivy Court in downtown Circleville and has been a vendor at the Pumpkin Show for several years. The local native’s shop has a host of handmade items personalized to Round Town and its famous Pumpkin Show. They also sell plants and a carefully curated selection of handmade items. “The Pumpkin Show is our number one event every year but we also had our online sales to keep us going.  I can’t imagine how hard it was for all the small businesses, vendors and civic groups that badly needed the sales. It’s not just a fun event, it’s important to the economy,” she said.   

She lit up when asked to describe the event. “It’s like Christmas. I’ve been coming since I was a little girl and have always look forward to it. People absolutely love the tradition of it. That’s what the Pumpkin Show is all about. If you’re from here, it’s like a big homecoming and a class reunion every year. If you’re not from here, it’s still an amazing festival. Not one disappointing block and so much to see and do,” she smiled.

Hart’s business is known for merchandise featuring the festival’s mascot Mr. Winky. They will have apparel, mugs, cutting boards, burlap prints and other unique pieces celebrating the event and the city. These items will be available in her South Court Street store beginning October 1 and will also be found in their festival booth. “We can hardly wait,” she exclaimed.

Keller invites everyone to attend and credits organizers, the community, sponsors, and the 250 or more volunteers who help to keep the Pumpkin Show successful year after year. “We couldn’t do it without everyone working together and we hope the community and everyone who attends will enjoy having the Pumpkin Show back this year,” he said.  “Being an outdoor event, we believe this is as safe as the other large outdoor events but we encourage people to use their own judgement. If people have concerns about Covid, it’s a personal choice to not attend and we encourage you to stay away for now but to come back when you feel it’s safe,” he said.

They are waiting for direction from the health department regarding precautions necessary for indoor displays and events and will announce those changes as they become available.

The Circleville Pumpkin Show is held the third Wednesday through Saturday in October. This year, that will be October 20-23, 2021. Visit their website and follow the Circleville Pumpkin Show, Inc. on Facebook for the latest information and details including a full schedule, parking information and ride pass info.

Small Business Spotlight: Rushcreek Feed and Supply

Rushcreek Feed and Supply Company has been a Bremen landmark and gathering place for sixty years. They’ll be celebrating that big anniversary with an event this Saturday.

With a wide selection, personal service and a large delivery area, it’s no wonder they have a loyal customer following.

Manger Justin Shumaker talked about their selection of products which is almost too long to remember. In fact, they pride themselves on being a one stop shop for livestock feed, pet food, lawn and garden needs, fertilizer and much more. That list includes:

  • Fencing Equipment
  • Pet Feed and Supplies
  • Garden Supplies and Tools
  • Honey Bee Supplies
  • Deer Minerals and Products for Hunting
  • Banks Deer Blinds and Feeders
  • Arrowquip Cattle Handling Equiment
  • ADS Plastic Piping
  • Birdseed, Squirrel Food and Supplies
  • Livestock feed and products for goats, chickens, pigs, cattle and horses
  • Propane
  • Custom Blended Fertilizers
  • Water Softener Pellets
  • Mulch
  • Custom Mix Feed for All Species

They also buy corn, beans, oats and wheat and offer delivery and a number of other services.  For example, they provide custom application of fertilizer as well as custom spray applications for fields.

“So many people rely on the customer service from a small company like us as opposed to a box store. We’re more versatile in a lot of ways like in making custom feeds. Only a local mill like this can provide this service,” Shumaker said. “Small businesses and small towns rely on good customers. We like to help our customers as much as we can and they like that they know us when they come in. That helps a lot.”

It all began on June 21, 1961 when five local farmers partnered to purchase the Brown-Burnworth Company from Bessie Brown. That company had been on this site since 1915 and had put Bremen on the map for its name brand Eagle Flour. There had actually been a mill here for many years before that. In fact, their office building was constructed in 1853.

Those farmers who partnered to organize Rushcreek Feed and Supply were Robert Pontious, Raymond, Scholl, Art Kelly, Joe Killbarger Sr. and Joe Kilbarger Jr.

Over the years. There have been numerous updates to the facilities to allow for expanded capacity and the addition of new products.  Today they employ eleven people and are on the lookout for some more help.

Join them this Saturday, August 28 to celebrate their 60th anniversary. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. there will be food, door prizes and some vendors on site. The public is invited to attend this free event.

Rushcreek Feed and Supply Company is located at 103 W. Broad Street in Bremen. Call them at 740.569.4105 or follow them on Facebook.

