WV Living Fall 2017

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HAWK KNOB ✚ How Huntington ✚ WEST VIRGINIA’S Proves the Time Became America’s First Recovery is Ripe for Cider Farm BEST COMMUNITY








Cider Resurrectionists

Make No Little Plans

West Virginia Wonder Women

Hawk Knob is bringing hard cider back, and they’re not stopping there.

How Huntington became America’s Best Community.

Our fourth annual list of women making our state a better place to live.

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22 14 Folks Mike Costello of Lost Creek Farm brings history to the table.

14 Event Spencer’s Black Walnut Festival is one big homecoming.

15 Something New West Virginia’s first cat café.

16 Book Check out this new biography of Anne Royall, a West Virginia native and America’s first female journalist.

17 Queen for a Day Hear ye the royal decrees of her majesty, Kay Goodwin.

18 Country Roads Cool Springs Park is a pitstop like none other.

20 Sports Whitetail Frenzy introduces West

Virginia buck hunting to a national audience.

21 Sound Meet Lawrence Loh, new conductor of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra.

22 How We Did It Appalachian Mountain Specialty Foods carries on a tasty tradition.

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24 Shop ’Tis the season for Christmas at the

41 This You’ll want to break out the cloth

26 Shop Learn a new hobby and meet some


28 Hangout Clarksburg native Kirsten Wyatt,

47 Local Jacob’s Ladder is changing lives with

Barn in Masontown.

new friends at Bluefield Yarn Company.

a star of stage and screen, gives us her favorite hometown haunts.

taste 30 Maker Dominick Cerrone has turned a

Wheeling landmark into a food lovers’ haven.

32 Libations Summersville’s Kirkwood

Winery pops the cork on the 26th Grape Stomping Wine Festival.

33 Restaurant Hinton is becoming a dining destination, with two unique restaurants.

36 Restaurant Pizzas & Cream is a good

ways from anywhere, but it’s worth the drive.

39 Town We’ve got your crash course on Shepherdstown’s best eats.

napkins for these delectable pasta recipes.

a farm-based addiction recovery program.

57 Away Barn With Inn in Brooke County

provides a sampling of life’s simpler side.

in every issue 8 Editor’s Letter 10 Letters to the Editor

ON THE COVER Dolly Sods by Randall Sanger. To purchase Sanger a print of the photo, visit: http://www. randallsanger.com/ The-Golden-Hour/i5BntBsT/A





HAWK KNOB ✚ How Huntington ✚ WEST VIRGINIA’S Proves the Time Became America’s First Recovery is Ripe for Cider Farm BEST COMMUNITY

editor’s letter

A few of my favorite things... Wear your heritage around your neck with these locally made The Vintage Lady necklaces (thevintagelady.net thevintagelady.net), $26, 180 High Street, Harpers Ferry.

J.Q. Dickinson Salt Works (jqdsalt.com ( ) can be found all over the state. I purchased the Popping Corn, $6, at Wheeling Artisan Center, Center and the Popcorn Salt, $6.29, at Orr’s Farm Market. Market

These hand-printed letterpress posters from Base Camp Printing Company (basecampprintingco. com), $20, make great gifts, 613 Tennessee Avenue, Charleston.

Cheers to eating and drinking local with this Orr’s Farm Market dish towel, $10.99, 682 Orr Drive, Martinsburg, and these Every Day’s A Party tumblers, $6.99, and serving tray, $17.99, 3119 University Avenue, Morgantown.

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“In a nation of millions, and a world of billions, the individual is still the first and basic agent of change.”


lyndon b. johnson

imagine this Halloween, given the popularity of the recent movie Wonder Woman, we are going to see a lot of young ladies running around with lassos. I even enjoyed playing with Facebook photo filters, trying to channel my inner warrior (hence my funny picture). But we’ve got the real Wonder Women role models in this issue ((page 78). It’s our fourth annual celebration of dynamic women who are making West Virginia a better place to live. This issue always makes me stand a little taller. When I was interviewing Phoebe Randolph, the first female president of the West Virginia chapter of American Institute of Architects, she said something that struck me. She said, “Women are less likely to think their opinion has merit. It has been ingrained in our heads.” And she is right. But times are changing. More and more women are speaking up, standing up, and taking on leadership roles. Just look at Buffalo. This town just elected the first all-female town council in the state. Or Charlene Diggs, Beckley’s first black female officer. Or the first woman to be named commissioner of the state Division of Corrections, Loita Butcher. Or look at Malene Davis, the CEO of Capital Caring, the largest hospice and palliative care providers in the country. As if that isn’t enough, she is also the president of the WVU Alumni Association board and is traveling the country encouraging people to bring a portion of their business to West Virginia. If just 10 percent of alumni from our state colleges would do this, it would be transformational. Speaking of transformational, one of the most powerful stories you’ll read about town revitalization is Zack Harold’s “Make No Small Plans”—a story about Huntington’s journey through the America’s Best Community competition ((page 70 ). What

is so inspirational about this is that this competition wasn’t looking for the perfect Norman Rockwell community; it was looking for cities that had an organized and visionary plan for tackling tough challenges. Through grit, vision, and good leadership, Huntington won $3 million. Its goals are epic and it has already made strides in reaching them. I hope you are moved and inspired by this story. All it takes is a little vision, a big idea, and lots of determination to make a difference. Take Josh Bennett and Will Lewis of Hawk Knob Hard Cider and Mead ((page 60 ). These horticulturalist friends and business partners might just be West Virginia’s version of Ben & Jerry. They pressed their way through bureaucratic red tape to open the state’s first modern commercial cidery. No small feat. And business is booming. Isn’t it surprising to learn that they were the state’s first, given our rich apple heritage? But it just goes to show the importance of the entrepreneurial spirit. They saw a gap and an opportunity and filled it. Stories like these are ones we like to tell. So promise me this: The next time you find yourself saying, “Hey, that gives me an idea,” don’t let it die on your tongue. Follow through. Make it happen. Be an agent of change. And your story will be the next one we tell.

nikki bowman, Editor Follow us on


facebook.com/wvliving twitter.com/wvliving pinterest.com/wvliving instagram @wvliving #wvliving


, and


letters to the editor

Just want to thank Chuck Toussieng for the vision he is sharing with the folks in Richwood. It would be a blessing if jobs can be realized as a result of Mr. Toussieng’s work. I left after graduation, in 1958, because there weren’t many opportunities for a young person, but my heart is still there. jim wiblin, via wvliving.com

We received lots of feedback on writer Pam Kasey’s story about Chuck Toussieng, who hopes to turn Richwood into a tech hub (“Man on Fire,” Summer ’17). Here’s a sampling.

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Excellent article, Pam. Thank you for shedding positive light on Richwood and our beloved Chuck Toussieng. West Virginia’s future is wide open and we, Richwooders, are determined to be an example of how to make a positive impact on the quality of life and the economy in the state. This is especially true following the 1,000-year flood. jeromy rose, via wvliving.com

Man on Fire He’s not a native, but Chuck Toussieng has a burning desire to make Richwood a better place. written by pam



Chuck is a huge asset to Richwood. He’s made an investment to grow Richwood’s economy by giving the tools to people to have a marketable skill, be self employed, increase their knowledge, and he’s doing it for free. If you have it to give, give it away. It’s his community and he’s proven his commitment to the people here. Thanks Chuck! robin brown, via wvliving.com

out loud ‹‹ live

“Just want to thank Chuck Toussieng for the vision he is sharing with the folks in Richwood...”

letters to the editor

More About Richwood Thrilled to see this visionary effort taking place. As a child spent a lot of time in Richwood with the Hill Family. Loved Richwood, Main Street, and the golf course. It was an amazing town with brick streets, a lumber mill, and close-knit families. Not Mayberry but pretty close. nancy evans mosley, via Facebook I am so happy about this. My parents lived there for a few years, many years ago, in the 1930s. My dad was a physician for a logging company. andrea allen, via Facebook

Let us hear from you. We want to know what you think about the magazine, and we’d love to hear your suggestions. Email: info@newsouthmediainc.com Call: 304.413.0104 Mail: 709 Beechurst Avenue, Suite 14A, Morgantown, WV 26505 Take WV Living with you:

wvliving.com 11


Published by

New South Media, Inc. 709 Beechurst Ave., Suite 14A Morgantown, WV 26505


wvliving.com EDITOR

Nikki Bowman, nikki@newsouthmediainc.com


Carla Witt Ford, carla@newsouthmediainc.com


Zack Harold, zack@newsouthmediainc.com


Pam Kasey, pam@newsouthmediainc.com




Becky Moore, becky@newsouthmediainc.com Allison Daugherty, allison@newsouthmediainc.com Julian Wyant Wendy Holdren Nikki Bowman, Carla Witt Ford, Zack Harold, Randall Sanger Kristen Uppercue Heather Mills Berardi, heather@newsouthmediainc.com info@newsouthmediainc.com Subscription rate is $20 for 4 issues. Subscribe at wvliving.com or call 304.413.0104. Back issues may be purchased online at wvliving.com or by calling 304.413.0104. Unsolicited manuscripts are not accepted. Please send queries by email to info@newsouthmediainc.com.

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WV Living is published by New South Media, Inc. Subscription rates: $20 for one year. Frequency: Quarterly. Copyright: New South Media, Inc. Reproduction in part or whole is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of the publisher. © New South Media, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

12 wvl • fall 2017



Normal is Boring We mountain people like to do things our way. Here are some stories of people blazing their own paths. PICTURED: QUIRKY DECORATIONS ABOUND AT CHRISTMAS AT THE BARN, PAGE 24 wvliving.com 13

discover ›› EVENT

The West Virginia Black Walnut Festival A beloved Calhoun County tradition celebrates its 63rd year.

Table Talk

Lost Creek Farm raises the profile of Appalachian cuisine through great meals and compelling stories. mike costello originally planned to go to culinary school. But, after he got a job at a high-end restaurant and saw the demanding schedules and crushing stress, he decided instead to go to journalism school at West Virginia University. He eventually found a way to combine his interests in food and story with Lost Creek Farm, a traveling kitchen he runs with his wife, Amy. They serve up sixcourse dinners at venues around West Virginia and its neighboring states, while also telling the stories behind the ingredients and dishes they serve. On any given night, Costello might tell diners the tale of Logan County’s famous Mortgage Lifter tomato, or the sausage made by Harrison County’s all-but-forgotten Spanish immigrant community, or his grandmother’s communion bread. There’s also an agricultural component to Lost Creek Farm. The couple grows heritage vegetables and raises rabbits, bees, laying hens, and cows. They already use some of those groceries for their dinners but plan to ramp up production even more in coming years. As Appalachian cuisine gains popularity nationwide, Costello says it’s time for West Virginia to realize its value. He’s happy to help. “Through food, we’re ambassadors for the state,” he says. “Appalachian food tradition is so full of stories people can be proud of.” written by

zack harold

14 wvl • fall 2017

written by kristen




for most of us, October brings visions of pumpkins and fodder shocks. But for the residents of Spencer, in Calhoun County, it’s all about black walnuts. The West Virginia Black Walnut Festival begins on Wednesday, October 11 this year and lasts until Sunday afternoon, October 15. Many events take place during the five-day extravaganza. There is a carnival, a flea market, a 4-H livestock show, and demonstrations including glass blowing and puppet shows. Craft, photo, and art shows display the local creativity. Fairgoers will enjoy live music free of charge every day. There is also a food court with 25 food vendors—including one who serves pancake breakfasts on Friday and Saturday morning. Friday is Kids Day and a parade honors the activities local children are involved in, including civic organizations, clubs, and school groups. That same day, organizers will crown a new Black Walnut Festival Queen. During the Grand Parade on Saturday, children’s groups, vintage cars, dozens of high school bands, and many other entries from all over the state walk the route, led by the queen. As many as 50,000 people have shown up to watch the Grand Parade. “They watch it from second floor windows and businesses, backyards, and everywhere—it’s just a great event,” says Spencer Mayor Terry Williams. Following the parade, the marching bands compete against one another in the annual Black Walnut Festival Marching Band and Majorette Competition. “It’s kind of like a giant homecoming, in a way,” Williams says. 304.927.1640, “WV Black Walnut Festival” on Facebook

‹‹ discover S O ME T HING NE W

Shop Before You Adopt


A new cat café makes the adoption process more fun than ever.

