Free Credit Freezes: Time to Rethink Your Protection?

The days of paying to protect your credit files are coming to an end.

Credit freezes and unfreezes with the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — will be free for everyone by federal law starting Sept. 21. Fraud alerts, which always have been free, will be extended from 90 days to a year. Credit locks, a product promoted by the credit bureaus, will continue to be free at two bureaus and offered as part of bundled services at a third.

How will these changes affect which you should pick? Consumer advocates continue to recommend freezes, and not having to pay to freeze or thaw credit makes the case even more compelling. But some people instead may want locks for the convenience; they can be done using the credit bureaus’ smartphone apps.

At the very least, everyone should set up fraud alerts, which require businesses to take reasonable steps to ensure that a person applying for credit in your name is actually you.

If you want to block access

Credit freezes offer the strongest protection against an unauthorized person opening an account or getting credit in your name.

Credit locks, which the bureaus voluntarily offer, do much the same thing as freezes: They make your credit records off-limits to potential lenders and credit card issuers.

Here’s a breakdown:

Credit freezes are:

  • Mandated by federal law to be made available.
  • Free from each credit bureau, without special conditions.
  • Placed and lifted online or by phone, requiring a PIN to change status (taking minutes).
  • Potentially time-consuming; if you lose your PIN, you may have to request a new one via U.S. mail.

Credit locks are:

  • Offered voluntarily by each credit bureau.
  • Offered free from Equifax; offered free with an agreement to receive marketing emails from TransUnion; and offered for a fee as part of a monthly monitoring service by Experian.
  • Placed and lifted with an app (taking seconds).
  • Relatively quick and easy to regain access to if you forget a password.

Another issue is legal rights, depending on the credit bureau and what service you use.

With credit locks at Experian and TransUnion, you give up the right to sue the companies in class-action lawsuits. Freezes and Equifax’s lock don’t require you to sign such a waiver.

What the experts choose

So which is better? Chi Chi Wu, staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center, says it’s the freeze, hands-down.

“A freeze is something that is now mandated by federal law,” she says, “whereas the lock is a voluntary feature, and so if something goes wrong … there’s really not much recourse, except for maybe contract law.”

Her credit reports are frozen.

But credit expert John Ulzheimer made a split decision. At Equifax, “the practical difference between a lock and a freeze is negligible in my eyes,” he says. He chose the lock because it’s more convenient.

He froze his accounts at the other two bureaus because he was unwilling to pay for a lock or to accept marketing emails in exchange for a free lock.

Fraud alerts: added security

Both Wu and Ulzheimer say no one should be without at least a fraud alert.

“There’s really nothing wrong with obligating a bank to at least call you and say, ‘Hey, John, are you really the one who is standing in front of a finance manager at a car dealership trying to get an auto loan right now?’ I think that’s just smart credit management,” Ulzheimer said.

Ulzheimer has fraud alerts in addition to his freezes and lock. “People tell me it’s redundant, like putting a safe inside of a safe,” he says, but he likes having the extra protection.

More From NerdWallet

Bev O’Shea is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: boshea@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @BeverlyOShea. The article Free Credit Freezes: Time to Rethink Your Protection? originally appeared on NerdWallet.

 

Small Business Spotlight: Sudslingers Laudromat

Small businesses are important to communities and running a small business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!   

Mark Erslan, Todd Wesaw (Sudslingers), Nicole Scott

Sudslingers Laundromat owner Todd Wesaw is pictured at center with VCNB Head of Lending Mark Erslan and Bremen Branch Manager Nicole Scott. 

For our Small Business Spotlight this month we’re doing a Q&A with Todd Wesaw of Sudslingers Laundromat, Bremen’s newest business! Read on to learn more about the exciting and unexpected things happening at Sudslingers!

VCNB:  Hi Todd!  When sifting through ideas for our September entry in our Business Spotlight Series, our Bremen Branch Manager Nicole Scott suggested we talk to you about Sudslingers Laundromat.  After discussing how exciting it is that a new business has entered the market in the small Village of Bremen, we thought this would be a great feature.  So, that said, why don’t you give me a little background on how Sudslingers came to be? And why Bremen, Ohio?

