Gem Beverages: A Southern Ohio Tradition Since 1923

Black and white

The three Holzapfel Brothers – Henry, Frank and Leonard are pictured watching the first bottles of “Double Dry Ginger Ale” coming off the production line at the Gem Bottling Plant in Wellston in the late sixties.

If southern Ohio had an official drink it would most certainly come from Gem Beverages in Wellston. This longtime family business has been distributing Ski and Gem Brand drinks for decades, delighting generations with their unique flavors and colorful packaging.

The company distributes Ski, Diet Ski, Cherry Ski, Tropical Ski, Double Cola, Jumbo Orange and Gem Cream Soda from the 11th Street location that’s been home to Gem since the fifties.

Owner Rex Holzapfel is just the third owner of the business since it opened in 1923 and is proud of both his product and the business’ history.

The business began in 1923 when two local men – Will Corn and Harvey Malloy started a bottling business in an old garage that was located where the Kroger parking lot now stands. On Saint Patrick’s Day 1938, Holzapfel’s father and two uncles purchased the business with a little help from their mother. “My dad was born in 1923 so he was the same age as the business. He was fifteen years old when they bought it. He was the youngest but he worked and received a paycheck just like the other two,” Rex explained.

The bottling and distribution business expanded over time, as they bottled their own line of Gem flavors. In 1956, they replaced their Gem cola when they began bottling Double Cola. A few years later, the company began bottling Ski, which eventually became a regional favorite.

The elder Holzapfels – Henry, Frank and Rex’s dad Leonard – remained involved in the business even after Rex purchased it in 1996. Leonard would continue working on reports and making bank runs until shortly before his death at the age of 95.
“The three of them would go to Lee’s (Lee’s Steakhouse is a popular local restaurant near the Gem headquarters) every day at 1:30 or two o’clock. They always went for coffee. They could be arguing about something but once the coffee came, the argument was done and that was that,” he said with a smile.

This went on every day for nearly six decades. When Frank died in 1999 and Henry in 2000, Rex said that his wife suggested he needed to have coffee with his dad. “I thought I was too busy but I made the time. Ended up going every day for eighteen years and I’m glad,” he said.

The business has long been a family affair. His brothers, cousins and others have worked after school and summer jobs over the years. Today, Rex’s own children are involved in the family business. His daughter does the books while his son drives a route. “In fact, it seems like almost everyone has worked here at some point. The kids laugh because when I’m out I’ll say, ‘that person used to work at Gem Bottling and that person used to work at Gem’ and the kids will ask ‘WHO didn’t work there!’ I just laugh,” he said sheepishly.

Unfortunately, the industry has seen a number of changes over time that have made his work a bit more challenging. It was a tough decision but Rex said they chose to close the bottling division in 2006 and to focus on the distribution side of the business. “It was a hard decision but it was something that needed to be done. I went from working 55 or sixty hours a week and not making much money at all to turning a better profit in half that time,” he said.

Once up on a time, Rex said that soft drink bottlers could be found in nearly every town. “It’s just how it worked. Local drinks, national soft drinks, they all used local bottlers. Now it’s getting hard to find those smaller bottlers. It’s getting hard to find someone that will bottle for you,” he said.

The highly competitive soft drink industry is ruled by large national names that can afford to buy shelf space in grocery and convenience stores while some large retailers refuse to carry regional brands. “This makes it a lot harder. But our drinks have a following. Ski has a following and the customers demand it around here.”

When asked what he would tell someone who hasn’t tasted Ski, Rex laughed. “I would tell them they haven’t lived! It’s the best thing since sliced bread,” he said. “When people ask what it tastes like I always say it tastes like Mountain Dew but better.”

Ski was born in 1956, a product of the Double Cola Company of Chattanooga, TN. In their advertising, the company boasts that it’s made with “real lemon and real orange juices with a kick.” The country band The Kentucky Headhunters mentioned Ski in their 1989 song “Dumas Walker.”

The band originated in the Greensburg, Kentucky area which was a big Ski bottling area. When suggested that they immortalized Ski with their song, Rex laughed and suggested that Ski immortalized the Headhunters. “We were around a long time before they were,” he quipped.

bottles

Multiple flavors of Ski and Gem brand products are staples in stores across southern Ohio.