berkeley springs first made its name as West Virginia’s spa town. Now it’s home to the state’s first cat café. Coined Give Purrs A Chance as a play on the famous John Lennon tune, the café opened Mother’s Day weekend 2017. Cats and visitors can roam the five-bedroom Victorian house located right off U.S. Route 522. “The concept of a cat café is that the cats live in a cage-free environment where you can see their real personalities and get to know them. That was very important to us,” says George Farnham, founder of Give Purrs A Chance. If customers want more than the coffee and tea on sale in the Alice in Wonderland-themed café, they can enjoy their own takeout from elsewhere on the wraparound porch. The house has the largest square footage of any cat café in the country, according to its owners, and is the only one in a rural area, making Give Purrs A Chance one-of-a-kind. Farnham also believes he has the most cats of any café—20 to 50 at any given time. All of the felines in the building are up for adoption. The friendly felines come from four rescues in the area and are well-socialized, so visitors can play with, pet, and hold the cats. “It just makes it much easier to adopt them out when they’re well socialized, and people really enjoy that part of the café experience,” Farnham says. Visitors adopted 15 cats in the first seven weeks the café was open. Give Purrs A Chance has much more to offer. A yoga instructor leads “yoga with cats” classes several times a week. Music and dancing nights take place on the weekends, and a henna tattoo artist sometimes shows up to offer temporary body art. Local artists and craftspeople display cat-related crafts in the building’s “Catique Boutique,” where items for sale include jewelry, soap, and ceramics. The country’s first cat café opened just two years ago, but there are already more than 60 across the country and the trend continues to grow. “We believe this is the wave of the future for how cat adoptions should be handled,” Farnham says. 51 Independence Street, 304.258.7299, @givepurrsachance on Facebook written by kristen

uppercue wvliving.com 15

discover ››

Scold Case

In The Trials of a Scold: The Incredible True Story of Writer Anne Royall Royall, author Jeff Biggers chronicles the life of a Monroe County–born satirist, journalist, and publisher who was the first female journalist to land an interview with a president. She allegedly caught John Quincy Adams skinnydipping in the Potomac River, and sat on his clothes until he agreed to talk. She didn’t launch her career in letters until the age of 57, when her husband died and his relatives claimed the couple was never legally married. Royall lost the ensuing legal battle over her husband’s estate, leaving her nearly destitute. Royall wasted little time building a career as a journalist and soon was striking fear into the hearts of corrupt politicians of her day. She was funny and foul-mouthed, and within three years found herself embroiled in another court case that would etch her name in the history of American journalism. After a heated argument with a local Presbyterian congregation, Royall was arrested, charged with being an “evil disposed person” and a “common scold,” and tried in what Biggers calls “the Last American Witch Trial.” The case did not derail Royall’s commitment to investigative journalism. She eventually started her own newspaper and ran it until her death in 1854. Royall was 85 years old. Biggers is an American Book Award–winning journalist and contributor to The New York Times, Washington Post Post, and The Atlantic. Trials of a Scold goes on sale November 7. Ask for it at a locally owned bookseller near you and see why novelist Lee Smith calls Royall “the most interesting woman that I had never heard of.” written by zack

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‹‹ discover


KAY GOODWIN Kay Goodwin retired last year as cabinet secretary for the state Department of Education and the Arts. Originally appointed by Governor Bob Wise in 2000, she spent 16 years as a tireless supporter of the visual and performing arts, earning recognition from the National Academy of Public Administrators, the American Society for Administrators, and the national Educational Theatre Association. And, in 2014, she was a member of WV Living’s inaugural class of Wonder Women. If I were Queen of West Virginia for a day, I would require all my subjects to: Value and pursue education, and respect our teachers. Support the arts and our culture of neighborly generosity and kindness.


Enjoy our state parks, beautiful mountains, food, and folks. #gotowv Recognize it’s past time that our young people lead and control the future of our Home Among the Hills. wvliving.com 17

discover ›› C O U N T RY ROA D S

A Peculiar Pitstop No matter how many hours of driving are left on your road trip, Cool Springs turns a quick break into a mini-vacation. written by kristen

uppercue bowman

photographed by nikki

located along route 50 in Preston County, this mom and pop shop opened in 1949. Harlan Castle was looking for a place to go into business and thought a strip mall near Rowlesburg was the perfect pitstop for travellers. Cool Springs Park features all the typical gas station amenities, but has much more to offer, from knickknacks and shovels to alpacas and trains. Here’s our list of must-sees ➼ ➼ ➼


The water wheel

After seeing a small water wheel at another location, Harlan decided to build one at Cool Springs. The wheel has become a tourist attraction for the restaurant and convenience store. Even though it is not currently operating, guests can sit and enjoy the architecture while listening to the rushing water of the stream. 18 wvl • fall 2017

The gift shop & restaurant


If the cow on the roof did not prove this place was quirky, then the gift shop will. Lisa Creamer, daughter of owners Harlan and Mary Castle, says her dad’s catchphrase has always been “we have it, can get it, or it isn’t made.” A restaurant sits in the middle of the store, where you can order eggs and toast, burgers, or the store’s renowned footlong hot dogs.


The industrial garden

When you drive by Cool Springs Park, the first thing you may notice is the field of rusted equipment across from the property. Farm tools, tractors, and even an antique clock can be found in this Appalachian take on a sculpture garden. Kids—and dogs— can’t seem to stay away from this area of the park. Check out the red train sitting in the back corner. It’s sure to bring out the child in anyone.

The park


If you are looking for a place to take a break from driving, the park located next to the souvenir shop is the place to be. “(When) people are tired of driving, they like to come here to enjoy resting and walking around,” says Mary. Visitors can play on the wooden slide, train, and other antiques scattered across the property. Kids will love the enclosed animal exhibit that features multiple species including alpacas, donkeys, and rabbits, as well as a fishpond.


The covered bridge

Visitors love taking photos with the covered bridge that sits between rows of trees, creating a little getaway for those who stop to enjoy the scene. Moss grows atop the roof and a running stream flows underneath. The wooden structure, built by Harlan in the early 1970s, is full of antique tools that match the rustic theme of the rest of the property.

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discover ››


Bow Brothers

Whitetail Frenzy introduces West Virginia hunting to prime-time TV. there’s a reason whitetail frenzy is the only nationally televised show where bowhunters bag trophy bucks in the hills of West Virginia. “It’s difficult,” says Kenny Davis, who started the show with his brother Aharon. Other shows might fill airtime with outfitter-run hunting trips, where prey has already been scouted and the tree stands are already set. But the Davis brothers and their crew do their own homework. “Typically we’ll run 20 trail cams apiece all over the state,” Kenny says. They invest dozens of hours of work long before they’re ready to start filming. That level of commitment speaks to the show’s other secret weapon, the Davis brothers. They started the show with consumer-grade cameras and no experience of videography, production, or editing. But they learned through trial and error, and it

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was soon clear they had something special. Their sibling rivalry made for great on-screen chemistry. “And we started killing some really good bucks, on film,” Kenny says. They launched the show without any sponsors, paying for airtime by selling commercial spots to local businesses. But within just a few months, Winchester Archery was so impressed with the show it signed on as a title sponsor. Later, when Winchester Archery sold out to another company, the brothers went independent again. Whitetail Frenzy is now a completely West Virginia–run company. Currently in its fourth season, the show now has a nationwide audience on the Pursuit Channel. Locally, Suddenlink cable customers can catch the show on Suddenlink TV. Although they’re the stars of the show, the Davis brothers have kept their day jobs—

Kenny is a pharmaceutical Catch Whitetail rep and Aharon is a police Frenzy—featuring Aharon Davis, left, and officer in South Charleston. his brother Kenny—on But they’re happy to spend the Pursuit Channel or the Suddenlink their spare time making Channel. TV shows that change viewers’ perceptions of West Virginia and West Virginians. “We’re probably the first national show from this state that has represented the people well,” Kenny says. “I think our show can do a lot for the state.” They are already making a difference in that regard—the show receives dozens of emails each year from viewers who want to come to West Virginia and hunt. whitetailfrenzy.tv, @whitetailfrenzy on Facebook written and photographed by zack


‹‹ discover Lawrence Loh is the new conductor of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, replacing Maestro Grant Cooper, who had led the ensemble since 2001.



Meet Lawrence Loh, the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s new conductor. there’s a new baton in town. After a long selection process, the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra has selected Lawrence Loh as its new conductor and music director. He’ll make his official debut on September 23 at the Clay Center in Charleston. Loh, who grew up in southern California, fell in love with music early on. His mom was a violinist and encouraged her son’s musical development. He took piano, violin, and clarinet lessons and was voted “most musical” in high school. Although he started college as a pre-med major, “the music part of me just kinda took over,” he says. He originally considered becoming a music theory teacher. Then, in his senior year, he took a course on conducting. He realized conducting was a combination of two things he enjoyed most about music—analysing it and performing it. If you give sheet music to 60 or 70 musicians and ask them to play, “you would have 60 or 70 different interpretations of the music,” Loh says. “There’s so much in between the black and white.” It’s the conductor’s job to navigate that gray area to create a unified sound. Loh followed his newfound passion to Yale, where he earned an artist diploma in orchestral conducting. He then began building an

impressive resume, with conducting positions at the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and the Syracuse Opera, in addition to guest conducting gigs all over the world. He applied for the job with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra in June 2015, alongside 166 fellow hopefuls. Symphony officials winnowed down the field, and Loh found himself as one of six finalists. Each of the finalists conducted a try-out concert during the 2016 season so board members could gauge their chemistry with the symphony and the audience. Loh passed with flying colors and, in May 2017, the symphony announced he got the job. At his September 23 debut, the orchestra will perform Bernstein’s “Candide Overture,” Gershwin’s “Piano Concerto in F” featuring guest pianist Alexandre Moutouzkine, and Copland’s “Symphony No. 3.” Loh says much of the work in his first few seasons will be learning the orchestra members’ sensibilities. “It’s an exciting and fun process of discovery.” written and photographed by zack

harold wvliving.com 21

discover ››

Mix it up Inspiration through stories One of their first creations, Uncle Roy’s Old Fashioned Ramp Dressing, is named for Greg’s uncle, who took him fishing at Anthony’s Creek in Pocahontas County. After reeling in their haul, the duo dug ramps and grilled them in foil packets with the trout. Copperhead Bloody Mary Mix, created when Veronica was looking for something “with a little more bite,” was so named when her son Skylar was bit by a copperhead. Veronica says he now jokes about “taking one for the team.” A personal touch

Taste of Tradition The new owners of Appalachian Mountain Specialty Foods in Spencer build on a line of favorite flavors. written by wendy


veronica stover was devastated when she heard Steve and Marialice Seaman, who started Appalachian Mountain Specialty Foods more than two decades ago, were retiring. A 15-year customer, Stover appreciated the traditional Appalachian flavors—and the associated memories—the Seamans brought to their sauces and mixes. “It’s such a quality product,” she says. “It’s part of our heritage, and it’s something to be proud of here in West Virginia.” She and her husband, Greg, approached the couple about buying the business. In 2013, the Stovers acquired the business and helped it thrive, even while Veronica battled cancer. They invested in a manufacturing facility in Spencer and continued the Seamans’ tradition. Once Veronica’s cancer went into remission, she and Greg decided to invent some Appalachia-inspired recipes of their own to add to the product line. zestsauce.com 22 wvl • fall 2017

From a 40-gallon stockpot, then a smaller dispensing container, Veronica carefully funnels the mixes into each bottle. After filling, they’re capped, labeled, dated, and boxed—all by hand. Their family helps with the painstaking process: Veronica’s mom with labeling, Greg’s brothers with delivery, and the kids with product sales at fairs and festivals. Stepping it up Under the Seamans’ direction, Appalachian Mountain was a small operation, crafting the product in-home and selling exclusively at fairs and festivals. The Stovers are thinking bigger. Their products are now served at restaurants and sold in retail stores, both in and out of state. But no matter how far they expand, they don’t plan to sell to big box stores. “It’s a special product,” Veronica said. “It can only be bought and tasted at special places.”




discover ››


Christmas at the Barn In early November, a farm outside Masontown hosts one of the best holiday shows and sales in the state. written by nikki

bowman photographed by carla witt ford i know, christmas seems to come sooner and sooner every year. But trust me when I say, this three-day shopping event will put you in the spirit. Imagine a working farm transformed into a vintage Christmas wonderland by the American Pickers guys or Fixer Upper stars Chip and Joanna Gaines— and everything is for sale. Barns, corn cribs, outbuildings, and hay sheds are creatively transformed into miniature shops filled with folk art, antiques, primitives, tattered treasures, reclaimed furniture, shabby chic decor, handmade jewelry, and steampunk tchotchkes. There’s even a restaurant, The Feed Sack, to keep you fueled during your shopping adventure. This 20-year-old event, originally known as Christmas at the Cabin, was founded by Joyce McCune, Deb Umble, and Deb McCort. It started in Pennsylvania but, by 2015, had outgrown its original venue. Then Brenda Street, who had been a vendor at the show for three years, offered her farm outside Masontown, West Virginia, as a possible location. “I told everyone they could try our farm, but I warned them that it’s pretty rural,” Street says. “And it is really rural. We were worried but operated on the premise, ‘If we build it, they will come.’ We sure are glad they came.” Anytime a tried-and-true event changes location, you risk the chance of losing devotees. But the move to B.R. Farms proved a good decision. That first year, around 4,000 people made the trek to Masontown over three days. “We were tickled to provide the venue,” Street says. “We worked really hard all summer to make the farm more shoppable. We cleaned the barns, put up shelving, built a farmers’ market around an old box trailer, painted walls, and strung hundreds of lights.” 24 wvl • fall 2017