Small Business Spotlight: Rivers Bend Bike Shop

Being a small business owner is a tough job! That’s why we feature a different small business in our Small Business Spotlight every month. Today we talk shop with the owner of Rivers Bend Bike Shop!

Jamie Sharp has loved bicycles for as long as he can remember. That enthusiasm shines through when he talks about his business Rivers Bend Bike Shop in historic downtown Chillicothe. The shop offers bicycle sales and service along with a host of accessories and products for cyclists of all ages and experience levels.

Sharp actually started working in a local bicycle shop when he was just a kid. “I needed a bike to go riding with a buddy and two girls. I had narrowed it down to a Rink’s bike that was cheap and in my budget or this bike shop bike that was so much nicer but a little more money. It was white with red and gold trim –  a Scorpion bike. I went back and forth but went for that better bike and I’m so glad I did. That was my first lesson in how you get what you pay for when it comes to bikes,” he said.

Sharp says the number one question he gets every day is whether he does bicycle repair. “Yes! I do repair bicycles. That’s one of the big things that a bike shop does and people bring me their bikes for tune-ups and for all sorts of reasons,” he said.

While a bicycle seems like a straightforward thing to put together, they tend to be more complicated than a lot of people realize and are often assembled incorrectly by people who do it at home or at the big box stores.  “You see a lot of the same problems when they’re not put together by someone who understands bikes. People bring them in with serious things wrong that make the bike harder to ride and less safe,” he said. “A guy recently brought in a bike and the handlebars were on backwards. He said it was like riding a different bike after that. It seems like a simple thing but these are common mistakes.”

He also sells a full line of bicycles to fill every need. “When I was a kid it used to be a cruiser or a ten speed. Now you have all kinds of bikes for specialties,” he said as he described the store’s selection that includes adult comfort bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes, gravel bikes, Ebikes, BMX bikes and all kinds of kids bikes.

Sharp said that he aims to not just sell or service a bike but to truly help the customer. “A lot of times people have questions or they need a little direction. I’m happy to listen, offer advice. People come in only to look around and realize that I’m not just trying to sell something. I’m trying to help them out too.”

This is the kind of service offered by most bike shops but traditional bike shops are becoming more difficult to find. “Years ago, every town around here had at least one bike shop,” he said as he began reminiscing about all the bike shops that once existed in the area. “Now people have to travel just to find one so I guess it is pretty unique that we’re here.”

Sharp first opened his own shop in 2008. Locals may remember Rent and Roll along the bike path in town where he rented roller blades and bikes. The following year, he relocated to a Water Street location where he became a full service bike shop. He grew again two years ago, moving just around the corner to a Walnut Street location with off street parking and more display space.

He noted that the pandemic has been good for hobby cyclists but has created some challenges for people in his line of work. “People want to get outside, they want to exercise and a bike is a great way to do that. You could get out of the house, exercise even when the gyms were closed and have fun so the bike world really took off last year,” he said.

Unfortunately, the pandemic caused supply issues as well since it became harder to get in new bikes and parts. “I sold every bike I had. I sold every used bike I had at home and whenever I was able to order bikes, they would be sold before I got them here. It’s been a tough year.”

Sharp is an avid mountain biker who supports the biking community as a trail steward for Great Seal State Park and as an active member of Columbus Ohio Mountain Biking Organization or COMBO. This group advocates for new trails around central Ohio and in Ross County. Here, Sharp hopes to see more mountain bike trails developed to appeal to overnight guests. “Some of the best mountain bike trails in the state are right here but we need more to entice people to come ride. We want them to stay longer and spend more money in our community,” he explained.

He also encourages use of the bike and walking path that uses the abandoned B&O Railroad corridor to connect Chillicothe and Washington Court House. Locals call it the floodwall but it’s actually called Paint Creek Recreational Trail and offers 32 paved miles for exercise and recreation.  “It’s a great place to get out and go for a ride,” he exclaimed.

What is it about bicycles that he loves so much? “I’ve been asking myself that for a long time. It’s the freedom of being on two wheels. You’re in total control of those two wheels and where they go. That makes me happy. If you think back, the first feeling of freedom when you were a kid was on a bike. Some of us just never lost that,” he said.

River Bends Bicycle Shop is located at 86 N. Walnut Street in Chillicothe. Stop by, call them at 740.779.0061 or follow them on Facebook.