Todd: As a resident of Bremen since 2005 and a current Village Councilman it’s my job to look at ways of growing our community and expanding resources for our fellow residents. I am always looking for opportunities to bring new business to our Village so I decided to take the leap.  When I encourage new companies to consider Bremen as their location, I felt it would hold more water if my own business was located there.

When I decided to start Sudslingers Laundromat, I considered the population as well as the residents that may rent in the area and not have access to washers and dryers.  Plus the fact that is has been approximately twelve years since there was a Laundromat in Bremen.  Residents were having to travel to surrounding towns, so why not have a local Laundromat that is convenient and here in the Village open daily 8 a.m.-9 p.m.?

The idea was to start Sudslingers Laundromat here close to my home so I could educate myself about the business and hopefully grow into a chain of them with the same concept. As I started my research to determine my offerings, size, location, layout etc., my friend Kevin Newman asked if he could get involved. Since I have other businesses and am holding a Council position, I thought that it would be good to have a partner that could help share the responsibilities, so our partnership came together. Kevin is a truck driver over the road so, with his schedule, it works out that we share opening/closing and daily maintenance.

After putting all the ideas together, the build-out began. I wanted it to be big enough but not too big for this area so I decided to start out with six washers and six dryers. I chose machines that could fit into the budget I had available but could accommodate more than one load of laundry.  After all the planning and testing, we decided to open May 1, 2018.

VCNB:  It sounds like you had a good handle on the business before it ever came to be because of the work you put in beforehand.  Give us a rundown on the business itself – one may hear “Laundromat” and have an image in their head of what they think it is, but we can tell that you are really breaking the old model of this type of business.

Todd: I did not want a typical laundromat like the ones I grew up seeing or using while in college, where you dreaded the laundry piling up only to go to the bank to get change, arrive and sit and be bored for hours, waiting for my chance to start laundry at a dreary and, most of the time, dirty place to the point you felt you needed a tetanus shot after you left!

As part of my planning process, I decided I wanted a place that is inviting, family oriented and, as some of our guests say, “A place to go and get away from the home and relax.” So I decided to build an environment that offers modern conveniences such as climate controlled air, black stainless LG high efficiency/low energy washers and dryers, LED lighting with multiple colors, etc. The floors are exposed concrete and we’ve got exposed lighting, distressed woodwork, a ceiling fan, wrought iron seating tables and chairs, folding tables, and a flat screen TV with cable.  We’ve even got a backyard area with picnic table.  We have a bill coin changer that accepts ones and five dollar bills in-house and we recently added free WiFi for our guests.  They will soon be able to use the WiFi features that our washers and dryers are equipped with!  Guests will be able to download an app to monitor their laundry, which gives them the freedom to enjoy the seating or picnic area, or just leave and comeback as their laundry is complete.

Our walls are decorated in historic images of Bremen and some entertaining signs. We also offer a restroom that is ADA compliant.

The washers start out at $5.00 per load, depending on the size, and that price includes free drying. If you choose to wash at home or elsewhere, we recently added a Dryer Deposit Box for our guests that just need drying for $2.50 per dryer. We currently don’t offer soap and bleach products, however we are planning to add a vending machine that will have these products.  We’d also like to add a beverage machine as the business grows. We do offer pick up and drop off service by appointment only or you can schedule us to come to you and we will do your laundry for you.  These services are at an additional cost and prices vary.

VCNB:  It’s definitely a clean, modern, and well-kept facility and an asset to Bremen.  Do you have any big plans for Sudslingers in 2019?

Todd: Our goals for the future include adding highly visible signage, vending machines, and additional equipment. We’ll be joining the Bremen Area Chamber of Commerce and possibly even adding one to two new locations.

 

VCNB:  We’ll be keeping an eye on it!  We’re always thrilled to see new, thriving businesses in our market areas and we are thrilled when they choose to bank with VCNB.  We thank you for your business, Todd, and wish all the best to Sudslingers!  Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Todd: Thank you VCNB for the opportunity to share information about Sudslingers Laundromat with you and your other banking customers, and helping us bring Sudslingers Laundromat to Bremen!

We are proud to be a doing business with VCNB and Friendly Bremen Banking Center.  I would also like to personally thank Nicole Scott, Mark Erslan, Kathryn Cooper, and all of the staff and to you for featuring Sudslingers Laundromat for your September Business Spotlight.