Rex is also quick to point out that Ski has continued to grow in southern Ohio while Pepsi and Coke have not. He said that they first introduced Ski in Vinton County in 1961 and that the drink’s popularity spread like wildfire in that community. From there, it gained popularity in Jackson County and beyond and has continued to grow.

Today, Gem Beverages is responsible for distribution of the Ski brand and other drinks in eight counties including Jackson, Vinton, Athens, Hocking, Ross, Pike, Meigs and Gallia. They recently began delivering to the Duke and Duchess stores in Chillicothe because customers requested it.

He said the best way for customers to get a product in their local store is to simply ask store management to carry it. “That’s how we ended up in Duke and Duchess, customers were asking for it,” he said.

The drinks are available in a variety of sizes including twelve and six packs of cans, 20 ounce bottles, 12 ounce long neck bottles, 16.9 ounce six packs and two liters.

In looking toward the future, Rex says he plans to “just keep doing what we’re doing. By the grace of God, we’re still here,” he said. But he has a secret weapon in the form of a nineteen year old who he calls “the face of the future.”

Rex and John 2

Josh Lung and Rex Holzapfel are pictured outside Gem Beverages in Wellston.

Josh Lung started at Gem with an after school job a few years ago and says that he loves working there. “I just love being here. I don’t know. It’s a great place to work and great people to be around,” Josh said with a huge smile.

“You know how some kids like to play sports? Well, work has always been Josh’s sport,” Rex said of the young man who he has known since he was a small tot. “He reminds me of me sometimes, the way he gets so excited about this place. He’s definitely the new face of Gem.”

Today, Rex also enjoys working with his son Kevin and daughter Kerri. His wife Vicki owns Holzapfel Family Clinic in Jackson and the couple have four grandchildren- Olivia, Kash, Easton and Maizy plus another on the way.

Laurelville Lobby Reopens Monday

Since we began remodeling the Salt Creek Banking Center in mid-January the lobby has been relocated to the back of the building where customers have used the back entrance and are sometimes inconvenienced by our construction.

This is why we couldn’t be more thrilled to say that the wait is over and the lobby remodel is complete. Customers may resume using the front door on Monday!

With this remodeling project, the bank is embracing a new style of doing business that we believe will be not just aesthetically pleasing but a better experience for the customer.

The remodeled space is light and airy with digital screens for advertising and a wall featuring images from the town’s long history. The drive-thru has been reconfigured as well and now uses a video system for customers to interact with their bankers through high definition cameras and monitors.

More importantly, most of the staff has been trained to be Personal Bankers who can help customers with most of their banking needs.

The idea actually harkens back to an earlier time in banking when every employee could help a customer with almost all their needs. Whether customers are making a deposit, opening an account or applying for a consumer loan, Personal Bankers can help with all these needs without passing the customer off to another employee.

Branch Manager Holly King is enthused to begin using the new space.  “I am very excited that the new lobby opens on Monday! I cannot wait for my wonderful customers to see the beautiful history wall and experience this exciting time with us,” she said.

Customers and the public are welcome to stop by to see the work we’ve done. “Even if you don’t have bank business, we hope you’ll stop by to see how nice it looks and to have a cup of coffee with your bankers,” Holly said.

Other improvements include some upgrades to back office areas and to the building exterior.

 

Are You Still Paying For Christmas?

Note with words pay off debt concept.We have a question.

Are you still paying for Christmas?

If you’re like millions of Americans, the answer is yes – you are still paying for the joy and excitement of this last Christmas morning and maybe even a few before it.  Allowing credit card debt to add up is a common mistake and, sadly, reducing debt is always a lot harder than allowing it to accumulate.

If you want to pay off your credit card but aren’t sure where to start, we have some basic steps to get you on the right track.