VCNB Spotlight: Lancaster Festival 2021

When the Lancaster Festival makes its return this year, things will look a little different. However, the quality of the acts, the devotion of the volunteers and the celebration of the arts will be as powerful and enthusiastic as ever. Changes were made this year to make the event safer for audiences and performers in these pandemic times after taking a year off in 2020.

With less than a month to go before the nine day event, Executive Director Deb Connell says efforts are ramping up to make this “the best show we can and keep everyone safe.”

The event is a little shorter than normal and there will be no indoor performances but the schedule is still packed with impressive performers including Lancaster’s own world class symphony orchestra and acts to appeal to any audience. World renowned guitarist Don Felder will headline the festival. The former member of The Eagles helped to develop that band’s sound, penning some of their biggest hits including “Hotel California.”

“He’s one of the best guitarists in the world. He invented the doubled necked guitar and wrote a lot of the Eagles’ music. People may not remember his name but they know his sound and they love his music,” Connell said.

Other headliners include Dancing Dream – An ABBA Tribute Band and country music group The Band Perry. There will also be performances and events at venues around town including events for children and families and an array of musical genres designed to suit every taste. For example, bluegrass group String Therapy will perform in downtown one night while another night will feature renowned jazz artists when The Byron Stripling Band take the stage with guest Bobby Floyd. “Byron Stripling is a world famous jazz musician who played with Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis and a lot of the greats. This is a big deal having him here,” she explained.

A Percussion Ensemble and a Soloist’s Spotlight will feature the talents of members of the Lancaster Festival Orchestra which is one aspect that makes this festival unique. “Our orchestra musicians come from all over the country and all over world. They are wonderful, professional musicians who are top notch in every way. They all have other opportunities to perform but they choose to come here and to spend this time with the people of Lancaster and creating beautiful music for us. We should be proud of that,” she said.

Proud indeed. Those orchestra members are hosted by local families who provide their hospitality at no cost to the musician or the festival. “Some of these musicians have been coming here for years and years. They were young professionals at the time they began and now they bring with them spouses and children. They’ve built relationships with their host families that extend beyond the festival. Some vacation together, they’ve shared weddings and births and all kinds of celebrations. So many of them have such a shared history they love each other like family,” she explained.

This is just one way that volunteers help to run the festival. There is actually a small army of volunteers who take on projects both big and small. While the festival has two full time employees and a handful of seasonal employees during the festival week, it is actually the volunteers that make the event work. “We couldn’t do it without our volunteers. There are about 400 of them. That’s what it takes to make us successful. That’s what it takes to have an event of this scale,” she said. “Everyone associated with the festival owns a piece of the festival and they love and care for it as though it were their own. We did an impact study a few years ago and found that those volunteers give about 28,000 hours of time each and every year.”

There are some changes to insure safety for all this year. For example, the orchestra will be a little smaller than its normal 63 piece size to allow for social distancing on the stage. Connell said that Conductor Gary Sheldon has carefully selected arrangements that will provide audiences the same impressive sound with fewer musicians. “People will not notice any change in the quality of the music.”

Table seating must be purchased in advance in sets of ten this year and gates will open a little later than in past years. Festival events at Ohio University – Lancaster will be smoke free this year since OUL is now a smoke-free campus.

Tickets are on sale now and Connell advises buying early to insure you can attend the events of your choice. In addition to music, there will be other events including the much anticipated Artwalk and the Festival Fair Day.

Want more information? Want to buy tickets, become a volunteer or learn about sponsor opportunities? Call 740.687.4808, email Deb at dconnell@lancasterfestival.org or visit them online at www.lancasterfestival.org. There’s a form you can fill out to become a volunteer as well as the full schedule of events and much more. Get all the latest news and information by following Lancaster Festival on Facebook

The Lancaster Festival will be held July 23 – July 31. Mark your calendars, buy those tickets and be prepared for live music!

Small Business Spotlight: Downtown Treatery

Being a small business owner is a tough job! That’s why we feature a different small business in our Small Business Spotlight every month! Today we visit Downtown Treatery, a bright and happy donut shop in Jackson where the owners hope to make you smile.

There aren’t many times in life that you will be encouraged to play with your food but that’s exactly what happens at Downtown Treatery. The Jackson donut shop opened just before the pandemic began and has provided much needed smiles for a growing legion of customers.

That’s partly because this isn’t just any ordinary donut shop. Step inside the brightly decorated storefront and you will be greeted by friendly staff, a delicious aroma and uplifting messages on the wall. The positive messages and whimsical décor including a bicycle table are designed to make every customer want to linger.