Work on each year’s show begins immediately after the previous one is completed. Vendors, who are juried by a committee to ensure a diverse collection, begin taking items to the farm and setting up six weeks before opening day. This group of creative souls, decorators, antique collectors, artists, craftspeople, and pickers fill the farm with a wide range of one-of-a-kind items. You’ll find unexpected treasures like a mounted turquoise deer, oversized floor candelabras, and vintage signs. There’s a shed filled to the brim with only white items—from milk glass and painted Victorian furniture to shabby chic chandeliers and distressed benches. There’s artwork, antique tools, and stained glass. And everything is thoughtfully curated and staged. You won’t leave emptyhanded. And don’t be surprised if you return again and again with a friend or two. At night, Christmas at the Barn feels even more magical. The farm twinkles

with Christmas lights, candlelit luminaries, and holiday music. People gather around an outdoor fire pit to warm their hands. It’s like the living version of a Norman Rockwell illustration. The event is expanding for 2017. “We are going bigger and better,” Street says. “We are adding an additional building and trying to have everything under cover so, if the weather is bad, you don’t have to stand in rain. We are adding more antiques and flea market finds, and we have someone who is doing pallet art. We also have a new dessert vendor—Modern Homestead of Reedsville is going to provide seasonal desserts in the Sugar Shack.” Getting to the farm is half the fun. But be forewarned—it is a bit of a jaunt on a

very rough country road that is often one lane. Bring the four-wheel drive. Follow the directions on the website. Don’t follow Google’s directions or GPS, or you just might end up in Texas. There is signage, but you will think you are going in the wrong direction. About the time you decide to turn around, know this: You are almost there. If driving on narrow country roads makes you nervous, go during the day. And leave the credit cards at home; only cash and checks are accepted. The 2017 show will take place on Thursday, November 2, noon to 9 p.m.; Friday, November 3, noon to 9 p.m., and Saturday, November 4, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 7268 Herring Road, Masontown, christmasatthebarn.com, “Christmas at the Barn” on Facebook wvliving.com 25

discover ››

Knit-working SHOP

Bluefield Yarn Company proves that niche retail is important to revitalizing small towns.

karen rideout’s charming little shop has everything you’d expect from a community yarn store. The shelves are lined with hundreds of skeins of yarn in rainbow hues and varied textures. In one corner, you’ll find cute Binkwaffle dumpling bags and needle rolls. In another, a display of shawl pins and buttons. If you are looking for knitting needles, there are bamboo varieties and metal varieties and even circular varieties, in addition to a range of crochet 26 wvl • fall 2017

hooks. There are patterns, kits, and instructional books and magazines. You’ll find everything you need to craft that special scarf or blanket or sweater or sock. But the Bluefield Yarn Company offers so much more. It’s a special gathering place—a place where people come together not only to knit and crochet, but to unwind, connect, and build friendships. And as any knitter knows, knitting is cheaper than therapy. Rideout loves

the community-building aspect of her business. “I hold Stitch Nights every month,” she explains. “People bring projects they are working on and socialize. You may share ideas, or you may not talk about anything related to knitting or crocheting. It brings people together. They come here to meet other people who are like them and share similar interests.” Rideout, who goes to conferences to learn new techniques to share with her customers, also holds skill-building classes. “Classes are confidence builders,” she says. “One of the things I love about being a shop owner is that I can still be a teacher and an educator and a learner at the same time. I’m not just sitting in my shop all day waiting on people to buy yarn.” Knitting and crocheting are tactile arts— the colors, smells, and textures of the yarn are important—so Rideout started Yarn Tasting events. Don’t worry, no one’s putting anything in their mouths. But they do come to try different types and textures and weights of yarns. “The Yarn Tastings are a great way to try different things that you haven’t tried, before making a big investment,” she says. As online shopping options are gobbling up the retail industry, Bluefield Yarn Company isn’t feeling threatened. “You can get great deals on yarn online, but you can’t touch it, match colors, feel how it drapes, or see what the fibers are doing,” Rideout says. “At the shop, you can collaborate. If you make a mistake, you can learn how to fix it. You can’t get that online. Knitters and crocheters like to interact with the yarn.” You can see that interaction as soon as someone steps into the shop. The first thing everyone does after walking in the door is to stop and take it all in—the vibrant colors and patterns. Then they walk around the shop, feeling the skeins, smelling them, and unwinding them to feel the fibers. The Bluefield Yarn Company proudly carries local products. “There’s an Alpaca farmer in Bluefield, Virginia, that spins yarn from her Alpacas. I carry her yarn. I also carry Appalachian Baby, a company out of Maxwelton, that has patterns, kits, and cotton yarns all for babies.” Rideout and her shop have knitted themselves into the fabric of Bluefield. “I just love Bluefield,” she says. “I love the mountains, the seasons, and especially the people. Everybody is very giving and always trying to make things better for others. It is a beautiful, beautiful place to live.” And now, it is a beautiful place to shop. written and photographed by nikki




Kirsten Wyatt

kirsten wyatt is an award-winning actress who has performed on Broadway, in theaters around the country, and on television. She’s appeared in nine Broadway shows—most recently as villainess Lily St. Regis in Annie. Her TV credits include Blue Bloods, Naked Brothers Band, As the World Turns, and All My Children. Wyatt is also a proud Clarksburg native, so WV Living asked for her favorite hometown haunts:

➀ BRIDGEPORT FARMERS MARKET When I am at home, this is one of my mustvisits. The market is full of local farmers 28 wvl • fall 2017



selling their freshest produce and meat and local artisans selling their one-of-a-kind wares. Plus there’s live music and food demos. It’s a great way to get nutritious food and support the West Virginia economy.

➁ THE WONDER BAR I have traveled around the world and eaten at five-star restaurants. But the truth is, I’ve never had a better steak than at The Wonder Bar. Not only is the steak delicious, but the service is wonderful, and I love the atmosphere. And did I mention the steak? Now I’m hungry! ➂ RIVERSONG SPA I never miss an opportunity to make an appointment here when I’m visiting home. Allison Clem, the owner, has made it her mission to make sure we all take time for ourselves. I like to do that by indulging in her Holistic Signature Facial, which always leaves me feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. And I love supporting a female-owned small business.


discover ››


Treat Yourself CARLA WITT FORD

Pasta. Pizza. Fine wines. Locally owned restaurants where quality is king. You deserve it. PICTURED: GET OUR RECIPE FOR THESE DELECTABLE STUFFED SHELLS, PAGE 41

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taste ›› maker

The Good Stuff Dominick Cerrone has turned a Wheeling landmark into a food lovers’ haven. written by pam

kasey bowman

photographed by nikki


stop at the L.S. Good mansion reminds a visitor of old Wheeling’s wealth and refinement. Built in 1905 by the prominent downtown department store owner and philanthropist, the townhouse features a three-story stairwell atrium, 28 stained glass panels, parquet floors, and lush woodwork throughout. It’s also a mouth-watering introduction to the refinement of today’s Wheeling. For the past 11 years, the Good mansion has hosted Good Mansion Wines, a top destination for foodies in the tri-state region. Proprietor Dominick Cerrone tells the shop’s origin story as a series of accidents. An engineer by trade, he was living in East Wheeling in 2003 when the mansion came up for sale in his neighborhood. He made a lowball offer without any real intentions and, to his surprise, his offer was accepted. He found the stately interior intact and mainly just had to do some work on the mechanical systems to bring it up to date. Still, he had no real use for the mansion. Then one day in 2006, he and friends were lamenting the lack of a comprehensive wine seller in Wheeling, and he came to think his mansion might make a good wine shop. “The state wholesalers had a pretty handsome selection of wines, largely because of the demand at The Greenbrier, most of which had no exposure here in the northern part of the state,” he says. “I realized I could bring something new to market.” He opened Good Mansion Wines in 2006. Good Mansion’s wine selection is more European-focused than the typical California-centric American wine store. “My shop probably represents a more international palate—we’ve been told by importers who visit that we have the most comprehensive selection of Italian wines in the whole mid30 wvl • fall 2017

Atlantic region,” says Cerrone. “We have over 500 varieties.” It’s not just because his parents came over from Italy. In Cerrone’s view, Italian and French wines are the most versatile. “I’m not a sipper. I think it’s best to appreciate wine with food,” he says. “Something reactive happens that’s greater than the sum of the parts. You don’t understand a wine until you understand its reactive potential with fats and sauces and other components.” German and Spanish wines round out the shop’s Old World offerings, and there’s a good selection of New World wines, too, including wines made in West Virginia. Good Mansion offers wines for every occasion and pocketbook, with its wide selection and price range. “We have lots of expensive wines, and the interior can be intimidating, like a museum, but customers can also get their $10 favorites here,” Cerrone says. The shop also educates customers’ palates through Friday night tastings that he started soon after he opened—a new theme

every week, no reservation required. “We make a great effort to expose customers to wines that your average consumer would not have access to or ever think of purchasing,” he says. The shop’s customer base has become more sophisticated over time. “We have regulars now who, when we’re busy, they’ll just cut loose and help other customers on the floor. It’s a real family. And I can probably say that we’ve really changed consumers’ tastes over the years.” Like Cerrone, Good Mansion’s customers like to experience wine with food. Over years of tastings, they kept asking for cheese, and eventually he started offering imported cheeses. “We now have 100 varieties, the complete anthology of European cheese.” His selection has grown to rival the popular cheese room at Pennsylvania Macaroni Company in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, he says, and includes some cheeses that aren’t available even there. Then he got into salumi—cured meats, both imported and domestic—so, since 2014,

maker ‹‹ taste Over the past decade, Good Mansion Wines has filled its elegant space with an increasingly complete selection of wines, charcuterie,

Good Mansion has offered an extensive charcuterie. Why stop there? “Everybody loved that so much that the natural extension was more imported food products. We got into it because the availability of good Italian products is so sparse.” Here he talks about that rumor so many of us have heard: that the mafia controls the distribution of Italian specialty foods, and that the Italian products Americans have access to are low-grade industrial versions. “I’m in Italy often, meeting with people, and I started importing foods from small family producers,” Cerrone says. “These are truly 100 percent artisanal foods from families that are rooted to their land for many generations. They’re growing and producing in a tight food chain, very, very good quality products that are awarded and written up by Italian food media. Some products, we’re the first U.S. importer, and that’s something you don’t see in Pittsburgh.” Even the shops in Strip District, known for

specialties imported directly from small Italian producers, authentic fresh-baked French breads and pastries, and sandwiches.

But what Cerrone and his staff have learned about flours and bread raises interesting questions. “When you use the mother yeast, that’s the sourdough, and the flour that’s intended for baguettes—flour is a much more precise science and passion in France—the yeast is providing probiotic benefits, and you’re reducing glycemic spikes.” He wonders if the pesticides used on American wheat fields and additives like folic acid in American flours might contribute to what we call gluten sensitivity. In any case, his breads have won a following. “We introduced the most pure, elemental French baguette and we sell hundreds every week.” That baguette serves as the basis for Good Mansion’s long list of sandwiches made from the charcuterie: sandwiches like Le Parisien, with Creminelli prosciutto cotto and Normandy butter, or El Manchego, with Serrano ham, aged manchego cheese, olive oil, and greens. “We feature six of our sandwiches every day, with different salumi and cheese from France, Italy, and Spain on our baguettes,” Cerrone says. “They’re fantastic.” Also coming out of Good Mansion’s kitchen these days are pastas, quiches, and fresh sausages. They bake a range of pastries— French croissants and palmiers, Swiss brioche, and others—and serve those up alongside Italian coffee. Visitors from larger cities across the U.S. tell Cerrone there’s no shop where they live that sells its wide range of specialty Italian products, the variety and quality Good Mansion Wines don’t import directly, he says—they buy from offers in a city of 27,000. “In their defense, it’s U.S. importers that get their goods from larger producers. Good Mansion’s inventory of top-shelf our small market that has allowed for this kind of diversity in one shop,” he says. “If I had a wine products includes internationally awarded olive oils, traditional balsamic vinegars, regional pastas, shop in New York City, why would I bother making bread or selling cheese? The market here sweet panettone and pandoro loaves, truffles and truffled product, specialty condiments, and more. has kind of forced us to be innovative and do the whole 360 experience.” All of that, of course, just begged to be Good Mansion’s ongoing expansion accompanied by bread. “We did a kitchen continues next with a meal kit service. “We’ve addition and put in French bread ovens back got so many foods we want to help people feel there,” Cerrone says. “We got trained in comfortable using—regional foods, traditional breadmaking, and we buy imported French staples in good Italian grocery stores,” Cerrone flours.” says. “The Good Mansion Wine Supper Club It’s hard to imagine that an authentic French is an opportunity for us to push our imported bread could be a hard sell, but he has found that products with a recipe and a story about the American dietary preferences can be grounded foods, and we’ll be working with local produce in strong beliefs. “People are afraid to death of carbohydrates. They’re going on gluten-free kicks and meat sources where we need those things.” Look for that in the fall of 2017. 95-14th Street, and trying to eliminate breads from their diets, just when we’re saying, ‘Let’s perfect bread—this 304.233.2632, goodmansionwines.com, “Good Mansion Wines” on Facebook newly declared evil in people’s lives,’” he laughs.