  1. Face reality – How much do you really owe? Do you have one credit card? More than one? Add up those balances and keep that total in mind.
  2. Make a budget – No one enjoys the ‘B’ word but a budget or a spending plan is the most effective way to get your financial house in order. Not sure how to budget? We wrote this guide a few years ago.
  3. Study up to lower expenses – Study your budget and consider how you spend your money. Are you living within your means? Are you spending too much on impulse shopping or on weekend entertainment? Are there big ticket items like car insurance that you could save on with a little comparison shopping? Save money where you can and apply the savings to your debt. Click here to read about saving money even when you think there’s nowhere to cut. 
  4. Be timely – Each time your credit card payment is late, you face a late charge. Pay at least the minimum payment on time to avoid those charges.
  5. Pay extra – With online payments, it’s easy to make an extra credit card payment. So if you have a windfall –some unexpected overtime, a tax refund or some garage sale earnings – make an extra payment.
  6. Stop adding more debt – This should go without saying but you’ll never pay off that card if you keep adding to the balance. If you must use it, be sure not to charge more than you can pay off that month.
  7. Stay motivated – Staying focused on a budget and debt payoff is hard work. Look for inspiration anywhere you can find it. Hang a debt payoff thermometer on the fridge, read success stories on Pinterest or talk to like-minded friends who are also focused on financial goals. Another great motivation tool? Dream about how good it will feel to not have credit card debt hanging over your head.

 

Small Business Spotlight: Bernie and Max Stained Glass Studio

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

window and bernie

Bernie Evans talks about the work needed to repair this church window in his workshop at Bernie and Max Stained Glass Studio.

To the casual observer, a piece of stained glass art is just that – a pretty piece of art. But talk to Bernie Evans and you’ll quickly learn that working with stained glass involves a logical process that requires patience and problem solving skills as well as artistic ability.

Bernie is the mild mannered owner of Bernie and Max Stained Glass Studio in downtown Chillicothe. The studio is a resource for all things stained glass including the tools and supplies for creating glass art, classes and workshops to learn the process, restoration and repair services for older panels, lampshades, and the creation of unique stained glass pieces for purchase. The walls of the retail space are lined with sheets of stained glass in nearly every color imaginable and the store features locally made stained glass pieces – both large and small.

What is surprising is that the business started out as just a hobby. Bernie explained that he had some health issues that put him off work from the paper mill in 2005. “I needed something to keep myself from going crazy and I just started playing with it,” he said.

retail 2

Bernie and Max Stained Glass Studio features a number of locally created pieces that are for sale.

Guitar lamp

This dimensional guitar lamp was designed by Bernie. He donated one like it to Rock For Tots several years ago. It sold for $5,000 and was donated back the following year by the winner. It sold again for $7,000 that year.

After returning to work for several months, Bernie decided it was time for a change so he retired from his job and started the business from his home. He eventually moved into a small retail space in downtown. The business is now in the old Oddfellows Lodge on Paint Street, providing about 14,000 square feet of space as opposed to the 1,400 square feet available in his first storefront.

When asked how he learned the art, he said he is completely self-taught. “One of the things I got from my grandpa is my ability to pick things up pretty easily, to be able to learn on my own,” he said.

Employee Pam Hatton was cleaning a stained glass lamp when she chimed into the conversation. “His problem solving is incredible! Ingenuity is the word that comes to mind. If he can’t find the tool he needs, he makes it. And he can make or fix anything,” she praised.

He says that practice and patience are key to working with stained glass. “Practice and patience. Patience and practice. Students always want it to be perfect the first time and it just doesn’t work that way. It takes time to learn, practice to be perfect and you never stop learning,” he said.

He teaches the art in classes, workshops and other group settings that cover introductory to advanced techniques. His Introductory Class teaches the basics of the copper foil method of stained glass construction. Students will also learn about safety in glasswork, how to work with patterns, how to cut glass, grind, foil and solder. This class is typically held the first and second Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is limited to six students.

Another popular class, the Lead Came Class is more advanced and teaches students how to construct panels with strips of lead came. This class is scheduled when there are enough interested students.

They also offer a class that teaches more advanced students to work dimensionally by building their own jewelry box or lamp shade. In addition, they welcome groups and parties for fused glass workshops.

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This piece is a Bernie Evans original.

Pam, now retired from the VA, came to Bernie and Max as a student.  “That was about six or seven years ago and I just never left,” she laughed. Now she works a few days a week, creating lovely pieces that are sold in the store.

Larger pieces can be created for residential, church or commercial clients. For example, windows of all sizes, kitchen cabinet doors, lamps and wall hangings are commonly created here.

As much as Bernie loves talking about stained glass and the education the studio provides, his eyes light up when discussing the restoration and repair services they provide. He seems most at home in his basement workshop where workbenches are covered in hundreds of multicolored tiles related to his current project – the restoration of a chapel window for Chillicothe Correctional Institution.

glass work

Bernie demonstrates the restoration process on part of a stained glass window from a chapel at Chillicothe Correctional Institute.