“Our donuts are great but we want you to come for the experience too,” Nicole Brennen said. She and her husband Brandon developed their unique format that allows customers to customize their orders with an array of icings, glazes and toppings. Essentially, customers can make their donut unique as fun to create as they are to eat.

Customers can also try the Downtown Treatery’s signature donuts with names like Oreo that’s topped with crushed Oreo cookies, the Piglet which features bacon and Extreme Butter Cup which is a chocolate and peanut butter lover’s dream. Their Michael’s Bubble is modeled off a popular treat from another Jackson area business – Michael’s Ice Cream where their daily fresh roasted peanuts top off their signature bubble sundae. These nuts are a prominent part of the Michael’s donut.

Other popular toppings include sprinkles, toasted coconut, Fruity Pebbles and chocolate chips. Icings include flavors like maple, strawberry, cream cheese and lemon while the assorted drizzles include marshmallow, peanut butter, raspberry and classic chocolate.

They also have other menu items like cream horns, brownies, cinnamon rolls, mini pies and beverages.

Another huge piece of the business is custom orders. “We do custom orders for any event you can imagine. We do weddings, birthday parties, bridal showers, retirement parties, gender reveal parties. You name it and we’ve done it,” she said.

“We chose bright, happy colors that kids like because we want to be family friendly and we want to people to smile when they come in. Everyone says just coming in brings a smile and we want them to be happy, to enjoy some donuts and to remember that life is pretty good. It’s not so bad. There’s a lot to smile about,” Nicole said.

Nicole and Brandon sweetly tag teamed the telling of the story that led them to want to open this shop. “It was all her idea. She had talked about it for a while. We had visited something similar on vacation years ago and one day she started talking to me about buildings,” he laughed.

“I knew it was something we should do and I just kept waiting for the right time. Everyone loves donuts, they make people happy. I believe that God has brought us to here to help others, to bring joy to others. I’m grateful to Him for that,” Nicole explained as she discussed how special and decorated donuts have become all the rage for celebrations in the area. “Everyone loves it and it’s another way we can bring a smile!”

When they found the building that would become Downtown Treatery, it had been stripped down to the studs, providing a blank canvas to create the space they need. They hung curtains over the front window during the renovation, waiting until opening day for the big reveal to the community.  “When I took down the curtains on the first day, there was a line stretched down the street,” she recalled. “It was incredible the way people showed up for us. I couldn’t believe it!”

That was January 25, 2020. Just six weeks later, the pandemic changed the face of life in Ohio and forced the couple to adjust their business model. “We had to adapt if we wanted to survive and we wanted to survive. Failure wasn’t an option so we started offering curbside pickup. You could order and we would bring your donuts right out to the car. If you’re a small business, you have to get creative.”

Nicole knows something about creativity. As a sports mom, wife, dental practitioner and small business owner she’s always had to balance, juggle and hustle but has done so more than ever this last year. “If it were easy, everyone would do it. I’m no stranger to hard work and I really love the challenge of making things work, finding ways around obstacles and reaching for my dreams,” she said.

Their dining room is open and there’s plenty of room for guests to social distance. Prior to the pandemic, they had welcomed parties of kids in to decorate their own donuts. “We loved doing that and can’t wait to do it again someday,” she said.

While Downtown Treatery is a special place for locals to enjoy, they also have a number of out-of-town guests including some who stop in while visiting town. “Jackson is such a wonderful place. Whether you live here or are just visiting, we welcome everyone to stop by for a donut and smile.”

Downtown Treatery is located at 229 Broadway Street in Jackson. Find hours, menu and more at their Facebook page!  

Small Business Spotlight: Das KaffeeHaus von Frau Burkhart

Being a small business owner is a tough job! That’s why we feature a different small business in our Small Business Spotlight every month! This time we are pleased to feature Das KaffeeHaus von Frau Burkhart in Lithopolis.

Das KaffeeHaus von Frau Burkhart adds color and charm to the streetscape in downtown Lithopolis.

Ask Amy and Joseph Contino about their coffee shop and it is clear that it’s not your run-of-the-mill place to buy coffee. The business and its owners have a colorful story and something special to offer. Das KaffeeHaus von Frau Burkhart has stood out as a colorful addition to the Lithopolis streetscape for ten years. The brick exterior with cheerful yellow accents invites customers in but it’s the European experience and German coffee that keeps them coming back.

Joseph is a charismatic storyteller who accepts responsibility for the vision that led to this venture.