Please like us on Facebook and check us out on Google. We are always updating the latest information about Sudslingers Laundromat and have it available at both of these online resources. Come check us out to see why we offer “Loads of Fun” and if you are a regular guest, please hurry back!

We will announce our grand opening in the near future.

 

 

 

 

 

ATM Freedom Has Arrived For VCNB Customers

VCNB is part of the Money Pass networkVCNB is committed to providing customers with a great banking experience. One comment that we often hear is about the need for more ATM access in the areas around our eight county area. That’s why we have joined MoneyPass®, a network that will provide VCNB customers access to a multitude of ATMS with no surcharge.

With 32,000 MoneyPass ATMs nationwide, you’re sure to find a surcharge-free ATM near you. Whether you’re on vacation, away at college or just hanging out in your own community, there is likely a MoneyPass ATM nearby.

Ready to get started? You can search for an ATM near you on their website or with their app. Just search MoneyPass in the app store of your mobile device or click here to visit their website. 

Banking Has Changed, But Criminals Haven’t — Here’s How To Protect Your Money

This year marks a decade since the global financial crisis. Although the biggest financial institutions still dominate the landscape, banking has undergone some changes. The proliferation of smartphones means mobile banking now plays a significant role in how we manage our money. A 2016 Fed survey found that over half of smartphone users with bank accounts used their devices to access their money.

What hasn’t changed since 2008? Con artists.

» 10 years after the Great Recession: Tips and advice to prepare for bad times and to prosper — any time

Ten years ago, identity theft was the No. 1 complaint logged by the Federal Trade Commission. Today, the number of complaints is 20% higher than in 2008. The research-based advisory firm Javelin Strategy & Research identified a record high of nearly 17 million victims of identity fraud last year. And many of today’s fraud and identity theft breaches involve mobile devices. The rise of mobile banking in the past decade means it’s easier and more convenient to keep up with your bank accounts, but it could also make it easier to be scammed.

Financial institutions invest in technology and cybersecurity expertise to fight back, but your bank or credit union needs your help. Here are ways hackers try to access your bank information and how you can avoid swiping your money into a criminal’s trap.

How hackers work

Phishing. This happens when hackers use websites, emails or other means of contact to trick customers into submitting personal information. The practice isn’t new, but it has gotten more sophisticated.

“Ten years ago, phishing was rudimentary. Fake sites were not authentic looking. There were a lot of typos,” says Adam Levin, founder of Cyberscout, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based cybersecurity company. “Now, the criminals have gotten much more sophisticated and the sites look real.”

According to the not-for-profit Anti-Phishing Working Group, phishing attacks increased by a whopping 5,700% over the 12 years ended in 2016, and the latest data suggest attacks continue to increase.

Keylogger software. These programs may install on phones via apps that aren’t secure, such as one that’s not from your device’s approved app store. The software records keystrokes, such as when you enter a bank username or password on a website, then sends a record of what was typed to the hacker.

How to protect your accounts

Ask your bank or credit union about security. The safest banks for consumers use the latest cybersecurity protocols to protect your accounts from breaches and large-scale identity theft. “You’ll want to make sure your bank is up to par,” Levin says. If not, it may be time to switch to another institution. Make sure your bank provides the following — and use these services:

  • Two-factor authentication.When you attempt to log on to your bank’s secure online webpage, the bank or credit union will contact you through some other means — by sending a text, for example — to ask you to confirm the login request. Not every bank has two-factor authentication. But if you choose one that does, your accounts have an extra layer of protection, says Neal Stern, CPA and member of the American Institute of CPAs’ National Financial Literacy Commission.
  • Transaction alerts.Sign up for these alerts, which are generally text or email messages your bank sends to your mobile device when large purchases are made on your account or if your balance drops below a certain amount. (For a deeper look at transaction alerts, here are five mobile banking alerts that help fight fraud.)
  • Fraud monitoring.Many banks monitor transactions to detect unusual spending patterns. The bank might send you a confirmation text if it detects an odd purchase attempt, such as an online purchase worth thousands of dollars from a vendor you’ve never used before. You would have to reply before approval of the transaction.