Each restoration piece is brought into the workshop where it is documented and rubbings are made before the piece is taken apart, the lead is removed, the glass is cleaned and it is put back together again using appropriate restoration lead.

Each case is unique. For the CCI project, Bernie had to design and fabricate special metal frames for each large section of the 26 foot tall, twelve foot wide window. “We never shy away from a challenge,” he acknowledged. “I like working on the old stuff. I like getting my hands on something that’s 150 or 175 years old,” he said with reverence.

That thought led Bernie to discuss the abundance of stained glass windows that have been damaged by the very methods employed to protect them. He talked about efforts taken in the last fifty years to protect the windows from acid rain, vandals and other threats by covering them with panes of glass or plexiglass. Unfortunately, when the sun shines directly on these windows, the air space is heated to a high temperature and the lead used to construct the windows is softened. “They thought they were doing good but, to do this properly, you need ventilation at the top and bottom to allow for air circulation. Now we are facing the consequences of these well intentioned actions,” Bernie explained.

While there are stained glass studios like his in Ohio’s cities, it’s uncommon to find this specialty in a small town. “There are very few that do this kind of work so we get a lot from outside the area. Columbus and Cincinnati have studios but there’s no one else left in southern Ohio.”

He credits his mother Mary Lou for her involvement in the studio from the very beginning. “She got involved and was an integral part of the studio.  She was here every day, making stuff until the age of 85,” when she passed away Bernie recalled. “We still have a few of her pieces here,” he explained as he pointed to the corner that was her workstation and where some of her last pieces she made still hang and will never be sold.

Bruno

Bruno is the store’s mascot, watchdog and host. Some customers pop in just to visit with him.

The other important character in the studio is a six year-old Pug named Bruno who is sort of the store’s mascot, watchdog and host rolled into one. Bruno comes running when customers pop in and ask for him, basking in the glow of attention. Bruno is clearly the apple of Bernie’s eye as the little dog provides both comic relief and companionship throughout the day.

Bernie is reluctant to share about the good things he does for the community but it is clear that the East End native and retired firefighter/EMT loves his town. He speaks fondly of a three dimensional guitar lamp that he donated to Rock For Tots several years ago. It sold at auction for $5,000. The next year, the buyer donated it back to the auction and it sold for another $7,000. “I just couldn’t believe how much it sold for and that it sold for even more the next year,” he recalled with a hint of pride in his voice.

After chatting about the ins and outs of the business, its origins, the cast of characters that come through the door and modern threats to antique stained glass, there was just one topic left to cover.

Who is the Max in the studio’s name?

Bernie chuckled at this question. “Max was my first pacer defibrillator,” he said, explaining that it’s official model name was Medtronic Maximo but Max for short. “The reason I was off work to take up stained glass in the first place was my health. I literally couldn’t have done it without Max,” he grinned.

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Bernie and Max Stained Glass Studio is located at 65 N. Paint Street in Chillicothe. Stop by or call them at 740.775.1054. Click here to visit them online or to follow them on Facebook.

They are open Tuesday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

 

 

VCNB Tools That Save You Time

Do you ever look at the clock and wonder where the time went? Do you ever look at your bills and wish you didn’t have to spend so much time paying them? Do you ever wish you could cut a couple of errands out of your week? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to keep reading.

Since it feels like time is moving faster every day, here at VCNB we work hard to give you tools that will help minimize your banking chores and free up time for things you really want to do. Here are a few ways you can manage your time better through easy banking with VCNB Mobile and VCNBfamily.com.

Direct Deposit
With direct deposit, your paycheck is automatically deposited into the account of your choice. No need to pick up your check at work and make a trip to the bank.  Need cash? Grab cash back at the register or at an ATM. Not near a VCNB ATM? No problem! Now VCNB customers can use MoneyPass, an ATM network that gives customers access to over 32,000 surcharge free ATMs across the country. Click here to visit MoneyPass and find an ATM near you! 

Mobile Deposit
Deposit a check using the bank’s app, VCNB Mobile, and the camera on your mobile device! Intrigued?  Learn more here! 

Online Bill Pay
Online Bill Pay is a hassle free way to manage your monthly bills. You can use it to pay a single bill or you can set up auto pay for a number of bills. You choose the date the bill is paid and the amount you pay and let us take over from there! It also allows you to receive your bills electronically and set up payment reminders to ensure your bills are paid on time.  No stamps or checks required! This is a free service as long as you use it at least once every month but there is a $3 monthly charge for months that you do not use the service.

