By WAYNE SHEETS
Contributing Business Writer
An atmosphere of confidence and anticipation that the coming year will be a good one prevailed at Tuesday's Downtown Merchants meeting. Despite the dramatic downturn in the nation's economy, merchants expressed general satisfaction with the Elkins economy, especially the Christmas shopping season.
Tina Mullennex, owner of Country Creations Gift Shop on Railroad Avenue, said she did "very well" during November and December. Elaine Griesel, owner of Ceramics with Class, said she had the best year ever and that was contributable in large measure to Christmas shoppers.
Merchants also indicated that they think the "I Shop Locally" campaign initiated by The Inter-Mountain is already beginning to show results while others seemed to think the economy has had a greater affect on local shopping.
All agreed that good things are happening in Elkins despite the fact that each had several shoppers during the Christmas season tell them, "I didn't know you were here." They mused that with all the advertising they do, it is hard to understand how people could not know of their stores. They said that they believe that the efforts of those involved in trying to make Elkins a better place to live, work and shop is partly responsible for the city's prosperity.
All also agreed that Elkins is beginning the new year on the "right foot," and encouraged everyone to take pride in the town and to do everything possible to continue making it an interesting and attractive place to live and visit.
Dennis Lively, operator of elkinslive.com, noted that he is adding a new feature to his Web site that allows voters to ask questions of the candidates running for office in the March 3 city election.
"It is like a 24/7 public forum," Lively said. "People who have questions to ask of the candidates may log onto the Web site and upload questions to each candidate of interest. This will give our constituents the opportunity to address the candidates who might otherwise not have an opportunity to do so. I sincerely hope that the citizens of Elkins will take advantage of this opportunity to engage the candidates in a dialog on subjects of interest to both the voter and the candidate," he said. There is no charge for using the service.
County Commissioner Mike Taylor informed attendees at Tuesday's merchants meeting that upon completion of the new Randolph County Court House Annex II, the current Randolph-Elkins Health Department building would be open for other uses. He said the commissioners are looking for input from citizens as to ways it may be used once vacant.
"This is a case of where the land may be of more value than the buildings," he said.
Taylor also mentioned that new County Commissioner Chris See was sworn in on Jan. 2 and that new committee assignments will be made at the regular meeting on Jan. 8.
Gary Schoonover, who labors for his wife Ruth Lynn in "Granny's Attic Antiques," told attendees at Tuesday's merchants meeting an interesting story that should make everyone who calls Elkins their hometown feel good.
Seems a couple from Georgia visited him in the store over the Christmas shopping season and told him that they look forward to coming to Elkins every two or three years because of the town's diversity, esthetics and quietness.
Regarding the quietness, the conversation apparently went something like this: Shopper, "Gary, come out here and listen to this."
Schoonover, "I don't hear anything."
"That's what I mean," said the shopper. "It's so quiet here!"
Schoonover said the couple told him they come to the mountains to ski and "can't wait to visit downtown Elkins."
Thanks for sharing your experience with everyone, Gary.
Many at Tuesday's Downtown Merchants meeting questioned whether three downtown merchants, A Little Touch of Used, Ideal Material Shoppe and Mountaineer Optical, were going out of business, so I checked them out.
Margaret Stalnaker if Ideal Material Shoppe said she had moved all her merchandise out of the store that she had operated for more than 20 years, but still had some merchandise for sale inside Seneca Mall. She said that she would continue to do clothing alterations. She said, "I'm covered up," as she gestured to all the items waiting to be attended to.
Penny and Richard Doyle of Mountaineer Optical said, "No, we are not going out of business. Things are a bit slow right now, but that's to be expected right after Christmas. During Christmastime, I'd probably buy Christmas gifts rather than eyeware too if I had to make such a decision," Penny said.
The folks at A Little Touch of Used had no comment to make.