Keep mobile device software up to date. Your device provider likely sends periodic updates. Some of them may help stop the latest hacker attempts, so it’s important to install updates.

Have a rock solid sign-on. When it comes to logging on to your bank’s website, use “long and strong passwords” that are hard to guess, Levin says. That way, even if you lose your phone, the next person who picks it up won’t be able to figure out how to log in to your bank accounts. In addition, lock your mobile device screen and use a different password to unlock it. (Read more about how to create passwords that are hard on others but easy on you.)

Be careful with other contacts. Fraudsters may try to trick a customer by calling and saying an account has been compromised, then asking for sensitive information, such as a password or Social Security number, to confirm their identity.

“Why would you need to authenticate yourself to someone who contacts you?” Levin says. If you’re unsure about whether a call is legit, hang up and try to reach the bank or credit union at a number you’re familiar with.

Today, customers can deposit checks, transfer money between accounts and pay bills from the convenience of their smartphones. But with convenience comes risk. Take steps to eliminate the risk of identity theft by partnering with your financial institution to protect your hard-earned money.

Margarette Burnette is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: mburnette@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @Margarette. The article Banking Has Changed, but Criminals Haven’t — Here’s How to Protect Your Money originally appeared on NerdWallet.

 

What Is An HSA?

Healthcare image.jpegAs you’re navigating the world of health insurance you likely have encountered the term HSA. Do you know what HSA means?

HSA stands for Health Savings Account and this is an easy way for folks who have high deductible insurance to save for medical expenses and to reduce their taxable income.   If you are enrolled in a high-deductible insurance plan as defined by the government, you can qualify for an HSA. This year, to be eligible for an HSA, you must have an annual deductible of at least $1,350 for an individual and $2,700 for a family. This is set by the federal government and is subject to change in future years.

Each year you will decide how much to contribute to your HSA account although your annual contribution cannot exceed government mandated maximums. For 2018, the contribution limit for an individual is $3,450 and the contribution limit for a family is $6,900. Adults over 55 can add up to $1,000 more.

These contributions are tax deductible and the distributions are tax free when used for qualified medical expenses.

At VCNB, you will receive a debit card and a monthly statement with check images. Your first order of checks will be free and you will have unlimited checking writing. There is an initial $25 set up fee for the account. This fee will be waived for customers who present this coupon.

There is also a $3 monthly fee which will be waived for customers who select eStatements.

Want to learn more or open an HSA online? Click here and look under the Savings Accounts tab.

You can also seek more information or open an HSA in any of our seventeen locations.

 

 

Nine Expenses to Pack in Your Moving Budget

Moving comes with a long, expensive to-do list.

The average cost to for a local move from a two-bedroom apartment or three-bedroom house ranges from $400 to $1,000, according to HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide. While you’re choosing a place to live and deciding what to pack, having a plan for expenses can ensure your budget doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

“It’s very easy to overlook minor details because when you’re moving, you’re looking at getting your stuff from point A to point B,” says Jessica Nichols, a director at Avail Move Management, a relocation and transportation service in Evansville, Indiana.

Preparing for moving costs can help alleviate emotional and financial strain. Consider these less-obvious expenses.

  1. Peak surcharges

Many moving and truck rental companies raise rates during busy times like summer and weekends. If you have the flexibility, relocate in an off-peak period to save money.

  1. Packing materials and equipment

Buying items like boxes, bubble wrap and packing tape can add up. For example, U-Haul sells large moving boxes for $1.63 to $1.99 each, depending on how many you buy. Be realistic about the number you need to avoid costly miscalculations. Or, seek free materials from friends or online.

Additionally, consider the items you’ll need to safely transport your belongings, including furniture covers, hand trucks and bungee cords. If your movers don’t provide them, or you aren’t hiring professionals, renting or borrowing is more affordable than buying.

  1. Excess cargo

The more stuff you schlep, the more you’ll pay. Movers usually factor the number and weight of items into the bill. Expect additional fees for valuable or large items like pianos that require extra time, space or labor.

Hauling everything yourself? A bigger load can require a larger vehicle or more gas-guzzling trips. To save money, donate or sell what you can before you move.

