The Gospel Mission food pantry on Wednesday celebrated its first year of operation, a period of time in which it wasn't alone among new additions to Historic Harmar Village.
Opening on Sept. 21, 2011, the Gospel Mission was the first tenant of the Harmar Community Center. The center, which opened in June of this year, and a handful of businesses that have moved in recently are transforming Marietta's west side.
"It's always wonderful to see new businesses, of course, opening up , and every time a business opens, that's going to bring new people into the community," said Chuck Swaney, owner of the Harmar shop FOUND and a member of the nonprofit Historic Harmar Bridge Company.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
Volunteers and customers gather and chat outside the Gospel Mission food pantry in Harmar on Wednesday as the pantry celebrates its one-year anniversary.
Harmar was hurting a few years ago when the pedestrian bridge was closed over structural concerns, cutting off a main point of access for many people to wander over and locate the boutique businesses there until volunteer labor restored the span. The area has sometimes been overshadowed by downtown Marietta, although both participate in the Merchants and Artists Walks during the summer and other times of the year.
The proximity of the area west of the river to downtown and Ohio 7 makes it an appealing location for a business like Stoney Creek Log Structures, which moved into a building at the corner of Gilman Avenue and Lancaster Street last month.
"This was really my original choice to come here," said company President Michael McKain.
Food pantry displays
spirit of caring in Harmar
By Evan Bevins
The Marietta Times
Standing outside the Gospel Mission food pantry Wednesday morning with nine racks of clothes and a line of people picking up food inside, Candy Waite said three-quarters of the offerings would probably be gone by the afternoon.
But come 10:30 next Wednesday morning, the doors will be open again and the food and clothing restocked thanks to community donations.
"It's a wonderful, giving community that cares about their neighbors,"
said Jeff Waite, Candy's husband.
The Gospel Mission celebrated its first anniversary Wednesday. The Waites started the pantry in the Harmar Community Center at 307 Lancaster St. on Sept. 21, but Candy Waite said they wanted to mark the occasion Wednesday, when the people the pantry serves would be there.
Those folks number 100 to 125 families a week, Jeff Waite said. On Wednesday, they expected to serve their 5,000th.
There are many families counted more than once in that total since the Gospel Mission has no restrictions on how often a person can receive assistance there. That keeps them from receiving assistance from food bank organizations, but Candy Waite said it's worked so far and they have faith it will continue.
"I can't look at anybody in the eyes and tell them, 'No, I can't feed you today,'" she said. "We've never had a problem with people abusing food. We walk by faith and not by sight."
There are also no geographical restrictions on who can receive items from the pantry. On Wednesday, residents from Parkersburg, Marietta and Waterford were going through items and enjoying the cookies, cake and coffee being served for the anniversary.
"It's been needed, and it's just great," said April Lewis, 49, of Waterford. "They've been wonderful."
Lewis said she has been coming off and on for a few months and tries to bring clothing she no longer uses in addition to taking items.
Jeff Waite pointed out that the Gospel Mission wouldn't work without the support of a dedicated group of volunteers, among them 67-year-old Warren Township resident Bob Harlow.
"I'm retired, and it's given me something good to do, something productive," Harlow said.
The pantry started out being open from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, but those hours have expanded to 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. based on the need they've seen, Candy Waite said.
"There's people that (come) here at 7 o'clock in the morning and wait 'til I get here," she said.
She said people can bring donations during the pantry hours on Wednesday or contact her at 350-4417 to set up another time.
Materials for the company's log homes are made at a mill in Wisconsin and shipped nationwide. A Parkersburg native, McKain returned to the area about five years ago due to family concerns, first setting up shop in his hometown before moving to Ohio 7 south of Marietta.
The new location isn't as far to go for people who may come to downtown Marietta from Interstate 77, McKain said. It's also close to the river, where it might attract the attention of people who own boats and have more income to purchase some of the company's other offerings, including custom furniture, he said.