The pair are veterans – he’s an Italian from Groveport and she is from generations of good German stock in Cincinnati. They met while serving in the US Air Force where she picked up the call sign Frau Burkhart, a fun twist on her maiden name and German heritage with a hat tip to Cloris Leachman’s character Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein.

The coffee shop is actually modeled off the German cafes that Joseph, an Air Force Pilot, discovered during his many trips to Germany. “We were never what you would call coffee snobs. We were utilitarian drinkers and really just drank coffee for the caffeine. That all changed my first time in Germany,” he said.  “I was tired, I was exhausted and I just wanted a cup of coffee to give me some energy. One taste and I was hooked. It was the best coffee I’ve ever tasted.”

He discovered that coffee is less beverage and more a way of life in Germany where every restaurant, dance club, beer garden and café serves excellent coffees. Inspired and motivated, he began searching the country for the best of the best German brew while convincing a reluctant Amy that this was a good idea.

The rest, as they say, is history. Today, the coffee shop sits on the main drag through town, not far from central Ohio communities where consumers are looking for a different kind of coffee shop experience.

And it is different from other American coffee houses.

The laidback vibe here is offset by cool techno music, a reminder of the German club scene. Walls are adorned with artwork and subtle humorous nods to the country.  “We have a different vibe and a different product on purpose. We don’t want to be like everyone else and we actually embrace the different. That’s what makes us who we are,” he said. “What we do here is organic and sincere.”

What really makes them who they are is the coffee, pastries and light sandwiches that keep a steady stream of customers coming in throughout the day. The menu is extensive but they are known for their Das KaffeeHaus German blend, a brew that is derived from a German recipe that dates back to 1632 in Aachen, Germany. They say the proprietary blend is a light roast by American standards and a much different experience than most US coffee drinkers have come to expect from a chain coffee shop.

They are also known for their Schwarzenegger Austrian Roast, Blitzkrieg French Roast and D’Allessandro Italian Espresso Roast. The menu includes some specialty teas, smoothies and hand dipped Velvet Ice Cream from nearby Utica, Ohio. Like in Germany, real ice cream is used in their Frappe’ called the Frostlatte and in a drink called an Eis Kaffee – A coffee/ice cream float where hot coffee is poured over your favorite ice cream and topped with whipped cream. The Eis Kaffee happens to be the most popular coffee drink in Germany.

Daily specials offer regulars the opportunity to try something different.

Amy said the coffee is the star of the show here but they also offer pastries that are handmade daily as well as some simple sandwiches. Pastries you may find in their case include cream puffs, turnovers, strudels and Bavarian pretzels, complete with their German and American names proudly displayed. She did admit that marrying German traditions and the American palette can be a challenge. “We tend to expect things to be sweet but pastries in Germany tend to be not at all sweet so we’ve had to make some adjustments,” she explained.

They do not claim to run an authentic German business in the heart of Ohio. Instead, they have taken the best of the German café concept and tried to make it a fun, delicious experience for a consumer who is looking for a bit of culture and something different with their coffee.

Listeners of 99.7 the Blitz Radio in Columbus know that they’re the official coffee of the Blitz and have likely heard Joseph read funny and sometimes edgy copy as Herr Joseph. They are also developing a beer garden that will be located behind the coffee shop and that they hope to have ready for Oktoberfest 2021. They are open to speaking with anyone interested in franchising and investment opportunities as well.

To get the full Das KauffeeHaus von Frau Burkhart experience, stop by 45 East Columbus Street in Lithopolis. Follow them on Facebook for the latest news or visit them online for hours, menu and to hear some of Herr Joseph’s radio spots.

Small Business Spotlight: Castaways Restaurant

Being a small business owner is a tough job! That’s why we feature a different small business in our Small Business Spotlight every month!

This month we are excited to feature Castaways Restaurant in Lancaster, an iconic eatery high on the hill “above the fairgrounds” as the advertisements used to say.  Established over seventy years ago at this very location, Castaways is a Lancaster staple.

While some necessary changes have been made through the years, the meat and potatoes of the restaurant remains the same – the food!  Fresh steaks, chops, and burgers sourced from Bay Food Market accompany a wide variety of seafood, sandwiches, salads, and stone-baked pizzas on the menu.  Their legendary Prime Rib Wednesdays, held bi-weekly, have been satisfying crowds who come in to “eat at the butcher’s house” for decades.

For as long as anyone can remember, the Kraft family has been connected to the historic restaurant.  The connection, first through the Bay farm and then through Bay Food Market, eventually led to Bay Food Market owner David Kraft buying the restaurant in 1997 when original owner Fred Eaton decided to sell.