  1. Cleaning

You’ll likely need to tidy up your current place, especially if there’s a security deposit at stake.

Housecleaning services typically charge $200 to $300 for a one-time cleaning, according to HomeAdvisor. You’ll save money by doing some or all of the work yourself.

  1. Utilities

Watch for deposits, taxes, and connection and installation fees when setting up utilities at your new address. These could range from $10 to $200 or more. Ask power, internet and other service providers about charges in advance.

  1. Food

Food expenses can pop up, too. Think snacks for the road, restocking the refrigerator and pantry, and feeding friends who’ve helped. Shopping wholesale clubs could be a smart strategy to feed a crowd.

  1. Lost or damaged items

Some belongings might not survive the journey. Depending on what you’re transporting and how far, it may be worth purchasing protection to repair or replace property.

“Nobody wants to think about their items getting broken. Ideally that would never happen, but in the real world that’s something you need to plan for,” says Nichols.

Most movers provide basic valuation coverage, which limits their liability to 60 cents per pound, per item. For a 40-pound TV valued at $500, that’s $24. Top-tier options and separate insurance plans offer higher or full values, but it will cost extra. If you have homeowners or renters insurance, you likely have some coverage. Check your policy.

  1. Tips

Movers appreciate tips after a long day of heavy lifting. Give tips based on your satisfaction level, but a good rule of thumb is 5% of the total bill.

  1. Storage

If you can’t immediately move your possessions into your new home, you might have to rent a self-storage unit. Costs vary by size and location. Public Storage units in Austin, Texas, for example, range from about $30 to $300 per month. The less time and space you need, the less expensive the unit.

Make your budget move-in ready

Mentally walk through your moving process from start to finish. Outline the potential items and services you’ll need at least a month ahead. Then, research prices and get multiple estimates for the best deals and service, Nichols says.

Leave wiggle room for unexpected costs and take your time purchasing new home furnishings, says Daria Victorov, a certified financial planner at Abacus Wealth Partners in San Mateo, California. Remember, you don’t have to buy everything at once.

“When you move into an empty house it feels like you need everything right away,” Victorov says. “Before you move, figure out what those essential items are, the things that you use every day and that’ll help you figure out your budget, too.”

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press. Lauren Schwahn is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: lschwahn@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lauren_schwahn. The article 9 Expenses to Pack in Your Moving Budget originally appeared on NerdWallet.

 

Small Business Spotlight: Wellston Flowerland

Small businesses are important to communities and running a small business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!   blog window.jpgWhen Michelle Canter’s job as an X-Ray Technician was eliminated by corporate downsizing last year, she knew it was time for a change. That’s when her husband suggested that she return to her roots as a florist and open her own flower shop. Business has flourished since opening Wellston Flowerland on February 3 and the rest, as they say, is history.

Many area residents will remember the old Flowerland, which occupied the First Street building beginning in the mid twentieth century. It changed hands a few times over the years and the name eventually changed before the business was shuttered for some time, leaving the city without a local florist. However, when Michelle and Alvin Canter looked at the building, the sun shone on the faded outline of the Flowerland name on the store windows, and she knew that would be the name of her shop.

blog ladderWith some paint, elbow grease and hard work, the space has been transformed into a beautiful shop with a large workspace for Michelle’s floral work. The store sells floral designs and planters that are ready to buy but Michelle specializes in orders for custom work as well. Balloon and candy bouquets are also popular as well as custom quilt angels and other remembrance items like throws and pictures.

Gift items include Willow Tree Angels, Ohio State University jewelry, quilts, wall décor, seasonal décor, greeting cards and food mixes for cheeseballs, dips, soups, pancakes and cider.  Fall décor will be out soon and mums from Lucy’s Gardens Greenhouse in Jackson will arrive the week of the Coal Festival. Plans are underway for Christmas décor and poinsettias as well.

“I try to keep a lot of variety in the store,” Michelle said. “I like things that are unique, that are a little different that make people feel like they are getting something special. I try not to make the same arrangement twice.”

In addition to unique and quality flowers and gifts, Michelle said she tries to keep the prices affordable.  “I work to keep prices affordable and will work with people to make sure that no casket goes without something and that they stay within budget for what they need,” she explained.

