Ed Griesel, generally, is a man of few words. Trying to get him to reveal much about himself or his accomplishments is like mining the universe for its secrets.
On the other hand, Mr. Ed, as many others and I call him, has no inhibitions about letting people know how he feels about the economic growth of the city of Elkins and its surroundings, or what he feels necessary to accomplish that end. He also has a sharp eye for the esthetics and cultural and historical heritage of the city and what is necessary to keep and enhance them.
"I've been working with the Downtown Merchant's Association for eight and a half years," Griesel said as I sat and listened to him reminisce. "I have seen some changes and I see some things that haven't changed. When I first started working with the group there would be only four or five merchants show up for the meetings; other times there would be more, of course, but generally there were only a few. Recently, we have had as many as 20 merchants or representatives of businesses in the downtown area at the meetings."
Griesel said while he would like to see more of business owners and entrepreneurs participating in the meetings, the recent numbers are encouraging.
"I would," he emphasized, "especially like to see those that are located in the 'heart' of downtown playing a more active role with the group.
"Don't misunderstand me," he said as if in fear that people would think his interests lay only within the city limits, "my interests - and the group's interests - are not confined just to the downtown area; they include the whole of Randolph County."
Griesel also indicated that he is pleased with the cooperation he has seen of late in the development and execution of various projects including the a brochure enticing tourists to shop downtown. The first run of the publication will be disseminated at tourism trade shows.
"Many have gone to great lengths to help move people across the street to the downtown shops while they are here to visit the excursion trains or the American Mountain Theater. This is our chance to help ourselves," he said.
Every year he and his wife, Elaine, lead the efforts in planning and executing the Memorial Day services at the All Veteran's Memorial - much of the costs of which they bear themselves. He is a member of the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce and was recently inducted onto the advisory board of Davis & Elkins College's Business Administration Department's Honorary Business Fraternity Phi Beta Lambda. He is a driving force behind the development and successes the Depot Welcoming Center has enjoyed since its inception nearly three years ago. He is also on the board of directors of the West Virginia Railroad Museum.
Griesel served for many years on the Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission and vehemently opposed the destruction of the Grace Davis Home where Walgreen's now sits. He helped spearhead the efforts to get the new drug store to change its exterior design to one that would accommodate the design criteria for new structures being built on or near the railyard - architecture that would complement the historical significance of the Western Maryland train depot.
He, and several others whose numbers were many too few, opposed the replacement of the current traffic lights downtown with newer ones in an effort to preserve the historic flavor of downtown Elkins.
"Until we have stronger city ordinances to protect our historical and cultural heritage," Griesel lamented, "I'm afraid we'll continue to lose those things both cultural and historical that harkens us, and our visitors, back to the past, the most important asset we have to attract, build and sustain our tourism industry."
For all Mr. Ed has done for the town and his continued efforts to make Elkins and its environs a better place to live, work, play and yes visit, he is my pick for the community's 2008 Man of the Year. Thank you Mr. Ed for all you do.
Our United Way needs our help now. One of the agency's unique ways of raising money is with its "Cash Calendars." Three-hundred tickets are sold providing 24 chances to win. Tickets are $25 each. A $50 prize is given away each month in addition to $500 prizes on New Years and July 4. Drawings for $250 are on St. Patrick's Day and Thanksgiving Day. On Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, United Way Day (Aug. 1), Labor Day and Columbus Day, $100 prizes are awarded.
Executive Director Bonnie Phares said the agency is facing an urgent need to sell the tickets quickly this year because the calendars arrived later than usual and it is necessary to get them sold so that the prizes can be given on time. In addition to the 24 chances to win, each purchase includes a calendar compliments of Citizens National Bank filled with scenic photos taken across America suitable for framing. Tickets may be obtained at The Inter-Mountain office or at the United Way office on Henry Avenue. Members of the board of directors also have tickets. Get yours today and support a most worthy organization.
Don Smith, general manager of The Inter-Mountain, reported at the Downtown Merchant's meeting on Tuesday that 801 people responded to the shopping survey, which, he said, was an excellent response. The numbers are still being "digested" and when compilation is completed, they will be made public. Respondents from Elkins and Buckhannon won the IPods and a gentleman from Circleville won the laptop computer. Smith also reported that 30 businesses have committed to participating in the "I Shop Locally" program.
The four-fold flyer encouraging tourists to shop downtown was approved and 1,000 copies will be ready by next week for distribution. Most of the first run will go with local representatives to trade shows for dissemination to tourist companies.
Griesel is fronting the money to cover costs of this first printing - he hopes to be reimbursed by local merchants. Sources for additional printings are being sought. Merchants at Tuesday's meeting feel that the expense of future printings should be shared by every business entity in town, including banks, insurance agencies, investments brokers, etc., since the benefits of additional revenue benefit the entire business community.
Ellen Spears, executive director of the ElkinsRandolph County Chamber of Commerce, reported that the Christmas Parade was a great success. "About 70 kids visited Santa," Spears said. She said that some 60 entries made their way through the parade despite the cold temperatures.
Amy Schumacher, broker/owner of Bennett Carney Properties, asked me to let everyone know that she and her company are not going out of business - they are merging with Coldwell-Banker Hometown Realty effective Jan. 1. Schumacher's new location will be at 1505 Harrison Ave., between Wendy's and Taco Bell. She said that she would be putting her building on Randolph Avenue up for sale. For more information, call Schumacher at 304-636-1083.
Only four more days until Santa pays everyone his annual visit. It seems like his last visit was only two or three weeks ago. Winter seems to have joined us early this year; maybe we'll have a white Christmas for a change. Merry Christmas everyone.