For many years the restaurant stuck with what worked in more than just the kitchen.  Traditional marketing tactics were used to promote the restaurant and word of mouth was heavily relied upon.  However, in recent years as David’s daughter Micole Ruff has taken on more responsibility with the family business, she’s made the marketing side one of her top priorities.  Step #1 was to make social media a serious part of their strategy.

With an eye for photography, Micole posts to social media nearly every day, whether it be photos on Instagram or updates and shout outs on Facebook.  On Sundays and Mondays, when the restaurant is closed, she even makes an effort to shout out other local businesses and establishments.

Like everyone else, the business had to evolve last year because of the challenges that came with the pandemic. “We just did what they told us we needed to do,” Micole said, referring to operating a restaurant amidst a global pandemic.  “We really didn’t have a choice.  But we were lucky that we already had a good amount of carry-out business before this all happened.”  The already-established base of their carryout business, she says, is a large reason why their temporary but mandatory shift to carry-out only service was successful.

Then they experimented with bringing in musicians to play on the patio for the guests dining outdoors on summer and autumn Prime Rib Wednesdays.  That went from experiment to official part of the schedule each week almost immediately.  Now, musicians are lining up to play once the weather breaks this year. The calendar is already booked through May.

One of the most publicized efforts over the past year was the opening of their kitchen to Jamie Mast, owner of The Original Jimmy’s Jawbreaker concession trailer, another legendary staple of the local dining community.  Several times throughout 2021, Jamie was able to come in and cook alongside the Castaways crew in the kitchen.  On these special nights, the Original Jimmy’s Jawbreaker burgers and homemade cannolis were offered alongside the full Castaway’s menu.  Doing something a little bit different offered a lift to the business.  “Jamie and her businesses have been long time customers so it was a natural fit to partner with her for something like this.  It was great for all of us!”

With seventy years of experience preparing delicious food, Castaways has a loyal fan base beating a path to the off-the-beaten path restaurant above the city. They invite newcomers to follow their lead and discover what all the fuss is about when people gush about their delectable fresh cut meats, homemade dressings and stone baked pizzas.

Visit Castaways at 1500 North High Street in Lancaster. You can also find them on Facebook or Instagram and view their full menu on their website.  Dine in or carry out your dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays and don’t forget to pre-order your Wednesday prime rib feast a day ahead of time!

Small Business Spotlight: Logan Theater and Community Arts Center

Hocking Hills Banking Center Branch Manager Kati Maple presented a check for $25,000 to Logan
Theater, Inc. Executive Director Sheila Wolfe on Thursday morning.

It’s incredible to see what happens when a community works together toward a common goal. Logan is currently benefiting from a host of people, organizations, businesses and even a children’s chorus working together to give new life to an anchor building in the city’s downtown.

The results will be the Logan Theater and Community Arts Center which will be available in a host of ways. From movies and live performances to meeting space and tutoring for local high school students, this space will live up to its name as a facility that welcomes the community.

Our Hocking Hills Banking Center is thrilled to be a part of this project, donating $25,000 to sponsor the first floor concessions area. Hocking Hills Banking Center Branch Manager Kati Maple said that she is thrilled for the bank to be part of this project. “The revitalization efforts in downtown Logan are so important to the future of our community. This project will give students a safe place to go after school and give our residents and our visitors a place to find entertainment. I am so excited that our bank is able to be a sponsor,” she said.

This building is known by many names – the Chakeres Theater, the Masonic Building, the old Logan Theater – but whatever you call it, the building is structurally sound and spacious with some unique characteristics. Built by the Knights of the Pythias in 1926, the imposing building has a basement and three floors above ground including a first floor theater that has seen Vaudeville acts, singing cowboys and movies of all kinds.

Sammy Davis, Jr. performed on that stage as a child. Even Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger captivated audiences here.

It was part of the Chakeres Theater chain for many years but the theater closed in 1992, leaving what was once a vital community landmark shuttered and at risk. Today, the building is owned by Logan Theater, Inc. a non-profit organization. That group was born from Logan Town Center, the organization that purchased the building aiming to rethink, restore and revitalize it.

Logan Theater, Inc. Executive Director Sheila Wolfe praised the community for working together on this project and said she hopes this will encourage more development in the downtown. “Our community needs this. We need a place to gather and for our young people,” she said. “We hope this will be a catalyst for the downtown and that it will inspire more economic development.”

She said the project has been broken down into three phases.