Auto transfers
Trying to save money for your child’s education or a family vacation? If you have a hard time remembering to save, set up automatic transfers! You choose the amount you save, the account the funds come from, where it goes and when the transfer takes place. Best of all, you can change any of this at any time.

Mobile app
With VCNB Mobile, you’re essentially carrying a banker in your pocket 24 hours a day. Use the app to set up those automatic transfers, to pay bills, view balances, review transactions, deposit checks and more!  Search for VCNB Mobile in the app store on your device. Now you can change your password in the app and can even set it up to log in using Touch ID.

Mobile Payment Options
VCNB offers Google Pay, Apple Pay® and Samsung Pay, allowing customers a secure, easy way to pay on the go with their VCNB debit or credit card. Learn more here! 

VCNB Breaks Ground On New Ashville Branch

PW Campbell, Mark and Tom

From left are Dan Fox and Charlie Sachs of PW Campbell, Community Bancshares Chairman and CEO Tom Will and VCNB President Mark Erslan.

Village Personnel, Mark and Tom

From left are Village Administrator Franklin Christman, Ashville Chief of Police Jeffrey George, Pickaway County Sheriff Robert Radcliff, Ashville Mayor Charles Wise, VCNB President Mark Erslan and Community Bancshares Chairman and CEO Tom Will

VCNB executives, board members, bank employees, local dignitaries and their guests braved the elements Monday to take part in an official groundbreaking event at the site of the new Pickaway County Banking Center in Ashville.

The estimated $2 million facility was designed by renowned financial industry designer/builder PW Campbell. It will replace the former bank building at 26 E. Main Street in downtown Ashville. The branch was temporarily relocated to 18 Long Street to make way for demolition of the old and construction of the new.

VCNB President Mark Erslan said he is enthusiastic about the bank’s future in this Pickaway County community. “The village of Ashville has been good to work with in the planning process and supportive of the project. We are pleased to invest in this community and to grow here,” he said.

Erslan went on to thank the Village of Ashville and its administration for their support through the planning process.

The new one story building will be over 5,000 square feet, boasting soaring ceilings and an open floor plan designed to modernize and simplify the banking experience. With entrances from Main Street and from the parking lot side, accessing the bank will be significantly easier as well. When opened, this branch will use the new VCNB bank model which will put the personal back in personal banking by employing bankers who can each assist customers with nearly every one of their banking needs.

“This new branch will feature a balance of updated conveniences for those customers who like to bank through digital channels along with the in-person service our customers have come to expect,” Erslan explained.

The completion of this branch will be celebrated with an open house in the fall.

Click here to read about our philosophy that an investment in the bank helps the community.

 

VCNB Supports Project Recognizing Ohio’s First Female Sheriff

Alice's House and Sheriff Maude DonationVCNB is pleased to assist the Vinton County Historical and Genealogical Society (VCHGS) by supporting their project to recognize Maude Collins as Ohio’s first female Sheriff. VCNB gave $1,500 to the project which will result in the creation of a Historical Marker at the Vinton County Courthouse, near the Sheriff’s Office where Collins served.

sheriff-maude-collins

Sheriff Maude Collins

Sheriff Maude was appointed Sheriff in 1925 following the death of her husband, Sheriff Fletcher Collins, who was killed in the line of duty. She went on to run for a term of her own, beating male candidates in both Primary and General Elections. Another county has made previous claims that their sheriff was the first Ohio woman to hold this position in the seventies. VCHGS applied to the Ohio History Connection’s historic markers program last year in an attempt to rectify the oversight.

VCNB Branch Manager Jane Nickels praised the efforts to recognize the pioneering sheriff. “We at the bank appreciate your efforts to preserve the memory of Sheriff Maude and to tell her story in a way that generations to come will see and appreciate,” she said.

VCHGS President Deanna Tribe thanked the bank for supporting this project which had already received donations from several local residents and others who wanted to help. “Maude Collins is a significant figure not only in Vinton County’s history, but also Ohio’s history, women’s history, and law enforcement’s history. This historical marker in her honor will make Maude’s story more known to the public,” Tribe said. She also thanked VCNB Marketing Specialist Brandi Betts for assisting in the research and preparation of the marker application.

