Optimism appears to be gaining the upper hand for the survival of what was once known as the Downtown Merchants Association. In this day of pessimism, cynicism and skepticism, it seemed at the last meeting on Dec. 21 with only 10 people attending that there was little hope that the organization or its thrust in the business community would survive. It appeared as though interest had waned to the point that no one cared whether it and its mission lived or died.
Ed Griesel, who had been the defacto president of the organization for the past 10 years said, "It appears that few people care about the well-being of the business environment in Downtown Elkins and the surrounding area; no one offered to step up and take over and keep the organization going. I was disappointed, of course, at the low turnout at the last meeting. I thought there would be more people there to discuss the future of the organization. I hoped there'd be discussion on what to do and what direction to take, but apparently very few even care.
"For the past several years I've heard many comments and reasons why people don't attend the organization's meetings. One of the more often heard was that the name implied that the organization was only for merchants located in downtown Elkins. Nothing could be further from fact. For as long as I've been associated with the organization, I've told people that it was an organization whose mission was to promote the business community of the entire city and county - an organization in which everyone was welcome. Be that as it may, there are many merchants in the downtown area that have never participated."
Perhaps, if the organization survives, the name should be changed to one that signifies more evidently that it is representative of a broader spectrum of the economic community.
Regardless of the name, I'm sure there will forever be those that will find fault with it and choose not to participate. That is, of course, their option.
Griesel said, "I firmly believe, though, that the efforts of the organization should be merged with ON TRAC since the objectives and goals of each are so similar. There is strength in numbers, and I believe if all these little, autonomous organizations that are trying to do the many things needed to keep the city growing and promoting its historical and cultural heritage would be better served if they pooled their efforts instead of trying to continue on their own."
Griesel resigned from a leadership role at that December meeting saying, "After serving for 10 years, I felt it was time for me to step aside and make room for new leadership, new ideas, new people. I have every intention of remaining active with the organization in whatever form it takes - whether someone steps forward and keeps it going or if it becomes a part of ON TRAC.
"So many of the things the organization did or tried to do, were, and if continued in its present form, would be very closely related to what ON TRAC is trying to do. I believe it should become a part of the ON TRAC promotion committee," he said.
It appears that Griesel's wish may come to fruition.
The organization did not meet again until Tuesday. Seventeen people were present to hear and discuss suggestions and ideas regarding the future of the organization. Each agreed that they wanted to see the thrust of the organization continued and agreed that becoming a part of the ON TRAC promotions committee was the best thing to do.
No definitive action was taken, however, until a meeting with Ellen Spears, the ON TRAC liaison officer, can be arranged. Spears had intended to attend Tuesday's meeting but was unable to do so. She will be at the next meeting scheduled for Feb. 8. The meeting is open to all business owners, operators and entrepreneurs in Elkins and Randolph County.
Beyond the discussion relating to the merchants' organization merging with ON TRAC, the conversations at Tuesday's meeting were as familiar as hot coffee at The Kissel Stop. They included discussing a springtime advertising campaign similar to the "Spring Fling" campaign the merchants sponsored last year and creating downtown shopping attractions.
The possibility of obtaining benches for the downtown area was mentioned, and Shawn Kelly of YouthBuild explored the possibility of constructing them. Kelly said that they have 30 students between the ages of 16 and 24 enrolled in their program getting their GED and at the same time learning the skills of leadership and construction during the 10-month program.
He agreed to "look into the matter to see if it would be permissible for them to build the benches and under what conditions."
Van Broughton, who is running for city councilman of Elkins' 2nd Ward, shared some of his ideas regarding the establishment of ordinances that he believes would make Elkins a better place to live and work.
RCDA Executive Secretary Nancy Barlow announced that the Farmers Market would open on May 14. There will be more information forthcoming as that date draws nearer.
Ann Beardslee noted that the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad will run two "short runs" during this year's Ramps and Rail Festival on April 30.
According to Beardslee, last year's run was such a success that the company decided to make two runs this year.
"The purpose of the 'short runs' is to give parents an opportunity to take their children for a train ride that is not so long that they become bored and disinterested," Beardslee said. There will be more information forthcoming on this as the date draws closer.
Martha Metheny announced that construction of the new theater is "on schedule to meet the April 1 opening show date." She also said that they had been successful and proud to have been able to secure all construction and advertising vendors within the state. "No work has been done by out-of-state contractors," she said.
Former Mayor Judy Guye encouraged everyone to get out and vote during the city election on March 1.
Tourism Day at the Legislature is set for Feb. 7. Everyone in the tourist industry might want to consider making plans to participate. The crowd-favorite day includes representatives from virtually every part of the tourism industry. To register and for more information, visit www.wvtoursim.com/tourismday.
Here's a little tidbit that might be interesting to all those who love to bake pies. The West Virginia State Fair is set for Aug. 12-20 and fair officials are looking for West Virginia's best pie baker. The new "Best of the Counties" pie bake-off is a competition between each of the state's 55 counties to determine bragging rights for being the home of West Virginia's best pie baker.
To nominate a neighbor, friend or family member, visit www.statefairofwv.com and complete the pie bake-off ballot. The person receiving the most votes for a particular county will be invited to participate in the contest at the state fair on Aug. 13.
If you do not have access to the Internet you may submit your name, address and telephone number with your nominee's name, address, county and telephone number to State Fair of West Virginia, P.O. Drawer 986, Lewisburg, West Virginia 24901.