Phase One
The Logan-Hocking Local School District has partnered with the organization to use the second and third floors. The school district will use the second floor as a tutoring center for high school students. It will provide a safe after-school space for students to come to study and even receive help with their homework. A coffee bar will give the space a relaxed feel.

There will also be an art gallery space for the students, art project space for the community and even a kiln.

The third floor will be home to the Hocking County Children’s Chorus. This permanent home for the chorus will provide an intimate performance space in what was once the Mason’s ceremonial room. Dressing rooms, office space and even much needed storage are just part of the package

A working elevator has been installed to service all floors.

These spaces have large windows that provide natural light to the modern, industrial feeling rooms. This phase of the project was completed earlier this month.

Phase Two
The next step will be to renovate the theater for live performances and movies. Sheila indicated that these plans are still being settled but they know they want to update the technology while maintaining the character of the historic theater.

Phase Three
The basement will be renovated into meeting space and ADA accessible bathrooms.

The estimated cost for the entire project is nearly $3 million. These funds are coming from a combination of private and public sources. They are working to use as many original elements of the building as possible and to be true to the building’s history. For example, some upstairs light fixtures could be salvaged but preserving the old windows was far outside their budget. Instead, they opted to replace the windows with new that look like they came with the building.

Exposed brick, original doors and even the original stage and risers from the Masonic Hall have been lovingly preserved. “We want to respect the history here,” Sheila explained.

“It’s getting so close. When you look at the pictures of before to now, it’s encouraging to see that we have come this far even though we know there is a long way to go before we’re done,” Sheila said. “My favorite phrase is ‘we’ll get there.’ It will happen. We will get there. We just have to keep moving forward and working together.”

The theater which once hosted the likes of Roy Rogers, a host of Vaudeville acts and countless movies will be renovated during phase two.

“We are so very thankful and blessed that we have made it this far. We have a wonderful board, a team that works together for this common goal. We also have incredible sponsors and people who have helped us,” Sheila said.

Sheila credits all those sponsors, the school superintendent and many others for believing in the project early on.

She also credits those who share their pictures and stories from the theater’s past. She said they are especially interested in information about the theater’s early days as they have no images of the theater’s interior during its first years.

Want to support the Logan Theater Renovation Project? You can volunteer your time or services or you can make a monetary donation.

Donate online at www.AppalachianOhio.org/LoganTheater or by sending a check to the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio at P.O. Box 456, Nelsonville, Ohio 45764. Make the check out to Foundation for Appalachian Ohio with “Logan Theater Fund” in the memo line. To become a volunteer or for more information, email info@logantheater.org, call 740.603.7404 or visit them online at www.logantheater.org.

No generous act will be too big or too small.

Small Business Spotlight: Made On Main

Being a small business owner is a tough job! That’s why we feature a different small business in our Small Business Spotlight every month!

Nothing makes a crafter happier than a fun project, unique supplies and someone to share it all with. Made on Main in Ashville provides all that, even finding ways to keep people connected and happily crafting through the pandemic.

When asked about her store, owner Tiffany Jackson has a long list of reasons why her store is so special why it is drawing customers from all over the region and beyond. “There aren’t a lot of local craft stores around and we are different than your typical big box craft store because we carry different items. What really sets us apart is that we partner with other small businesses to sell brands that you can’t find everywhere else,” she explained.

While Made on Main specializes in paper crafts like scrapbooking and card making, they also holdclasses on mosaics, quilting, painting, knitting, crochet and beyond. “If it sounds like fun, we are willing to give it a try,” she exclaimed

In addition to raw materials, the store offers kits for a variety of projects including things like cards, applique, wall hangings or mini albums. “For example, a kit might include everything you need to make six to ten cards. Everything is pre-cut and there is a picture of the completed project and instructions so you can make it look just like my finished project or you can do your own thing,” she said. “This way, you can make a variety of things without being stuck with a lot of leftover materials.”

The store actually started a few years ago when Tiffany began hosting classes and make-and-take parties in her home. These events grew so much in popularity that she outgrew her home and badly needed space. When the old apothecary building in Ashville became available, it was a clear choice for her growing business. Now, the store has plenty of space for classes, crops and even a party rental room.

Day long crops give crafters opportunity to gather with others to work on their projects. For those who need or want some more direction, classes are offered as well.

While the pandemic has made events and gatherings much more challenging, it has also created opportunity for crafters to spend more time working on projects at home. “When we were closed earlier this year, I had people knocking on my door asking for projects so we started putting together more kits, things they could do at home.”