She said that some customers are uncertain of what they want. In that case, she asks a lot of questions about the purpose, the recipient’s favorite color or flower, budget, etc. “We ask a lot of questions and can generally steer them in the right direction,” she said.

This is very much a family affair as her husband and daughter are involved in the shop operation. Michelle’s mother and mother-in-law help with deliveries as well.

“This has very much been a building year but I’m excited to see what next year will bring,” she said.

When asked why she chose this profession, Michelle smiled and said “I like it because when people are grieving, I can do something to help. When they need a gift or something to brighten someone’s day, I can help. Besides, everyone likes to get flowers!”

Wellston Flowerland is located at 111 East First Street in downtown Wellston. Stop by to browse the store and check out their seasonal window displays. They are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to noon. Call Michelle at 740.577.6978. Follow them on Facebook or visit them online to place an order or browse their selection of floral arrangements.

 

West Fair Branch Remains Open Through Renovations

Our branch on West Fair Avenue in Lancaster is undergoing an expansion and renovation project and we couldn’t be more excited.

This project is a direct result of strategic planning that was done by bank leaders and is part of an effort to focus on transforming VCNB branches to meet the needs of customers. EVP of Marketing Audra Johnson explained the purpose behind this work. “Our goal is to update many of our branches in the next few years, not only in look, but in technology and in convenience as well. We want our customers to feel comfortable in our branches, but also to feel like they leave knowing they received excellent service and the resources they need for a better financial future,” Johnson explained.

The West Fair Avenue expansion and renovation will include the rerouting of drive-thru lanes and changes in the customer parking area. A new addition to the building will be constructed to include a new employee lounge and employee restrooms. While the expanded area will not be open to customers, per se, teams of employees that are essential to the success of the bank will be moving their offices to this new space.

“Customers will not be conducting their transactions or meeting with their personal banker behind the doors of the expansion, but rest assured that the space will be put to good use. We are starting to outgrow many of our branches and also our operations centers. This is a great problem to have because it means we’re growing, we’re employing more people and we’re ensuring we will be there for our customers in the long run,” Johnson said.

In addition to the expanded square footage, the building will receive some cosmetic upgrades as well as changes to the way customers and employees interact. A new roof and face lift to interior design and décor are in the works. More importantly, there will be a new style of employee office meant to create more privacy as well as new teller pod stations instead of the traditional teller line. Finally, the lobby will be outfitted with new technology that will allow customers to interact with the bank’s online and mobile platforms inside the branch.

“To say that I am excited about the upgrades we are making is an understatement. We have a mission to be the best for our customers, shareholders and employees. This is just another step toward upholding that mission,” Johnson concluded.

Customers should rest assured that this office will remain open during construction. “It’s business as usual at our West Fair Avenue office. Our staff there is ready to assist you with all of your banking needs.”

 

Last Minute Summer Road Trip

By Brandi Betts
VCNB Marketing Specialist

August is here so you probably think it’s too late to get in a summer road trip. However, in my experience, it’s never too late for a little road trip enjoyment. There are tons of fun options within an easy driving distance of southern and central Ohio. It’s just a matter of finding what you’re looking for and figuring out what’s best for you.

A lot of times, we think that vacation only counts if we go far away or if it’s something exotic or expensive. The truth is, you can have fun almost anywhere if you go looking for it. In fact, you can find adventure and relaxation in your own community just as easily as in someone else’s. With that said, I’m the first one in the car if there’s opportunity to leave home and explore someplace else.

Here are some places that literally offer something for everyone and that aren’t too far from home.

If you just have a day or two:

Consider Cincinnati! There tons of museums and historic sites, state and metro parks, shopping, amazing hotels and restaurants here. Plus they have one of the best zoos and aquariums anywhere! The greater Cincinnati area is a neat mix of metropolitan and small-town mom and pop type communities. Now, with a soccer team (that’s about to go Major League and that’s doing really well for themselves) along with the Reds and Bengals, this is truly a destination for sports lovers too.  Hop a ride on a streetcar and take in a concert at Riverbend, Cincinnati Music Hall or one of the other great venues.