Supporting Community By Investing In Ourselves

Artists Renderings of the new Pickaway County Banking Center in Ashville

 

Last month we told you a little about our core values – the things we value most and that make us who we are. We talked specifically about how we value community and the things we do to support our communities through volunteerism, donations and encouraging our employees to get involved.

Another way that we support our communities is through investing in ourselves. That sounds a bit self-serving but we believe in taking care of our buildings and putting our best foot forward whenever possible. A well cared for branch that operates efficiently is an investment in the community as well as in ourselves.

That’s part of the reason we have been undergoing upgrades at some of branches for the last several months. Last year we updated the storefront of our Circleville location and we’re putting the finishing touches on work at our Grove City branch while renovation projects are in full swing at our Laurelville and Lancaster West Fair locations. We recently finished demolition and clean-up of our Ashville building to make way for a brand new facility.

Plans are in the pipeline for improvements at other branches in the coming years.

Supporting the community means being good neighbors and we hope you’ll be happy with the results as we modernize and improve our locations in the coming months and years. The next time you’re in one of the branches under construction, be sure to ask the staff about the plans and have a look at the artist’s renderings of the new work!

Small Business Spotlight: Donut World

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

50755929_534720143701097_998579857665294336_nwhite donutsBill Miller doesn’t know what he would be doing if not for making donuts. That’s because he’s been in the donut business since his very first high school job at Jolly Pirate Donuts in Lancaster. For the last thirty years, he and his wife Cheryl have owned Donut World, a Lancaster landmark known for the best donuts in town.

A graduate of Berne-Union High School, Bill started working at Jolly Pirate doing clean-up work. “I started out with the most entry level job you could do there and worked up to night shift manager,” he said.

Bill and Cheryl opened their first shop in Logan in 1989 where they operated successfully until moving to Lancaster in 1993. Located at the corner of N. Broad Street and Sixth Street, the shop is just a few blocks off of Memorial Drive.

The delicious aroma of donuts permeates the neighborhood as one car after another lines up to order. Many are regulars who need only to pull up and wait for their favorite treat to be boxed and passed out the window. Others take their time selecting just the right donut.

People from the neighborhood walk in to pick up breakfast. A youngster with a clean report from the dentist next door comes in with a coupon to claim his rewards for taking care of his teeth. His dad requests a cherry turnover and the pair leave happy.

And this goes on all morning long.

The staff is friendly and cheerful, always glad to help the next person at the window. Some are family while others have been with the shop for many years. They even still have the first employee they hired in Logan in 1989. Bill and Cheryl’s daughter Heather works at the shop now but was just a little girl when she named it Donut World from the back seat of the family car. Together, they all seem to share the bonds that come from working in close quarters for a long time.

Group.jpgTheir variety of donuts is exceptional and includes over 50 kinds, including some seasonal favorites like pumpkin and cherry. “We tend to focus on the most popular and on the things people love the very best,” Bill said as he began naming customer favorites like chocolate iced vanilla, devil’s food, chocolate bismarks, apple fritters and cinnamon rolls. Still the runaway favorite here is good old fashioned glazed donuts. “People never get tired of our glazed donuts,” he said.

They do take requests and he said they are always open to new things if they think there’s a market.

The shop has a large following, not just in Fairfield County but across the region and beyond. “We have customers come up from Logan and Vinton County, from Columbus, Buckeye Lake –really from all over the area,” he said before going on to talk about those who come from much further away.

“We have a lot of customers who stop by when they come to visit family in town. They’ll come in from out-of-state, go see the family and then come straight here. We have people who say they wish we were wherever they live.”

Bill gives credit to many other people for his own successes. He speaks fondly of a friend in the donut business who encouraged him to open his own shop and then helped him get started. He smiles at the memory of an old friend, now deceased, who drew up the Donut Man character when Donut World was still just a dream in a young man’s mind. Donut Man still presides over the shop, looking down from the sign out front.

Bill credits his family for their hard work too. Cheryl does their books. His daughter, sons, grandsons, sister-in-law and mother either work in the shop now or have helped out over the years.

Most of all, he’s grateful to his parents and to his uncle who taught him work ethic, self-sufficiency and saving money.  “They taught me to be smart about saving, about growing food and preserving it, about building houses and taking care of things. I owe a lot to my mom and dad. I had the greatest parents you would ever want to have,” he said. “They taught me to be careful with money, to be reasonable and to always be fair.”