They also began doing online classes, offering curbside pick-up and doing more online business.

In addition, the store offers some handmade items that would make great stocking stuffers and gifts. Baby quilts, dog scarves and pillows are just a few of the handmade gift items that can be found on the store’s second floor.

Gift cards are available too.

All of this combined keeps customers coming back, not just from Ashville but from much further away. “We are a small town but we are just fifteen minutes from Columbus so we get customers from Grove City, Canal Winchester, from all over because we are just so different from the big box craft stores,” she said.

She actually organized a shop hop with several other craft stores in the area this summer. For a small fee, participants could visit each store to receive a discount and a make-and-take project that could be completed in person at the store or taken home for later. ‘It was so popular, we already have dates for 2021. People loved it and we loved it because we met new friends!”

The next Shop Hop will be July 1 through August 14, 2021 and participants can buy their tickets online in the coming months.

Tiffany isn’t just community minded when it comes to crafting. She also is holding a fundraiser to help with the construction of Ashville’s new food pantry. She is raffling two die cut machines – the Big Shot, valued at $120, and the Big Shot Foldaway, valued at $160. Raffle tickets are $5 each and can be purchased on their website or at the store. The drawing will be held at 3 p.m. on December 5.

Made on Main also has big plans for Small Business Saturday on November 28 so be sure to stop by for some early Christmas shopping and to stock up on projects and supplies for yourself this winter!

“Crafting is how I decompress and it’s wonderful helping others and bringing together others who love to craft,” Tiffany said. “When someone pops in to say hello because they were here once and enjoyed it that makes my day.”

Made on Main is located at 4 East Main Street in Ashville. Call 740.983.6777, follow them on Facebook or shop online.

Small Business Spotlight: Casa Del Taco

Being a small business owner is a tough job! That’s why we feature a different small business in our Small Business Spotlight every month!

Since 1984, Casa Del Taco has been one of Chillicothe’s signature flavors. The family owned business offers up fast casual Mexican food in two locations.

Owner Bill Barker said they set themselves apart from other restaurants in town with made-to-order food that uses fresh, high quality ingredients. “Everything is very fresh and we make it when you order it. We make our own sauces, avocado dressing, and chicken tortilla soup from scratch using our own recipes,” he explained.

Lean ground beef, real cheese, and fresh vegetables are just some of the delicious ingredients used to make their signature dishes. “We sell more regular tacos than anything but we are known for a lot of things,” he said as he began to list popular dishes like their Mexican Chef Salad with homemade avocado dressing, burritos and Casadillas which is their version of the quesadilla. “We want to be proud of the product we serve and one way we do that is to start with the best ingredients.”

That pride in work has been instilled in the entire family. Bill and his wife Tammy have four grown sons who are all involved in the business. Three work for Casa Del Taco while their youngest son manages the Old Canal Smoke House which they purchased in 2013. “I’m proud that they all chose to stay and help. It isn’t the easiest business in the world but we all love what we do and love serving great meals to people,” he said.

When they opened their first location on Bridge Street, the landscape of this now busy street was much different. At the time there were only about eight restaurants. Today there are close to eighty and growing.

As the city has grown, so has Casa Del Taco. They opened a second location near Kroger on Western Avenue, making it easier for residents on that side of town to obtain their “Casa Del fix.” In fact, the restaurant is a favorite first stop for many former residents when they visit town as well as a destination for people all over the region who have fallen in love with the food. “It’s pretty neat when someone says they drove from far away just to eat your food.”

While Bill is quick to admit that the restaurant industry is a challenging one, he said the complications caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have made it even more difficult. They were able to remain open with pick up services at Old Canal and drive-thru services at Casa Del Taco but traffic was diminished during these months.

They also have had to negotiate challenges like supply chain issues and staffing shortages. “Things that we bought for years suddenly weren’t available. Pork was harder to find because of meat shortages. It was just a real challenging time.”

The company employs about eighty people but they do have some openings available. “We are blessed to have such a great staff but things would go better if we had a few more people. But the people we have, I can’t say enough good about them. They’re rock stars, they’re soldiers, they’re so loyal to what we are doing and we are truly fortunate to have them,” he said.

Casa Del Taco is located at 1055 North Bridge Street and at 1360 Western Avenue in Chillicothe. The Western Avenue location is currently still drive thru only due to the dining room size but the Bridge Street location is open for dine-in or drive-thru. Find them online at www.gottagetyourcasa.com.