Personally, one of my favorite places to visit here is the American Sign Museum. It’s about 20,000 square feet packed with antique and vintage signage that may remind you of your youth as well as a lot you’ve never seen. Other favorite stops for me include the 85,000square foot Ohio Valley Antique Mall at Fairfield and one of the two Jungle Jim’s locations I always pick up a few bottles of craft sodas and have fun touring all the international foods here!

If history is your thing, the National Park Service operates the William Howard Taft National Historic Site. This is free to tour and lends some great insight into the life and career of our 27th President. It’s not too far from the downtown attractions and about a ten minute drive from the zoo. I recently read about something I had never heard about – it’s an old fashioned root beer stand that looks and sounds like a time capsule in all the pictures. The Root Beer Stand is on my agenda very, very soon.

Cincinnati is one of those places where you could spend as long as you want and keep finding more to do.

 

If you have a long weekend:

If you have longer, Wytheville, Virginia may be a good fit for you. For as long as I can remember, Wytheville (pronounced WITH-vill) was just an interstate stop on the way to the beach. There’s a collection of hotels and gas stations and a Cracker Barrel convenient for the weary traveler but it wasn’t until recently I learned what’s hiding just beyond the highway.

Downtown Wytheville is a beautiful place with tree lined streets, cute storefronts, lots of history, easy access to the mountains, great architecture and interesting places to stay in downtown. The area boasts state and national parks with recreational experiences for almost anyone. Big Walker Mountain National Forest Scenic Byway winds through sixteen miles of forest land, ideal for both cars and motorcycles. Fishing, camping, hiking, mountain biking are popular here too.

When I went this spring, I visited the birthplace of first lady Edith Boling Wilson and found amazing pizza at a little hole in the wall that is a local hangout. There are several hotel options but if you’re looking for something special, the Edith Boling Wilson Hotel is awfully nice. It’s located in downtown and is known for service and luxury. Speaking of downtown, be sure to check out the big pencil outside Wytheville Office Supply. While it’s not something to plan a trip around, it certainly adds a little character to your journey! They are also known for a number of fun events throughout the year including a hot air balloon rally and some big car shows.

Personally, I love the character of Wytheville. It’s a laidback, southern town where the people are friendly, the food is tasty and where you feel like they truly want you to come back.

If you are craving the water

If you’re craving water and sun but don’t have the time or money for a long beach trip, Lake Erie could be a good compromise.

I love lighthouses and the 75-foot tall Marblehead Lighthouse is the best Ohio offers. For a small fee you can tour it and learn about this 1822 lighthouse that is still keeping ships safe. If you have kids, or if you’re a kid at heart, there is a Merry-Go-Round Museum. I will admit that I have never gotten to visit so I’m hoping some of our readers will go and send pictures. It sounds like fun and looks like a real feast for the eyes.

Maumee Bay State Park, Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and Kelleys Island provide countless opportunities to get outdoors and take in your surroundings.  Put-In-Bay village is about a twenty minute boat ride from Port Clinton and it has been a destination for over 150 years. Guided tram tours, backroads for biking, a winery and Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial are among the attractions here. And of course, there’s the water activities on Lake Erie and Cedar Point Amusement Park for the roller coasting riding thrill seekers in the crowd.

Other Options

Not sure about these places? Looking for something a little different? I say look around you. The Buckeye State is packed with activities, interesting sights and ways to while away these last days of summer. People travel to Ohio from all over the country to visit our Amish Country, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, amusement parks… the list goes on and on. While they’re here, they’re also finding the smaller attractions that make our state special like our Quilt Barn trails which started down in Adams County and the little mom and pop roadside places that make us who were are.

Pack up the kids or grab a friend and hit the trail before this summer slips away. Need more inspiration? Our friends with Ohio tourism have some ideas.

 

All photos by Brandi Betts

 

Small Business Spotlight: Cook’s Creek Golf Club

Small businesses are important to communities and running a small business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!  

BEST 15 PIC - USE IN ADCook’s Creek Golf Club in South Bloomfield on U.S. 23 in northern Pickaway County is unlike any golf course you’ve ever seen. In addition to simply being a beautiful place, it is known as one of the best public golf courses in Central Ohio. In fact, it was rated the 2017 Top Pick for Central Ohio Public Golf Courses by The Columbus Dispatch. However, what makes the place truly special is the unique story of how it came to be and the family ownership that helps make guests come in as strangers but leave feeling like family.