Then there are the people he’s met because of his line of work. “I’ve learned a lot from a lot of different people. When I worked nights at Jolly Pirate I would talk to older customers and to the night shift cops.  You can learn so much just from talking to people,” he pointed out.

Life, he said, hasn’t always been easy. “Especially in the beginning, in the early days in Logan, I worked eighteen to twenty hours a day for the first few years.”  Now he has a good staff in place and the time to enjoy some of his hobbies and pursuits. He especially enjoys big game hunting and trips on his motorcycle.

A lot of people don’t know Bill by name but they do know his business. “I see people everywhere I go and they just call me the ‘donut man’ and I think that’s pretty great. Everything I have is because of donuts so I’m always happy to stop and talk to my customers.”

51188981_382350412577202_6012871888466870272_nDonut World is one of the top ranked donut shops in Ohio and was the Best Bakery in Fairfield County in 2016 and 2017, according to the readers of the Lancaster Eagle Gazette.  They have a five star rating on Yelp and have a large following on Facebook too.

In addition to selling donuts by the single or by the dozen, they provide larger orders to local churches, schools and organizations. They also do close to fifty weddings per year, enjoying an ever growing trend to serve donuts in lieu of a wedding cake.

Donut World is located at 601 N. Broad St., in Lancaster.  Stop by or call them at 740.653.4888 to place your special order.  You can also follow them on Facebook.  Donut World is open 24-hours a day, closing only for Christmas morning. They recently began accepting plastic in addition to cash.

Kathy Cooper Retires This Week

kathy cooperWhen Kathy Cooper talks about her years as a banker, it’s clear that this has been a career and a passion rather than just a job. She will retire January 31, closing a 35 year chapter of her life’s book. But she insists this is just the end of a chapter and that she still has a lot of life and maybe even some new pursuits ahead of her.

Kathy has been with Friendly Bremen Banking Center since 2001 but had a varied and interesting career with other banks prior to that. In fact, she began her banking career in 1983 when she started as a part time teller at Equitable Federal Savings and Loan in Lancaster. Six months later she moved into middle management and hasn’t looked back since.

Kathy grew up in Lancaster on what she calls “Main Street USA.” Her father owned retail businesses in downtown Lancaster which she said was a quintessential small town. She wanted to be an educator but, after some time in the education program at Ohio University, decided this was not the career for her and took that first position as a part time teller.

Customers in Bremen often think of Kathy as the face of the bank as they often see her out and about in the community and because she is a veteran Bremen banker who has helped many of them realize their life’s dreams as their lender.

She has worn many hats in the world of banking and says that she has seen and done almost everything. From a bank run in the early eighties to changes in banking culture to holding a stock broker’s license for one of her prior employers, she said that every job and each person she worked with over the years taught her something. “I’ve been fortunate to have great individuals, maybe you would call them mentors, who took the time to ask questions and give feedback and to help form me,” she said. “I’ve met many interesting individuals who have helped me in some way and I’m grateful for that.”

When it comes to banking in general and lending in particular, Kathy has some strong opinions about what it takes to be successful in a hometown atmosphere. “You have to be approachable and be able to talk to people on their level so they feel comfortable using you as a resource. You have to be knowledgeable about all products and be able to help them with the big picture. You have to ask a lot of questions and be able to identify what’s best for the customer and any weaknesses that might become problems,” she said.  “Availability is key too. Customers know where I live. They have my cell phone. They know I’m tied to the community and that I’m here for them always – evenings, Sunday mornings – when they need me. And most of all, you have to treat people in an honest manner. That’s extremely important.”

Once she retires, Kathy said she has plans for projects around the house and yard. She also looks forward to a little light travel and some volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and the Fairfield Heritage Society. More than anything, she looks forward to spending time with family including daughter Sarah, son Zachary and her four grandkids. In fact, her eyes light up when she talks about Marin, Joseph, Isabelle and Camden, her grandchildren who she says are involved with a host of activities.

While time off work sounds appealing, she doesn’t expect retirement to last forever. “I’m just taking off my Peter Pan cape for a while. You never know what I’ll do next but I can tell you this. I’m like a bad penny. I just keep rolling back,” she laughed.

“It’s been great! It’s been a fun ride but now it’s time to turn the page,” she said.