The building also houses McKain's Stonebridge Construction, licensed builders who deal in home building, remodeling, decks, porches, roofs and more. In the back is Cachet Talent and Photography, a photo studio and modeling agency owned by McKain's wife, Laurie, and Cathy Richards.
"They recruit local talent and models. We work with agencies in Chicago and Los Angeles," Michael McKain said.
A new addition among Harmar's shops this year is Log Cabin Country Quilts at 130 Maple St. Owner Ginny Guthrie opened the business on April 1 and offers quilting services, vintage quilt restorations, custom quilts and workshops for adults and children.
"I never knew that would be so wildly popular," she said of the kids' classes, noting she had 16 children - boys and girls - participating in sessions the week before school resumed.
Guthrie said she loves having her business in Harmar.
"Great community. It's historic. It's got character," she said. "And it's got a lot of characters living there. I fit right in."
Having the quilt shop just a few doors down makes Harmar "like the sewing district of Marietta," said Robyne Blocker, owner of A Perfect Fit, a garment alteration and repair shop at 118 Maple St.
A Perfect Fit opened in August 2011. Blocker said the location fits her business well, offering convenient parking for people bringing in clothes and plenty of space for her work. She also appreciates her neighbors.
"I like the merchants in the area," she said. "It's a really close group."
Blocker said she'll send girls who bring in their prom dresses down the street to Pearl's Treasures for some of the unique jewelry there and she displays a piece of lath art by local artist Larry Wilson in her window, along with his contact information. She said Amy Gentry Photography - which moved to Virginia Street in March along with husband Gregory Gentry's financial planning business - often uses the Maple Street area as a backdrop for senior portraits, and Blocker lets the students use her dressing room to change.
"Everybody is really looking out for everybody else," she said.
Blocker said she also has a good relationship with businesses outside the immediate Harmar area, noting she'll direct customers to downtown businesses like Schafer Leather and Cobbler John's and vice versa.
Swaney said each new business in and around Harmar has the potential to draw people who aren't familiar with the area. The same is true for events like Harmar Days, the new Railroad Days, capitalizing on the area's railroad connection, slated for Oct. 6-7 and the third annual Zombie Walk on Oct. 20.
"I love to see the street busy," Blocker said. "You meet so many interesting tourists and they're lovely to talk to."
Maple Street resident Matt Glidewell, 69, said he's glad to see new businesses opening up and he's also grateful for the presence of the community center.
"It's looking good over on this side here," he said Wednesday while people gathered for cake, cookies and coffee in honor of the Gospel Mission's first anniversary as the food pantry continued to conduct its regular business. "This building here was going down to nothing and they found a use for it."
The community center building at 307 Lancaster St. was the former site of Magnetic Specialty Inc. and had been vacant for about six years. Owner Gary Murphy, who started the business with his father, Ralph, donated the building to the community center board, of which he is president.
Extensive renovations over more than a year prepared the building to house the Boys & Girls Club of Washington County, and its community room has been used by several groups, including the Marietta Civitan Club. The center is continuing to raise money to pay off its debt and move on to the next phase, which will focus on adding a gymnasium and kitchen, said Mary Ann VonVille, executive director.
The next fundraiser is a garage sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6.
Whipple's Whimsical Toys, railroad car off Maple Street (opened April 2011)
Railroad museum, 120 Maple St. (July 2011)
A Perfect Fit, 118 Maple St. (August 2011)
Gospel Mission, 307 Lancaster St. (opened September 2011)
Gregory Gentry and Associates and Amy Gentry Photography, 520 Virginia St. (March 2012)
Log Cabin Country Quilts, 130 Maple St. (April 1)
Harmar Community Center, 307 Lancaster St. (June 8)
Stoney Creek Log Structures/Stoneridge Construction/Cachet Talent and Photography, 17955 State Route 7 (August)
Source: Times research.