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taste ›› libations

Stomp the Weekend Away Kirkwood Winery encourages visitors to kick off their shoes during the Grape Stomping Wine Festival. uppercue

he Grape Stomping Wine Festival celebrated its 26th year of food, fun, and wine this September 16 and 17. The event, located at the Kirkwood Winery in Summersville, encourages visitors to take off their shoes and jump into the grape stomping pit. Those looking for a bit of competition can compete in a grape eating contest or the stomping contest, where each winner is awarded a medal. “You just have to get barefoot and stomp grapes all day and bring a lawn chair to come and enjoy the music,” says Brenda Morris, who organizes the weekend of fun. In addition to the grape stomping fun, visitors can enjoy the many local country and bluegrass bands that will play throughout the two-day event, including the Davisson Brothers and The Band Wagon. Performers such as the American Cloggers and the X-Quisite Dance Team also will be onstage. Brenda Morris and her husband have managed Kirkwood Winery and the Grape Stomping Festival for the past 11 years. People from at least 19 states attended the festival last year. “Everyone just seems to have a really good time,” she says. The Morrises handed the winery over to new owners Frank and Elizabeth Dix earlier this year, but the party goes on. Ticket prices range depending on visitors’ ages. Those over 21 pay $15, while guests from the ages of 12 through 20 pay $5. Children under 12 enter for free. In addition to the festival, visitors receive free tours of the Kirkwood Winery and the distillery located on site. Guests—those who are 21 and over, anyway—can taste various wines during the tour and even get a free, full glass of their favorite. 45 Winery Lane, Summersville, 304.872.7332, kirkwood-wine.com, @kirkwoodwinerywv on Facebook

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written by kristen

The Market & Chessie’s on the Square ‹‹ taste

Eating on the Square Hinton has become a dining destination with two unique restaurants. written and photographed by nikki



here are many reasons to visit Hinton: a charming historic downtown, outdoor recreation on the New River, a hub for railroad enthusiasts, and close proximity to both Sandstone Falls and Pipestem Resort State Park. But two unexpected— yet equally deserving—reasons are The Market on Courthouse Square and Chessie’s on the Square. Both businesses are owned by MountainPlex, a company dedicated to the restoration and sustainability of the Hinton Historic District. Under the guidance of Chef Kevin Hall, who before taking over as the culinary services manager previously worked at The Greenbrier and Tavern 1785, and executive Chef Sam Hall, who worked as the executive chef at Stella’s in Lewisburg before joining the team, these restaurants are drawing people from near and far. Located in the heart of downtown, The Market on Courthouse Square has been dishing out gourmet sandwiches, creative burgers, fresh salads, and popular brick oven pizzas since it opened in 2010. Try the Market Meatball Sub, served on a baguette and topped with marinara sauce and melted mozzarella cheese, or the Fireman Cuban Panini, served with sliced roast beef, black forest ham, Swiss cheese, spicy mustard, and dill pickles. The Locomotive Panini— grilled chicken breast, pesto mayonnaise, provolone cheese, tomato, lettuce, and onions—is another favorite. wvliving.com 33

taste ›› The Market & Chessie’s on the Square have become popular dining destinations in Hinton.

You can’t go wrong with any of the Whistle Stop Salads, and the brick oven pizzas can hold their own with the best in the state. The Loaded Market Pizza is piled high with fresh toppings on the restaurant’s signature red sauce. But if you are in the mood for something different, try the Appalachian Pizza: a garlic white sauce-based pizza topped with spinach, country salt-cured ham, blue cheese, West Virginia maple-glazed walnuts, and fresh Granny Smith apples. And make sure you save room for dessert. Answering the demand for a fine dining option in Hinton, in fall 2016 MountainPlex opened Chessie’s on the Square in a building adjoining The Market. Custom sepia murals depicting historic Hinton scenes line the walls, and the unique menu features Appalachian-inspired fare, like the Grilled Pork Chop—a 10-ounce apple cider–brined pork chop served with a ramp chimichurri sauce, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and vegetable du jour. Or opt for Chef Chris’s Andouille Encrusted Catfish, which is served with a crawfish cream sauce, rice pilaf, and vegetable du jour. At only $20 each, these mouthwatering and beautifully displayed dishes would easily go for twice the amount in a larger city. The Barbeque Shrimp and Grits and the Beef Tenderloin are also popular with regulars. For dessert, try the Sweet Potato Pie, a Southern classic served with candied walnuts and salted caramel sauce and topped with fresh whipped cream and mint. There’s also the Appalachian Bread Pudding, a twist on classic bread pudding made with cornbread, golden raisins, and buttermilk, served with a maple crème anglaise and topped with fresh whipped cream, mint, and candied walnuts. Customers’ perennial favorite, though, is Chessie’s New York–style cheesecake. When you find your way to Hinton, give one—or both—of these restaurants a try. Don’t be surprised if this charming town beckons you again and again. The Market on Courthouse Square, 200 Ballengee Street, 304.466.6626, themarketwv.com, “Market on Courthouse Square” on Facebook; Chessie’s on the Square, 405 Second Avenue, 304.466.2598, chessieswv.com, “Chessie’s on the Square” on Facebook


The Market on Courthouse Square and Chessie’s on the Square

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taste ›› Pizzas and Cream

Finding Nebo

each, or try one of their Pizzas & Cream has put Nebo on the specialty pizzas like map with its freshly Meat and Merlot or Hot handcrafted pizzas and Hawaiian BBQ. homemade gelato. Pizza connoisseurs are flocking to Pizzas & Cream, a tiny You can take your treasure tucked away in Clay County. pizza to go or grab a seat at one of the picnic tables re you ready for a culinary Stephen, built an outdoor wood-fired oven and enjoy the country setting. Where else can surprise in one of the most after a trip to Italy. It started as a surprise for you enjoy pizza while free-range chickens strut unexpected places? Hop in Ed’s wife, Joy, but crafting the perfect pizza around your table? It’s no mistake Pizzas & the car and head to Nebo. Yes, in the oven soon became a dogged pursuit. Cream was chosen as one of the state tourism Nebo, a teeny unincorporated By 2015, they decided to take their hobby to department’s 101 Most Unique Places to Dine. town in Clay County. Take exit 40 off Interstate the next level, enclosed the brick oven in a Don’t leave without dessert. I repeat: Don’t 79 and drive north on West Virginia Route 16 building, and opened a business. They added leave without dessert. The gelato is to die until you see the large sign for Pizzas & Cream, homemade Italian ice, gelato, and ice cream to for, the butter pecan ice cream is divine. And pointing you down a gravel country road. You their menu of artisan pizzas, put some picnic nothing beats the tangy strawberry or lemon may hesitate a minute, but turn anyway. On tables on the lawn, and were off and running. Italian ice on a hot day. the left, you’ll see a simple house with picnic For the past two years people from all over Pizzas & Cream is open Tuesday through tables in the yard. The gravel driveway is a the state have made their way to Pizzas & Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m. 133 Nebo Walker parking lot. Pull in. Tucked behind the house is Cream, and leave raving about their creations. Road, 304.286.2985, “Pizzas & Cream” on what may be the smallest pizzeria in the state. The crisp but perfectly chewy dough sets Facebook Inside you’ll find a darling family, the the stage for creative and fresh toppings. Millers. Ed Miller, along with his son The pizzas begin at $10 with toppings at $1 written and photographed by nikki bowman


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town ‹‹ taste

Savor Shepherdstown One of West Virginia’s oldest towns is home to some of its hippest eateries. There are many reasons to visit the historic college town of Shepherdstown, one of which is the collection of restaurants that line German Street and its environs. You’ll find everything from Mexican to German cuisine, from vegetarian offerings to freshly baked desserts. In fact, there are so many options, you’ll need to stay several days just to experience them all. Here are a few of our favorites. written and photographed by nikki


Blue Moon Café 200 East High Street, 304.876.1920 @bluemoonwv on Facebook

Maria’s Taqueria 108 East German Street, 304.876.3333 @mariasshepherdstown on Facebook

For a variety of vegetarian options, Blue Moon Café is your go-to place for sandwiches, soups, and salads made from locally sourced produce. Try the Kimster, Philly Shroom, or Crab Cake sandwiches, or opt for the quiche of the day. The salads are always fresh and topped with delectable homemade dressings.

If you are looking for a new spin on burritos and tacos made with the freshest ingredients, Maria’s Taqueria is the place to eat. Try the outof-this-world Maria’s Chimi. The fish tacos are also a local favorite, and no meal is complete without the fried plantains.

The Press Room 129 West German Street, 304.876.8777 “The Press Room” on Facebook

Shepherdstown Sweet Shop Bakery 100 West German Street, 304.876.2432 @shepherdstownsweetshop on Facebook wvbakery.com

Make dinner reservations well in advance for this well-loved Shepherdstown institution. You’ll find an extensive offering of seafood dishes like calamari, scallops, soft shell crab, and oysters on the half shell. The steaks and lamb are equally divine.

This bakery is a must-stop. The warm, yeasty aroma of its specialty breads will attack your senses as soon as you step in the door. And then there are the cakes, cookies, tarts, cheesecakes, pies, donuts, and a wide array of fine pastries. You won’t be able to leave without one of their massive cupcakes.

The Bavarian Inn 164 Shepherd Grade Road, 304.876.2551 bavarianinnwv.com The Bavarian Inn offers more than just charming guest rooms in German chalets. It boasts several dining options that serve German and American gourmet fare as well as a wonderful breakfast and brunch menu. Try the Bavarian Sauerbraten, Wienerschnitzel, and the crab cakes in The Hunt Room. For a casual dining experience reminiscent of a European pub, go downstairs to the Rathskeller.

Domestic 117 East German Street, 304.876.1030 wvdomestic.com This fun and eclectic restaurant has a fabulous bar serving creative cocktails, beer, and wine. Their lunch and dinner menu includes items like Glazed + Confused—a burger served on a glazed donut bun—and entrees like Shrimp and Grits and Blackened Catfish.

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this ‹‹ taste


A good plate of pasta is a lot like the music of Frank Sinatra—it’s a foolproof way to make even the simplest gathering both classy and relaxed at the same time. So get that water boiling, and make sure it’s plenty salty. We’ve collected four of our favorite pasta recipes, perfect for your next big dinner with friends or family. Just crack open a bottle of wine, drop the needle on your favorite Rat Pack record, and dig in. zack harold photographed and styled by carla witt ford written by

These delectable pasta dishes will steal the show on any table.

taste ›› this

Tuscan Pasta Salad 1 pound bowtie pasta, cooked, rinsed in cold water, and drained 1 7-ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained 1 red bell pepper, diced ¾ cup sliced black or green olives 1 cup spinach ¼ cup basil leaves, chopped ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese dressing

¾ cup olive oil 2 tablespoons white vinegar 2 tablespoons water 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon sugar 1 teaspoon dry oregano 1 teaspoon dry basil 1 teaspoon garlic black pepper to taste 1. In a large bowl combine pasta, sun-dried tomatoes, bell pepper, olives, spinach, basil, and parmesan cheese. Toss until combined.

2. In a small bowl whisk olive oil, vinegar,

water, salt, sugar, oregano, basil, garlic, and pepper. Drizzle over the pasta salad and serve.