Cathy Cook’s eyes beam when she tells the story of how the family business came to be some 25 years ago. “This is truly a family business. My son is the Director of Food and Beverage, my daughter as a third year college student is involved with all aspects including operation of the Cookside Café, my dad is the Captain Cook of this ship and I’m the golf pro,  sort of the glue that holds everything together.”

The Cook family name is synonymous with golf – her brother John Cook is a former PGA Tour player with 21 PGA Tour victories, now currently a TV analyst, and Dad Jim Cook has a powerful name in the business of golf as well. Cathy is also known for her work as a pioneer in programs that teach kids to play golf.

Building the 250 acre golf course on farmland bordering the Scioto River and Little Walnut Creek was the logical next step for the golfing family. The property was previously a farm that sometimes struggled when Scioto River flood waters spilled out of the banks into the fields and forests. However, it was ideal property for a golf course.

The year was 1992 and the Cooks pooled their knowledge and experience to begin transforming the property using designs from local architects who were assisted by John Cook. The first nine holes opened in 1993 while the other nine debuted in 1995.

The golf course is bordered by 140 acres of wetlands and forests that the Cooks chose to leave for the wildlife – eagles, blue heron, deer, fox, rabbits, coyotes and other creatures call this place home.

The family actually has a special connection to this land. Here, Cathy’s grandfather, Burt Cook, worked as a young man, watering the livestock for meals and .25 cents a day. A giant sycamore tree and the old fashioned hand pump that her grandfather used all those years ago still stand on the fifteenth hole, near the 1800 farmhouse where Cathy’s parents reside.

While the property is close to U.S. Route 23, the course feels quiet and relaxing. Calming is a word often used to describe the property which is anchored by beautiful lakes and incredible old trees. Each hole is its own sanctuary, not seeing any of the other golfers on the course

“We want people to come here and have fun. We want them to relax. We want to make their day better and make them want to come back. We want them to feel like they’re family,” she said. “Only we won’t put them to work like we would real family,” she laughed.

The Cooks are working to create an environment that is relaxed and friendly for not just the experienced golfer but for the novice as well. That’s why they have active programs for women and for juniors. They also are in the process of developing the menu at Cooks Bar & Grill, hoping to create a dining experience that will appeal to locals who just want to eat.

They invite folks to stop by any time of the year for a full meal or just for appetizers and drinks on the deck.

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They also offer a banquet room that seats approximately 150 people for weddings, reunions, parties and other events. They offer full services including linens and food but event organizers are welcome to bring in their own caterers and decorators as well.

Earlier this month, Cooks Creek even hosted Governor John Kasich who visited an event hosted by House of Representatives District 92 Representative Gary Scherer. She said that Scherer frequently hosts community meetings here and that several organizations and golf leagues use the facilities. They also have a strong following of members and others who simply like to play the course. “It is humbling when someone chooses to spend their time with us,” Cathy said. “It is a high compliment when they choose to come here for an hour or for the day. It validates all the hard work we’ve been putting into this place and the efforts we’ve made to make it the place where people want to be. We don’t take this lightly.”

On a tour of the property, Cathy good naturedly joked with guests, calling them by name and making small talk. She seems to know the entire property like the back of her hand and takes pride in the work they are doing to improve it. The Cook family had actually sold the golf club three times before buying it back in August 2016. She indicated that parts of the property had deteriorated after the Cooks sold the golf club. They are working hard to bring it back to where the family believes it should be. “We have made a lot of progress and we know this because each time people come, they see the progress and they mention it. For a while it felt like two steps forward and five gigantic steps back. But we’re starting to make some real progress and we’re always looking for ways to improve,” she said.

Golf provides great life lessons, according to the seasoned pro. “Golf teaches you to face your fears. If you are intimidated by the water, you have to learn it’s just water. If you focus on where you want to go and let go, you’re fine. A lot of what golf teaches is how to manage yourself and about what you’re focusing on,” she said.

Cook’s Creek Golf Club is located at 16405 US Highway 23, South Bloomfield.  Learn more about Cook’s Creek at their website or follow them on Facebook.