Event offered look, taste of Brooke County businesses

WELLSBURG – The Discover Brooke County event Monday offered local businesses and organizations an opportunity not only to inform area residents about their food, goods and services but also to network with other businesses and organizations.

As she stopped to sample the wings served by Patrick Gallahan and Tess Jordan of The Station Grille, Barb Owens, general manager of the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Weirton, also picked up a menu from the Wellsburg restaurant.

“I’m finding more restaurants for people at our hotel to try,” Owens said, adding, “We keep a binder of menus for local restaurants for people to look through and copy.”

Jordan said the restaurant usually participates in the annual event, which is presented by the Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau and was held this year at the Wellsburg Banquet Hall.

“It’s nice for marketing. We pass out flyers and get the word out,” she said.

Also offering food samples were the Serbian American Cultural Center of Weirton, which served up pasta with an assortment of ingredients chosen by each visitor; Chartwells Catering of Bethany, which offered antipasto kabobs and fruit salsa with cinnamon- or sugar-dusted chips; and Sheila’s Place, which offered several varieties of wings.

Sheila Rine and Rich and Kim Hardesty are co-owners of Sheila’s Place, which opened on Hooverson Heights near Follansbee earlier this year. Rine prepared jumbo wings and other food while working at the former Korner Kupboard in Colliers for 12 years, while Hardesty brings business experience gained from operating Your Auto Connection in Wellsburg for many years.

“It’s a family style restaurant run by our families. Our spouses and kids, who are grown, are involved,” said Rich.

Open for lunch and dinner, the restaurant will be expanding its menu to include burgers, broasted chicken, fish and soft-serve ice cream, Rich added.

He said Discover Brooke County was helpful because “A lot of people knew of us but didn’t know where we are. This helped us get the word out.”

Jackie Hudson, catering director, said because Chartwells is based at and serves Bethany College, many don’t know the catering service also offers food for a variety of off-campus events.

“That’s why I’m here – to let foks know I will come to them for their catering needs. Nothing is too big or too small. We do weddings, graduation parties, showers, reunions and other events,” she said.

Debbie Zagula, executive manager of Aspen Manor in Wellsburg, said since becoming a bed and breakfast resort in 2009, the former assisted living facility has undergone various renovations and hosted weddings, family reunions and business conferences while its Eagles Nest Lodge has been used for graduation and other parties.

The lodge’s name alludes to Aspen Manor’s scenic surroundings, where visitors have a hilltop view of three states, she noted.

“It’s such a unique place to have any sort of gathering,” Zagula said of the resort, which began in 1896 as Vancroft Manor, the home of a wealthy industrialist’s son.

Though they didn’t all offer free food, some businesses found other creative ways to attract visitors’ attention.

Pharmacist Lori Johnson and other staff from Traubert’s Pharmacy invited visitors to apply a special lotion that allowed them to see, when placed under a blacklight, the bacteria on their hands.

The exercise helped to stress the need to wash hands or apply hand sanitizer frequently, particularly at this time when the flu and colds are common.

And the Gummi worms doubling for “gummy germs” displayed at the pharmacy’s booth helped to draw attention.

Wayne and Janet Buxton, members of Animal Advocates-Brooke County, brought Gemma, a one-year-old lab mix from the Brooke County Animal Shelter and in need of an owner that greeted many who stopped by their booth.

The group also displayed photos of improvements they helped to bring to the shelter, including a surgical room and outdoor kennels provided through grants and contributions.

Michael O’Brien donned the tin pot hat and overalls associated with Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman, a legendary figure believed to have supplied seeds for the Grimes Golden variety of apple that inspired the Wellsburg Applefest.

He and fellow Applefest co-chairman Ernie Jack made some apple butter for visitors to sample while sharing details of the fall event and efforts to improve the roadside park off state Route 27 near the farm where the apple was discovered.

Keith Elson of Wellsburg displayed some of the hundreds of metal figures he has made for model railroads since retiring from the Postal Service. The pewter figures included everything from Santa Claus and snowmen to a group of pallbearers carrying a casket while led by a priest.

Elson said he has sold the figures to people in nine countries through his website as well as at many train shows held in the U.S.

Nanci Walker of Wellsburg, a first-time volunteer with the event, said, “I didn’t realize Brooke County has such talent. It’s awesome.”

Mary Blum of Wellsburg said of Discover Brooke County, “It’s always a good event. The organizers who put this together work hard.”

The event was planned by Discover Brooke County committee members Bill Konkle, Michelle Basil, Eric Fithyan and Della Serevicz, with help from many volunteers and Top of West Virginia CVB Executive Director Dan Greathouse.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com)