Stuffed Shells (pictured on page 29) 8 ounces jumbo pasta shells 30 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese ½ cup grated Romano cheese 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley 8 leaves fresh basil, chopped 1 large egg 8 ounces Parmesan, grated 2 jars marinara sauce 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated Salt and pepper to taste 42 wvl • fall 2017

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

4. Coat the bottom of a baking dish with a little marinara sauce. Fill each half-cooked 2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. shell with cheese mixture and place fillingAdd pasta shells and cook for half the listed side-up on sauce. Repeat with remaining cooking time on the package; make sure not cheese mixture. Top shells with remaining to overcook. Drain and rinse in cool water. sauce. Sprinkle on mozzarella and extra Set aside. Parmesan. 3. In a bowl, mix together ricotta, Romano, parsley, basil, egg, salt and pepper, and half 5. Bake until cheese is bubbly, 25 minutes. the Parmesan. Stir until combined.

this ‹‹ taste

Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes, and Green Beans

1 pound dried pasta (linguine or spaghetti) 1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, boil pasta, potatoes, 5 ounces medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut and green beans until pasta is al dente and potatoes and green into ¾-inch cubes beans are very tender. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking water, 4 ounces fresh green beans (about 20), stems trimmed and cut and transfer pasta, potatoes, and green beans to a large bowl. into 1-inch lengths on a bias 2. Add pesto sauce to pasta along with ¼ cup pasta cooking 1 8-ounce jar pesto sauce water. Toss well to emulsify pesto and pasta water into a Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling creamy sauce. Add more pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time as Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano needed, if pasta is too dry. Drizzle in fresh olive oil if desired. salt 3. Serve with Parmigiano-Reggiano on the side.

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taste ›› this

Pasta with Ricotta and Zucchini 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 small onion, sliced thin 1 ½ pounds zucchini, finely diced (about 4 cups) 1 pound penne rigate pasta 1 ¼ cups whole milk ricotta ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano, plus more for serving Salt and pepper to taste

2. Add diced zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and cover pan. Leave lid on and let zucchini cook over low heat for 15 minutes.

3. Bring a pot of salted water to boil.

4. After 15 minutes, remove lid from pan and raise heat to medium-high. Saute, stirring frequently until liquid has evaporated. Do not overcook zucchini.

1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat olive oil 5. Cook penne rigate pasta in boiling water until al dente. Drain and add to pot with over medium-low heat. Add onion and saute zucchini. until transparent.

6. Toss pasta and zucchini together in pot and add ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Gently fold ingredients together until cheeses are evenly distributed. 7. Serve hot. Sprinkle with remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano to taste.



Farm Use

The land feeds more than just the body. Sometimes it feeds the soul, too. CARLA WITT FORD


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local ‹‹ live

Room to Grow

Jacob’s Ladder recovery farm in Preston County overcomes the instant gratification of drugs through experience with slower satisfactions. written by pam

kasey bowman

photographed by nikki

wvliving.com 47

live ›› local


im struggles with addiction. Alcohol, mainly, but also cocaine, heroin, and whatever’s available. But he’s motivated: He wants to get custody of his two young daughters. He finished a successful six months at the Jacob’s Ladder recovery farm in Preston County in 2016. Eager to be near his daughters, he resisted the advice to give himself some distance from old patterns and temptations, and moved back to Morgantown without a support system in place. It didn’t go well. “He busted his butt without a car, walking, putting in applications, trying to get a job, but he’s got a felony record so no one would hire him,” says Jacob’s Ladder founder and CEO Dr. Kevin Blankenship. Not surprisingly, Tim—not his real name—fell into depression and ended up using again. Blankenship invited him to return to the farm As one of Jacob’s Ladder’s “failures”—you can hear the air quotes in Blankenship’s voice—Tim is helping to refine this pioneering treatment program’s understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

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everywhere could claim only moderate success, he learned. “Most of the programs in this A West Virginian by birth and an emergency country are 30 days, not because 30 days works medical doctor by training, Blankenship but because that’s what insurance companies was a co-founder in 2001 of the enormously have agreed to pay for. And most of them successful Morgantown-based urgent care chain depend almost entirely on the 12-step model,” MedExpress. He served as its chief operating he says. “But most programs, if they’ll even talk officer until he left there in 2009. But his life about numbers, they’re only 10 to 15 percent took a turn when a brother-in-law died from successful after a year. The relapse rate is huge.” alcohol and opiate abuse earlier this decade and His son’s experience at the six-month then his own son struggled with addiction. Back2Basics Outdoor Adventure Recovery “People are dying and they need help, and I program in Flagstaff, Arizona, influenced don’t think we’ve completely figured out how Blankenship’s thinking. “I felt strongly to help them,” he says. “I had to step back and that we needed to be a six-month program, figure out what I wanted to do to effect change, because I saw it work for him.” not only for my son but for everyone else who’s Recent brain science influenced his thinking, out there struggling. And for West Virginia.” too. “Only maybe 20 years ago, the medical He spent more than a year reading community was convinced that you’re born with everything he could about addiction, going to so many brain cells and you can never improve conferences, listening to the best minds on the upon that,” he says. But neuroplasticity research topic—looking for a way to flip the state from showed him that, not only can people form new the leader in overdose deaths to the leader in a brain cells, they can form millions of new brain compassionate and effective solution. cell connections. “These guys, when they’re Even before the flood of opioids overwhelmed using, they’re used to living in the moment, West Virginia’s addiction treatment facilities making decisions that affect the next couple over the past decade, treatment models here and hours of their lives. Their futures—job, school,

Rethinking treatment

local ‹‹ live

work, family—their brains don’t work that way anymore.” He came to think that people who have gotten trapped in addiction could lay down new neural pathways through the lived experience of investing in the future and garnering the eventual reward—an experience farmers live hands-on. “Plant something today, reap the benefits in a couple months. Raise this animal, slaughter it in a couple years. If we can combine that type of thinking with the appropriate amount of time away from their other activities, we can make a difference.” He opened Jacob’s Ladder in April 2016 as a six-month recovery farm unlike any other longterm treatment facility in the state, or possibly anywhere. There are beds for 14 men and about a dozen staff, more than half of whom are well into their own recoveries and have been trained in peer recovery coaching. The setting—the turn-of-the-20th-century Brookside Inn resort at Aurora in Preston County, now an expansive family farm that partners with and leases facilities to Jacob’s Ladder—works as a peaceful retreat a little over an hour’s drive from Buckhannon, Clarksburg, Morgantown, and Cumberland, Maryland.

Learning to live life again

The daily routine at Jacob’s Ladder focuses on mindfulness and everyday tasks. Residents start their weekdays with breakfast at 7 a.m., says

Outreach Manager Joey Ferguson, a staff member in recovery himself. They split into two groups at 8 o’clock for yoga and meditation, switching at 9. Afterward the men work on the farm, tending leafy rows of everything from tomatoes to sweet potatoes to watermelon, weeding the rich soil by hand. They care for 300 chickens as well as sheep, pigs, and beefalo. “They’re getting their hands dirty, planting seeds, pulling up weeds, and then when they get the vegetable and they’re cutting it up in the kitchen, they can appreciate it,” Ferguson says. They devote time to music, art, and reading, and prepare meals together, with lunch served at noon and dinner in the early evening. Days are simple and ordered. “A lot of these guys are 18 to 25—their addiction grabbed hold of them in their teen years. You get clean and have to learn how to live life again.” At least four evenings a week, the men are bussed after dinner to 12-step meetings in Clarksburg, Morgantown, and other surrounding towns—both for the fellowship and to experience as many recovery communities as possible. Then it’s lights out at 10:30, with a more relaxed schedule on weekends. Several times a month they travel as a group on outdoor adventures. “We were whitewater rafting as a team-building exercise the day of the solar eclipse,” Ferguson says. “When the eclipse was happening, we got to kick back and watch. A lot of these guys have never done anything like that.” A year-plus in operation in the summer of 2017, Jacob’s Ladder had graduated 16 men, two of whom had relapsed, including Tim. “I was heartbroken rather than surprised,” Blankenship says. Both had chosen to return directly to their home communities. “What I learned more than anything is that these guys can’t go back where they came from immediately.” He invited both men back into the program. And he acted on that painful lesson by opening a sober living house in Westover, just across the river from Morgantown, in the summer of 2017. There, residents can strengthen their new “long-term payoff” neural pathways by transitioning into working life in a structured, staffed home setting. The second chance was working out for Tim. “He’s at sober living now, and he just got a job with a trucking company yesterday,” Blankenship said in August. “He

spent this past weekend with his girls, and he’s working his butt off to get his family back together.”

Meeting the need

Although it’s operating in the state with the highest overdose rate in the nation, Jacob’s Ladder is not as overwhelmed with applicants as one might expect. “Even if we say, ‘Come on in, we’re here for you,’ nine times out of 10 that person doesn’t come,” Blankenship says. “It’s so much more real than, ‘OK Mom, I’ll do a 30-day program to get you off my back.’ For someone struggling with addiction, a six-month commitment is a lifetime.” There’s also the question of money. In order to continue working nimbly with residents, Jacob’s Ladder doesn’t take health insurance. It asks families to pay and makes some allowance for financial circumstances. Ferguson continually works to expand his referral network for those who apply but aren’t a good fit. But for those who are a good fit and are ready to make that commitment, no place sounds better. “A young man contacted us from prison about eight months ago and said he needed to find a program,” Blankenship recalls. Jacob’s Ladder didn’t have a bed available at the moment and, although the prison would have released him to any treatment facility, he held out. “He stayed in prison an additional month and a half waiting for a bed to open in our program. He graduates next weekend and he’s a wonderful young man. That’s the kind of commitment we see in the men who choose to come here.” Another reason Blankenship liked a farm model for his program is that, since it leverages West Virginia’s assets, it can be replicated across the state. “We have a tremendous amount of resources and wonderful people in the farming communities. I’d ultimately like to have three, four, five of these around the state so we can provide these services for more young people.” He’s working to refine the model and demonstrate a good track record, then plans to raise money to scale the operation up. One of the biggest lessons Blankenship has taken from this experience gives hope for the future of West Virginia, once the state turns this crisis around. “The best people I’ve met in my life I’ve met in the past couple years, people who are recovering,” he says. “Because to get to that point, you have to dig down deep and examine yourself way more closely than you or I have done. They’re some of the most enlightened, humble, appreciative people you’ll ever meet, and all they want to do is live good lives and help other people live good lives.” jacobsladderbrookside.com wvliving.com 49

50 wvl • fall 2017


who’s the best of west virginia?

West Virginia is a place of best-kept secrets—those restaurants, artists, and hideaways that only locals know. But we want to spread the word! Nominate your favorites in each of the categories below—including the brand-new categories we’ve added for 2017— and your hometown favorite might be named in this year’s Best of West Virginia, coming in the winter issue. The top contenders will move on to a second round of voting.


Best Pepperoni Roll Best Pizza


vote online @ wvliving.com/bowv WANT TO MAIL THIS TO US?

Best Brewery


Best Cidery



Best Coffeehouse

Best Appalachian Cuisine

Best Distillery

Best Bakery

Best Winery

Best BBQ Joint


Best Brunch Best Butcher Shop Best Farm-to-Table Restaurant Best Fine Dining Best Hamburger Best Hot Dog Best Ice Cream

Best Antique/Vintage Store Best Art Gallery Best Bookstore Best Independent Jewelry Store Best Local Furniture Store Best Local Place to Buy Men’s Apparel Best Local Place to Buy Women’s Apparel

Best Italian Restaurant

Best Place to Buy WV-Made Products

Best Maple Syrup

Best Unique Boutique


Best Addiction Recovery Resource

Best Adventure Town

Best Charity

Best Hidden Gem Town

Best Environmental Organization

Best Town for Foodies

Best Festival

Best Town for History

Best Museum

Best Town for the Arts

Best Music Venue

Best Town to Experience the Fall

Best Musician/Band

Best Town to Experience the Winter

Best Theater Company

Best Town Transformation



Best Bed & Breakfast/Inn

Best Artist

Best Boutique Hotel

Best Author

Best Campground

Best Chef

Best Resort

Best Mayor

Best Unique Place to Spend the Night

Best Media Personality

TRAVEL Best Adventure Outfitter Best Family Vacation Spot Best Place to Play Golf Best Ski Resort Best State Park/Forest Best Weekend Escape





listings From historic houses to picturesque farms to quaint cottages, there’s a special place in West Virginia calling your name. Check out these extraordinary properties from around the state.

4111 Cove Point, Morgantown - $4,500,000 MLS: 10115282

Over 13,350 sq.ft. on 1.68 +/- acres, Custom-built home on the waters of Cheat Lake! One-of-a-kind multilevel with breathtaking views from every room. 6 bedroom suites, 6 boat slips, 3 jet ski docks, extensive docking & decking, indoor heated pool & lap pool, outdoor hot tub, multiple garages including RV garage & servant’s quarters. Completely repainted inside & out, updated to reflect a new home.

Howard Hanna Premier Properties by Barbara Alexander, LLC, 304.594.0115

911 Shelby Avenue, Fairmont - $444,900

5 Maple Avenue, Morgantown - $1,795,000

MLS: 10115120 4 bedroom, 2/2 bath situated on dead-end street overlooking Fairmont. Beautiful exterior stonework, high ceilings, wood-burning fireplace & wood floors. Fenced 1+/- acre, 2-car garage & in-ground saltwater pool & pool house.

MLS: 10113983 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths. This stunningly appointed home has undergone a complete remodel. Bright & airy farmhouse kitchen w/Carrara marble countertops & top-of-the-line appliances. Detached guest suite & personal gym.

Howard Hanna Premier Properties by Barbara Alexander, LLC, 304.594.0115

Howard Hanna Premier Properties by Barbara Alexander, LLC, 304.594.0115

593 Preston Road, Morgantown - $1,450,000

2312 Lakeside Estates starting at $985,900

MLS: 10114343 5 bedrooms, 4/2 baths on 2.54+/- acres, this elegant home is a private sanctuary hidden in the city of Morgantown. Gourmet kitchen, family room, theater, game room & 4-car garage.

MLS: 10114352 5 bedroom, 3.5 bath brick colonial on 2 level lots. Features include fitness room, wine cellar, steam/sauna, California closets, fireplaces, Brazilian hardwood, deck w/pergola & water feature, Pella windows & more.

Howard Hanna Premier Properties by Barbara Alexander, LLC, 304.594.0115

Howard Hanna Premier Properties by Barbara Alexander, LLC, 304.594.0115

898 Main Street, Beverly - $499,000

MLS: 10110117 6 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. Amazing Queen Anne-style historical home. Immaculate condition, attention to detail & craftsmanship. Original hardwood flooring, electrical updated & moved underground. New GAF Weather Stopper Integrated Roofing System, 40-year warranty conveys.

Howard Hanna Premier Properties by Barbara Alexander, LLC, 304.594.0115

Unit 411 Soaring Eagle Lodge - $450,000

MLS: 10052896 2 bedroom, 2 bath. Experience life on Snowshoe Mtn. in this incredible mountaintop condo. Spacious enough for year-round living and exquisite decorator finishes. Many privileges and amenities included.

Howard Hanna Premier Properties by Barbara Alexander, LLC, 304.594.0115

home marketplace

56 wvl • fall 2017

Barn With Inn Experience life on a farm at this unique Northern Panhandle getaway.

written by nikki


photographed by carla

witt ford

live ›› away


he owners of Barn With Inn at Highland Springs Farm have it right. Harry Sanford and Chatman Neely believe, “you have to disengage to engage.” So they’ve created a sanctuary outside Wellsburg in the Northern Panhandle where you can do just that, in one of the most unexpected places: a loft above a working barn. You won’t find a bellhop ready to gather your luggage and deliver it to your room. Instead, you’ll be greeted by Cooper, their director of public relations—a free-range pot bellied pig. If you are lucky, you might catch Max the rooster riding on his back. And once the seven dogs announce your arrival, Martha the donkey and Jasper and Granite, the farm’s two burros, will also want to say hello. 58 wvl • fall 2017

“We are a farm that offers a bed and breakfast,” says Neely. “We are a getaway for people who are looking for privacy, comfort, in a rustic environment—people who are looking for an authentic experience.” All of their animals—there are 48 in all—are surrendered or adopted. Sanford is a veterinarian, so it isn’t uncommon for him to come home with a new family member. “We thought people would be freaked out by animals, but it is actually a draw,” Neely says. “People can’t get enough. And the animals are good caretakers. You won’t see a mouse, flea, or tick here.” Nestled in 34 acres, the cabin at Highland Springs Farm is 170 years old and was moved to the property in the 1980s. In the 1990s, an addition was added to give the structure an

This unique getaway old farmhouse look. Each takes you back to a morning a classic country more simple time with breakfast of regional foods, the rustic ambience of a working farm. including heirloom pork, is served on the breakfast porch looking out over the beautiful grounds. The innkeepers also offer onsite dinners, if requested in advance, complete with Neely’s legendary sugar cream pie. The property boasts three unique guest rooms and has become a popular site for weddings and events. There’s a large guest room renovated from a barn loft previously used for storing hay, with a sitting area and a window overlooking the animals in the barn, a private bath with radiant-heated floors, and a

away ‹‹ live

Guests love to interact with the 48 farm animals who call Highland Springs home. Its convenient

location is a great home base for exploring nearby attractions.

small porch with views of the butterfly garden. The focal point of the room is the queen bed massive headboard, custom-made from 150-year-old hand-hewn cabin posts. A renovated horse stall makes another darling guest suite. This large and comfortable room has a modern private bath with radiant-heated floors. You can view the animals from a window or the charming front porch. And in the farmhouse, a first-floor bedroom with twin beds is decorated with antiques and rustic furnishings. Rooms range from $125 to $165 a night. In addition to unencumbered access to the animals, the property has several other amenities: walking paths, a swimming and fishing pond, an in-ground pool where you can schedule a massage, outdoor showers,

and butterfly, vegetable, and flower gardens. What you won’t find are televisions or clocks, although the farm does have wi-fi hotspots for those guests who desperately need internet. “We hope we have created a place where you leave the stresses of modern day life behind and focus on farm life and farm-totable foods,” says Neely. “We want people to get away from it all. Use us as a base to explore other areas.” With its easy access to western Pennsylvania, Amish Country, eastern Ohio, Morgantown, Wheeling, and Homer Laughlin’s factory in Newell, there’s no lack of options. “Or just come disconnect and rejuvenate.” 4859 Bealls Ridge, Wellsburg, 304.737.0647, barnwithinn.com, “Highland Springs Farm & Barn With Inn” on Facebook wvliving.com 59

cider resurrectionists Starting the first commercial cidery in the state in living memory isn’t enough. The guys at Hawk Knob Hard Cider and Mead can’t help thinking up even more ways to press West Virginia’s apple harvest into our drinking glasses. written by Pam Kasey photographed by Lisa Elmaleh & Nikki Bowman



Huge wooden field bins filled with apples of all colors and sizes. Long, high shelves of oak barrels lying on their sides. It’s a pioneering effort by two guys who look the part. But Will Lewis, often found in suspenders or overalls, and Josh Bennett, a natural wearer of Western hats, come by their rustic appearance honestly. They’re not actually trying to look like trailblazers; they’re too busy resurrecting an old-time West Virginia industry: hard cider.

Bennett and Lewis became friends when they studied horticulture at West Virginia University a decade ago. They brewed cider and mead together in small batches in college, and they shared a fascination with apple culture. “The fact is, hard cider was the quintessential American beverage at one time and has deep, deep roots in Appalachia. This is our cultural heritage,” Bennett says. “We should be embracing it and bringing it back.” Their love for the state’s apple heritage and their business sense led them to launch Hawk Knob Hard Cider and Mead outside Lewisburg in 2014. It was good timing. Nationally, hard cider is experiencing unparalleled growth in the craft beverage market. “We’ve realized by the speed that our cider has moved off the shelves that there’s a high demand for a quality beverage, and there’s a finer palate than has been given credit,” Lewis says. “I can’t tell you how many people have said, ‘I didn’t even think I’d like cider,’ and they went to a tasting and they love it now.” Getting started wasn’t easy. Once Bennett jumped through the hoops required by the federal “alternating proprietorship” license—authorization for Hawk Knob to rent the equipment of the still-operating Watts Roost winery outside Lewisburg—he was surprised to find that the state licensing process was even harder. “They said, ‘Alternating proprietorship? We never heard of it and it’s not allowed in West Virginia.’” He read all of the legislation and code that govern the state Alcohol Beverage Control Administration and found nothing prohibiting alternating proprietorship. It finally took the support of three state senators to get the operation issued a state farm winery license. Now they are the only “winery” occupying the former Watts Roost—West Virginia’s first modern cidery.


Hard cider has had a chicken-and-egg problem in the U.S. Orchards stopped growing the tart and bitter apples that give cider depth back when Prohibition killed the market in the 1920s. And today’s orchards haven’t wanted to plant them anew without a market in place—which has struggled without the apple varieties that make a flavorful product. Thanks are due to the pioneers who put out those onedimensionally sweet hard ciders of the ’80s and ’90s. They prepared the ground, and cider has recently started to come back in all its lush, pre-Prohibition variety. Bennett and Lewis had some luck from the beginning. Morgan Orchard in neighboring Monroe County grows some bittersweets and bittersharps traditionally used in farmhouse ciders, like Staymans and Yorks, and other cultivars like Sheepnose and Winter Banana that add satisfying aromatics. Mixing the standard and heirloom varieties they had access to, the new cidermakers created a signature blend that harmonizes all four categories of taste perception, Bennett says: sweet, tart, bitter, and aromatic. Apples that taste astringent or bitter have compounds that let a cider age longer, too, he says, giving a fuller flavor profile. “Like most wines in the world, the best ones out there are blends.” 62 wvl • fall 2017

It takes a lot of apples to make cider. In 2015 Hawk Knob pressed 75 bins of apples to make 4,000 gallons of cider—that’s 30 tons, 60,000 pounds of apples. They doubled that in 2016 to 150 bins. They used some of that 2016 juice to make their first cider alternative—cyser, an apple–honey wine made with honey from Lewis’s own bees—and the rest made about 6,000 gallons of cider. The 2017 season is Hawk Knob’s fourth. Any apples Lewis and Bennett don’t press soon after the Augustthrough-October harvest will have to be kept in cold storage or pressed for juice that will be frozen. Freezing doesn’t affect the flavor much, Bennett says. But it can be a step on the way to another beverage he says they’ll likely make at some point: By letting off some of the water content and concentrating the sugars, they could make the stronger, sweeter beverage that’s popular in Canada known as ice cider. “It’s like the port of ciders.” Bennett and Lewis will press more apples than ever this year to satisfy enthusiastic fans. But the operation’s steady growth is starting to outstrip its equipment. “The press holds 60 gallons of pulp at a time—it took us two and a half months to press 7,500 gallons,” Bennett says. “There are operations that press that in a couple days, and more efficiently—the same amount of apples would produce nearly 9,000 gallons.”

At Hawk Knob Cider and Mead’s facility outside Lewisburg, fruit-processing tech operates in the midst of farm winery rustic.

wvliving.com 63


Bennett and Lewis aren’t just brewers and businessmen; they’re horticulturists. As Hawk Knob’s output grows, they’ve been working behind the scenes to transform the input side—trees. On 50 acres they own in Pocahontas County, they graft a couple hundred trees every spring. They’re focusing on rarer varieties, Bennett says, to make those complex flavors available for their blend. Cultivars they’ve grafted include some American cider varieties like Virginia Crab, Harrison, Albemarle, Roxbury and Golden Russet, and the famous West Virginia variety Grimes Golden, Lewis says. They’ve also grafted English-style apples such as Dabinett, Yarlington Mill, Kingston Black, and Harry Masters Jersey. These are just charming names for those of us who don’t know the industry, but they’re the difference between a bland cider and a unique one. “A lot of them have a higher astringent or bitter aspect that’s hard to find around here,” Lewis says. All of this takes a long view on the business. So far, they’re testing most of their grafts in nursery beds. Once they start planting into the orchard proper—this fall, possibly, or next spring—it’ll be four to seven years or even longer before they can harvest, depending on the cultivar and the management practices they apply. Those apples’ more complex flavors will gradually enter the blend. They’re also encouraging other orchardists to plant cider cultivars. “These varieties are just going to become more and more valuable as the cider industry grows,” Lewis told WV Living in 2016. “Farmers will get more per bushel, because the cideries will have the ability to pay more than for culinary apples. This is just the beginning of it in West Virginia.” That future already seems to be coming true with the market launch in 2017 of Swilled Dog Hard Cider, based in Franklin, West Virginia—the state’s second commercial cidery.


Hawk Knob hard ciders are distributed by Country Vintner of West Virginia to bars, restaurants, and wine retail outlets almost everywhere in the state. In service to expanding their market, Bennett shopped the ciders around Washington, D.C. in June 2017. “I had no idea how flooded D.C. was with cider. One place had literally 60 ciders on the menu,” he says. But the high rankings Hawk Knob has earned for the past two years at GLINTCAP, the largest international cider competition in the world—two silver placements in 2016 and a gold, a silver, and a bronze in 2017—work as a foot in the door, he finds, and then the cider’s quality sells itself. “Most folks are not doing the extensive barrel aging we do. And even in the craft sector, a lot of people are adding sugar into the primary fermentation to boost alcohol content, or they backsweeten it—we don’t do any of that. On top of that, we’re not using sulfites.” Those commitments make for a product that stands out, even in a quickly crowding field. 64 wvl • fall 2017

For all its old-timey simplicity, modern cider-making has its technical side. Here, Bennett checks

the progress of the conversion of sugars to alcohol in a batch of cider using a refractometer.

Josh Bennett on the making of Hawk Knob cider

“ A partnership with a future

Like a well-blended cider, Lewis and Bennett form a partnership of complementary qualities. Asked what Lewis brings to the table that he doesn’t, Bennett, the talker, doesn’t hesitate: “patience.” What in Bennett balances that patience out? “Josh has an outstanding drive to get things done right now,” Lewis says, adding, “He also has a lot of experience with equipment and hauling that I haven’t had. I learn that from him.” Over time, they’ve both learned to do it all, Bennett says. “And because of that, we can divide and conquer, or quite easily come into a situation with double strength and knock it out.” In 2017, their third summer, the two set up a tasting room at their facility on Blue Sulphur Pike west of Lewisburg. “We’ve brought in a selection of imported cheeses and charcuterie to pair with our ciders, and we’re having live music events, too,” Bennett says. “We’re also starting to do dinner pairings, bringing caterers in that feature their foods paired with our ciders.” In June, they released Hawk Knob’s first cyser. “It’s aged over two and a half years now, which is pretty rare to find on the mead market,” Lewis says. “It’s dry like our ciders and well-balanced. I think a lot of people are really excited that’s out there.” Also in June, Bennett went to Normandy, in France, to study with Christian Drouin, one of the most celebrated makers of Calvados—the local apple brandy. It’s part of Hawk Knob’s big vision of West Virginia’s apple future. “We’re in one of the best apple-growing regions in the country, next to the Northwest,” he says proudly. “We feel this region is set up to become an apple-growing region again. And I feel that American brandy is going to be the next thing out.”

We grind the apples to press the juice. Most of what we make we put into stainless steel vats for primary fermentation. We encourage a little bit of wild fermentation in all of our ciders—that’s from the natural wild yeast that’s present on the skin of the apple. Not many people do that. We do it because we feel there are beneficial esters (fruitflavored compounds) coming off of some of the wild yeasts. Then we pitch a proprietary blend of red wine and champagne yeasts, and that’s what ferments the cider, converting sugar to carbon dioxide and alcohol. To get the clarity we have, all of our ciders go to an aging process. Even our tank-aged ciders stay in stainless steel for six months. Others go to oak bourbon barrels, primarily. After aging, it goes to bottling. At the same time that we bottle, we pasteurize it. We’re not using chemicals or standard sulfites, so we use a flash heat pasteurization directly after bottling, more or less a water bath. We’re careful not to cook the cider—we’re only bringing it up just to the right temperature, and it’s still pasteurizing while it’s cooling. And then we label up the bottles and ship them out to the consumer.”

WHAT’S IN STOCK  Appalachian Classic Hard Cider  Appalachian Classic—Bourbon Barrel Aged  Elderberry Infused Hard Cider  Wild Fermented Traditional Hard Cider  Cyser (apple honey mead) wvliving.com 65

Great Fermentations

West Virginia’s craft brewing scene has exploded over the past several years. Beer, hard cider, and even mead—honey wine—are brewed all over the state. Some of these crafters have tasting rooms or restaurants on-site; some distribute by bottle or keg to other sellers. Look for them wherever you imbibe. compiled by Kristen Uppercue










9 10












14 15






66 wvl • fall 2017










Pubstomper Brewing Company




Chestnut Brew Works



Morgantown Brewing Company




Short Story Brewing




Mountain Dragon Mazery




Screech Owl Brewing




Big Timber Brewing Company






Blackwater Brewing Company



Stumptown Ales




Mountain State Brewing Company




Berkeley Springs Brewing Company



Abolitionist Ale Works



Mash Brewing Company




Lost River Brewing Company




Swilled Dog Hard Cider



Bridge Brew Works




Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company




Hawk Knob Hard Cider and Mead



Dobra Zupas




Weathered Ground Brewery




Sophisticated Hound Brewing Company


Buffalo Trail Restaurant and Brewery




Bad Shepherd Brewing




North End Tavern & Brewery



Parkersburg Brewing Company






Brew Keepers Wheeling Brewing Company

: sophisticatedhoundbrewing

: brewkeepers wheelingbrewing.com

hard cider

hard cider & mead


beer beer wvliving.com 67



How Huntington became America’s Best Community. written by Zack Harold


The West Edge factory, in the Westmoreland neighborhood of Huntington, used to be home to garment-maker Corbin. It now houses workforce training programs run by Coalfield Development Corporation.

72 wvl • fall 2017

each detail of their presentation. The next day, they would present their expansive plans as a 10-minute sales pitch before the panel of judges that would decide the city’s fate. Most other communities had prepared PowerPoint presentations to illustrate their plans. Huntington went a different way. Joe Murphy, president of Huntington-based Trifecta Productions, had prepared a video filled with drone footage, time-lapse videography, historical photos, and renderings of the city’s future. Williams practiced his speech until every word was timed perfectly to the images on the screen. Presentations began the following morning in the hotel’s conference room. When it came Huntington’s turn, Williams offered a perfunctory “good morning” before launching in. “‘Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood.’ These words were spoken by the renowned architect Daniel Burnham. And now, they are the mantra of Huntington, West Virginia.” Williams told of the 1970 plane crash that killed 37 members of the Marshall University football team and “brought the city to its knees.” He recalled how the rebuilt



irst, there were more than 300. Then there were 50. Now, there were 15. Soon there would be eight. In late April 2016, 15 semifinalists for the America’s Best Communities (ABC) competition gathered in Durham, North Carolina. The teams, hailing from all over the United States, were competing for a $3 million grand prize to help revitalize their communities. Some would go home disappointed, if not empty-handed. But in hopes of keeping everyone excited about the work still ahead, organizers planned a special outing before judging began. The competitors piled into a bus for a tour of Durham to see firsthand how the home of Duke University had reinvigorated the struggling parts of its community. But as the tour group left the hotel, one delegation was conspicuously absent. The team from Huntington, West Virginia, had opted to stay behind. Mayor Steve Williams wanted to focus all his attention on making his city the kind of place where, someday, people could take an urban revitalization tour. His team holed up in the Hilton Durham’s vacant bar, going over

team, of which he was a member, revived the community’s spirits by winning a national championship. “Forty-six years later, I’m the mayor of Huntington. And I’m leading a team, building a program with the purpose to lift our community up from the despair and devastation that has plagued our region.” At stage right, a projector showed a bird’s-eye view of brownfields in Huntington’s Highlawn district, blighted housing in its Fairfield neighborhood, and the city’s West End, where the shift whistle at the former Corbin Ltd. factory has been silent for 15 years. Between these images flashed prophesies of Huntington’s future. Thriving 21st century manufacturing facilities. Neighborhoods with safe, affordable housing. An old factory transformed into a space for artisans, agripreneurs, renewable energy prospectors, and anyone else looking to forge a new economic future for the city. Then the drone footage cross-faded to an image of a darkened globe. A beacon of light blasted up from the Ohio Valley, growing brighter and brighter until its blinding whiteness covered the screen. “When someone … looks down on those bright city lights, they’re going to see a bright, brilliant beacon of light,” Williams said, his voice shaking as if on the verge of tears. “And recognize Huntington, West Virginia, is going to again rise up from the ashes.” The conference room swelled with applause. Williams pulled out a white handkerchief and wiped his shining brow. “Somehow, in spite of all the practice, the passion was there as if it was the first time he said it,” says Margaret Mary Layne, former city manager and a member of Huntington’s ABC team. “It was basically like going to church.” Later that day, ABC organizers announced Huntington would be one of the eight finalists competing for the $3 million grand prize. Now the team had less than a year to show real progress on a plan many thought overambitious. ***


the idea for america’s best communities came to former Frontier CEO Maggie Wilderotter after a meeting with Tony Hsieh, founder of the online apparel seller Zappos. In 2012, Hsieh launched the Downtown Project, investing $350 million of his own money to kickstart housing and small business development in struggling sections of downtown Las Vegas. It got Wilderotter thinking about the small communities Frontier served. They didn’t have wealthy benefactors like Hsieh but were hurting just the same. “I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting to see if we could put a contest together to create the next great city in America?’” She wanted the competition—open to communities in Frontier’s 27-state coverage area with populations between 9,500 and 80,000—to encourage ambitious change. “Not, ‘Let’s renovate one park.’ It’s, ‘Let’s renovate a community from one end to another.’”

To achieve that, she decided the competition should hand out $10 million, disbursed over multiple rounds in increasing amounts, “so it would have legs.” Wilderotter secured $5 million from Frontier’s board, then got farm lender CoBank, The Weather Channel, and DISH Network to contribute the rest. But the competition would offer something more valuable than cash. It would force cities to take a hard look at their problems, think big about ways to solve them, and pull together teams of like-minded locals to get started. Prize money or not, every participating community would walk away with all the groundwork necessary for real, lasting change. In late summer 2014, company representatives set up a meeting with Williams at city hall to pitch the competition. As they laid out the details, the mayor interrupted. “You can stop right now and write us the check,” he said. “Because we’re going to win this thing.” “He said it in a joking way,” Layne remembers. Except it wasn’t a joke. Williams, the son of a football coach, was brought up with a philosophy that he still follows: “If you act like a champion, you’ll be one.”

Tom Bell, executive director of the Huntington Municipal Development Authority, stands on the former Ingram Barge property, part of the brownfields the city hopes to remake into a 21st century manufacturing area.


the city’s problems are well-documented. Huntington has experienced the same unsparing chain reaction playing out in cities nationwide. First came the loss of industry, then the economic hardships. And, since desperate people do desperate things, drugs and crime weren’t far behind. Mayor Williams knows the problems well. He moved to town as a teenager and, in the 1980s, served as Huntington’s director of economic development and city manager before going to the state Legislature. He then spent more than a decade focused on a career in finance before joining city council in 2008. After he was elected mayor in 2012, Williams and his team began the slow process of crafting plans to fix the city’s wvliving.com 73


bold plans have a way of scaring people. A representative from Frontier even suggested the city narrow its focus, at one point. “She said, ‘Mayor, you need to just zero down to one project,’” Williams remembers. But he was undeterred. “I said, ‘That’s not what we’re doing.’” In the days leading up to Williams’ impassioned speech in Durham, there were murmurings among the city’s ABC team that the city should pare down its plans. “There were people who believed if we had too many things, it would confuse the judges and they wouldn’t see a direct success,” Layne says. Williams decided to address the murmurs head-on and got everyone on a conference call. “The mayor said, ‘Here’s the deal. I will withdraw from the contest rather than cut out any part of this,’” Layne says. The line went silent. Williams softened a bit. He started talking through ways to trim the plan, focusing on the Highlawn neighborhood while keeping the other pieces as long-term goals. But the longer the call went, the more everyone came to 74 wvl • fall 2017

realize there wasn’t a good way to make the plan smaller. They would abide by their “make no little plans” mantra. The all-or-nothing approach proved successful in Durham. But to win the grand prize in April 2017, Huntington had to make convincing progress, fast. “I think we did at least three years of work in 11 months. I’m not exaggerating,” Layne says. In February 2017, the city rolled out the Huntington–Highlawn Brownfields Innovation Zone Plan, a detailed imagining of the neighborhood’s future. The city made quick progress in acquiring the properties key to those plans, and Marshall expressed formal interest in taking over the baseball stadium and an academic science laboratory, while Highlawn-based polymer producer Rubberlite formed a new nonprofit corporation to focus solely on the development of the polymer technology center. On the West End, the Coalfield Development Corporation’s solar business trained more than 20 solar installers. Plans were completed for the former Corbin Factory and construction began. The neighborhood’s River to Rail taskforce and other community groups secured funding to plant trees, install bike racks, create murals, and spruce up planters and green spaces. In Fairfield, blighted housing was demolished or repurposed. Plans got underway to open a grocery store and make improvements to Hal Greer. Perhaps most important, the city formed the Fairfield Alliance, a group made up of community members and representatives from Cabell Huntington Hospital and Marshall University. For the Gigabit City plan, the city instituted a “dig once” policy.


troubles. When Frontier told him about the ABC competition, Williams saw it as an excuse to attack all his goals at once, and in short order. “I thought, ‘This is providential,’” he says. Not everyone shared his go-big-or-go-home philosophy. A few weeks after their initial meeting with Frontier, core members of Huntington’s ABC team gathered at the city’s police department to start shaping their plan. As the conversation progressed, it seemed they were focused solely on the West End. “That’s it?” Williams asked. “That’s all we’re going to move forward with?” He challenged them to think bigger. So they did. The resulting document, known as the Huntington Innovation Project Revitalization Plan, is broken into four parts, three of which are devoted to specific neighborhoods. In the Highlawn district, the city’s plans call for revitalizing 78 acres of former industrial properties into a high-tech manufacturing center that will also feature a hotel and conference center, retail and green space, and a new baseball stadium. In the Fairfield neighborhood, plans include renovating old homes and building new ones to create safe, affordable housing, making Hal Greer Boulevard safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and improving stormwater drainage. The city also planned to expand the A.D. Lewis Community Center and transform the former Northcott Court housing project into a mixed-use property with retail shops and apartments. Plans for the West End would help the Coalfield Development Corporation convert the former Corbin factory into “WestEdge Factory” with a solar panel installation business and training center, a woodworking shop, agribusiness operations, art studios, and more. Building facades and streetscapes would be improved in the Central City commercial district and vacant industrial properties would be revitalized. Those three parts of the plan are connected by the fourth— “Gigabit City,” an initiative to bring high-speed internet to Huntington. It was an ambitious plan, to say the least. Just one portion of it could keep some communities busy for a decade. But given the scale of Huntington’s problems, Williams and his team believed a piecemeal solution was no solution at all.

Anytime workers repair a water or sewer line, they must now lay conduit for future fiber-optic lines. The city also created a plan to obtain funding for broadband infrastructure and began looking for contractors. ***

the america’s best communities finalists gathered for the last time in Denver, Colorado. It was April 2017, nearly three years after the competition began. There were no sales pitches in Denver. Judges had made their decision by the time the teams arrived, based on each community’s written plans. The Huntington team still had doubts. Although they had plenty to show—plans made, policies instituted, money received, partnerships formed—it wasn’t as evident as some of their competitors’ progress. “You couldn’t say ‘Here’s a building, we’re done,’” Layne says. Gathered in yet another hotel conference room, the Huntington team gave in to superstition and seated themselves in the exact same order as in Durham. They locked hands as emcee Vince Gill read through the winners. Statesboro, Georgia, won the third-place, $1 million prize. Second place, with its $2 million award, went to Lake Havasu City, Arizona. “We thought we’re either in, or we’re nothing,” Layne remembers. Everyone held their breath as Lake Havasu City finished its thank-yous. Gill took the podium again. “The big winner, $3 million—Huntington, West Virginia.” The team was shell-

shocked. “We just kept sitting there,” Layne says. “I finally said, ‘We’ve got to get up. We’ve got to go up there.’” Back home, the celebration was less subdued. Watch parties exploded all over the city. When the announcement came, the people gathered at Trifecta Productions started shrieking, crying, jumping up and down, and high-fiving. Others watching in bars and restaurants along 4th Avenue flooded into the street like the Thundering Herd had just won a national title. The owner of 21 at the Frederick, a fine dining establishment in the historic downtown Frederick Hotel, passed out flutes of champagne. The oversized check still sits on an easel outside Williams’ office at city hall. The money, meanwhile, waits in an account at the Foundation for the Tri-State, to be spent on anything needed to further the revitalization plan. The city hopes to make the $3 million last at least three years. But Williams is certain the momentum the competition created will last much longer. “The strength of our program is it’s so community-based. We have such a diversity of individuals in the community, we can continue to drive it.” Now, Williams hopes to take the movement beyond the city limits. In July, he announced his candidacy for Congress. “The 3rd Congressional District is about the size of a decentsized city, albeit spread out over 18 counties. If we could do it in Huntington, we could show the way for the rest of Appalachia,” he says. Make no little plans.

A rendering shows plans for the brownfields in Huntington’s Highlawn neighborhood: a high-tech manufacturing center, a hotel and conference center, retail and green space, and a new baseball stadium.

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76 wvl • fall 2017

78 wvl • fall 2017

It’s not easy to run for office, start a business, found a nonprofit,


or dedicate your life to helping others. But the women in these pages aren’t worried about easy. They’re committed to doing the things necessary to make our state a better place to live. WV Living proudly presents the Wonder Women class of 2017.


Community banking may be the perfect job for Charleston native Nada Kisner. Her father taught her to love numbers, and she has a natural instinct to help people. “Financing first vehicles, that’s a great feeling, handing them that check—‘Go enjoy your new car!’” says the community office manager at the Suncrest Centre location of First United Bank and Trust in Morgantown. But Kisner spends a lot of her spare time helping those in even greater need, with a particular heart for the homeless. She’s been on the board at Caritas House in Morgantown, which provides HIV/AIDS and homeless services, for nine years, and a financial literacy class she developed and teaches at Christian Help got her on the board there in 2016 as well. In 2017, she’s started feeding the homeless at the Salvation Army every Wednesday. She also serves on the board of the Friends of WVU Medicine.


“When people come to West Virginia, they fall in love with it,” says Chelsea Ruby, commissioner of the state Division of Tourism. She knows this from personal experience. She grew up in Oklahoma and worked on Capitol Hill before taking a job with Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s office in 2012. Her first assignment? Organize the state’s 150th birthday bash. “It taught me more about West Virginia than I would have ever been able to learn in any other way. It made me fall in love with the people here.” Since taking over as tourism chief in early 2017, Ruby is helping others feel the love, too. In June, the agency’s highly successful #almostheaven social media campaign reached more than 15 million people. Ruby says much of Tourism’s work is focused on getting people to West Virginia for the first time—since research shows more than 80 percent of first-time visitors will come back. 80 wvl • fall 2017

Lynne Fruth’s father opened Fruth Pharmacy in Point Pleasant in 1952 and grew the business into a chain of community drugstores. But she did not intend to go into the family business. She attended West Virginia University, where she earned a scholarship to play softball and received a bachelor’s degree in education. She then went to Marshall to get her master’s in education. But after her father’s death, she watched as the company he built began to fail. She decided to take over and, at first, tried to balance her career in education with running the company. She quickly realized she couldn’t do both, though, and left her education career behind. In the eight years since she took over, Fruth Pharmacy has expanded into 30 new locations. Fruth has also played her part in tackling the state’s drug epidemic by making her pharmacies the first in the state to sell naloxone, an antidote for opioid overdoses, over the counter.





Spend 15 seconds with Malene Smith Davis and you’ll be inspired. She’s a successful businesswoman on a mission. As the new chair of the WVU Alumni Association’s board of directors, she is determined to motivate the university’s extensive alumni base to bring jobs to the state. “At every alumni function I attend, I ask everyone to think about how they can expand their business in West Virginia and then to do it. In just seven short months, we’ve been able to add half a million dollars of salaries to West Virginia.” As the president and CEO of Capital Caring, one of the oldest and largest hospice and palliative care providers in the United States, she spends her days passionately serving patients faced with life-threat life-threatening illnesses. Prior to Capital Caring, Davis was president and CEO of Hospice Care Corporation in Arthurdale, where she still resides. Her company employs 1,000 people and serves 1,500 patients per day. Her goal is to help create a center for advanced illness care like none other—a place that marries a major university with a non-profit and major teaching hospital. “This will be revolutionary. It will change the way people are taken care of,” she says.


Nancy Bruns’ story is one for the history books. As a seventhgeneration descendant of William Dickinson, who in 1813 established a major salt mining business in the Kanawha Valley, she returned to the family farm with her brother and revived this age-old industry. The business, J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works, has quickly become one of the most exciting culinary enterprises in West Virginia. The company has turned the tables on the industry—you’ll find it in fine restaurants all over the country and pantries all over the state. And they keep adding products like grinding salt, popcorn salt, chocolate, soaps, and locally hand-carved wooden saltcellars. Without a doubt, Nancy, who graduated from the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, is helping to establish Malden as “the salt making capital of the East,” just as her ancestor did 200 years ago.


Charlene Diggs didn’t realize she was making history until it was already made. As she was being sworn in as a Beckley police officer in April 2016, police chief Lonnie Christian pointed out that Diggs was the first black woman to ever serve on the force. “I had no idea,” she says. Diggs became interested in law enforcement in high school, then earned a degree in criminal justice administration at Bluefield State College. She originally tried to get a job as a corrections officer, but then decided to apply for a job with her hometown police department. She wanted a job where she could help people with problems and help them make good life choices. “It’s a blessing to break down that barrier,” she says. “I can only hope that it inspires young girls to become something positive in the community. The only person that can stop you is you.”


Ohio native Joelle Connors moved away from Wheeling after graduating from West Liberty University. But she returned to town in 2008 to become marketing director for the City of Wheeling. “That position really marks the beginning of my career,” she says. She helped create Reinvent Wheeling, which brings together city government, the local convention and visitors bureau, the local chamber of commerce, and other community groups to promote the city’s downtown. She continued this community-minded work later as business development specialist at the Regional Economic Development Partnership, and now as external affairs manager for American Electric Power. Connors says she’s astounded by the growth of downtown Wheeling in recent years and loves the combination of big-city excitement and small-town togetherness. It’s the kind of place where anyone, if so inclined, can make a difference. “You can be as involved in this community as you want to be.” wvliving.com 81


Little did Amanda Pitzer know, when she collected stream bugs in high school in northwestern Pennsylvania in the mid-’90s, that river health would become her career. Her father-in-law to-be, Friends of Cheat (FOC) executive director Keith Pitzer, became her friend and mentor. Amanda was doing environmental education with Friends of Deckers Creek in Morgantown when Keith passed on in 2009. She stepped into his position in 2010 and has since grown the organization and professionalized its administration. Under Amanda’s watch, FOC has restored more than 50 miles of the Cheat River and its mine drainage–tainted tributary Muddy Creek. Pollution-sensitive game fish are now migrating up from Cheat Lake into the once-dead canyon. FOC has also bought nearly 20 miles of rail corridor for development as rail-trail. If the organization achieves its goal of removing a low-head dam at Albright, it will be possible to paddle 192 miles from Snowshoe to the mouth of Cheat Lake—the longest continuous undammed stretch in the East. Amanda credits the FOC staff: “One of my greatest accomplishments is cultivating this team.”

Disc jockey, horse riding instructor, graphic designer, small business owner—you name it, Abby Hayhurst has done it. But 15 years ago she was offered a job that, she says, scared her: executive director of the Parkersburg Art Center. She was worried the job would involve lots of black suits with shoulder shoulderpads. So she made some rules. Everyone had to wear jeans, and no Vivaldi on the stereo system. It wasn’t just the dress code and soundtrack that Hayhurst changed. She spearheaded a capital campaign that paid off all the center’s long-term debt and funded major repairs on its 80-year-old building. She has also found new ways to generate income, including a custom framery, a gift shop, weekly bingo games, and facility rentals for weddings and other events. But the core mission is still the arts. Under Hayhurst’s direction, the center now offers weekend and summer art classes for kids, runs a nationally recognized arts-focused preschool program, and puts on 16 exhibits a year, mostly focused on regional artists. 82 wvl • fall 2017


Princeton native Melissa McKinney wanted to sing for a living. And for a long time, she did. But while living in North Carolina, she got a job as a music teacher and found she liked teaching music just as much as performing it. In 2008, she moved back home to open Stages Music School. The school offers traditional private lessons but also takes a School of Rock approach, placing students in bands where they can apply what they learn in the classroom. Now in its tenth year, Stages boasts 175 students and nine instructors. The school is also home to the One Voice Project, a program McKinney launched four years ago for her most advanced students. They learn how to build a music career and also perform concerts with professional-grade sound and lights at elementary, middle, and high schools, using popular music to talk to their fellow students about issues like bullying, depression, and self esteem.





Christine Jones came to West Virginia from her native Ohio for a public broadcasting job in Beckley, then moved to Mor Morgantown while her husband finished his Ph.D. That’s when Jones made a big change. She decided to go to medical school at Marshall University. She wanted to work with underserved rural populations, both in West Virginia and abroad. After completing her residency, she joined a clinic in Clay County while also serving on medical missions in India, Ecuador, Honduras, and Haiti. Her time in Haiti inspired another dramatic life change. Although she and her husband had no children, in 2005 they decided to adopt two teenagers, a brother and sister who’d grown up in an orphanage there. Their daughter is now a student at West Virginia State University and their son is a soccer-obsessed high schooler. Jones still works at the Clay County clinic, an hour’s commute from her Charleston home. Her patients have become an extended family—they offer her a bed when the roads are too icy and bring her home-canned pickles. “You stay because of the people,” she says.


After more than a decade in academic and administrative leadership at American Public University System, Karan Powell became president in 2016 of the nation’s second-largest online university. APUS, headquartered in Charles Town, has nearly 90,000 students and is the largest provider to military-affiliated students. It offers more than 200 certificate and degree programs—including, starting in 2018, PhDs. Powell’s career in leadership development, organizational improvement, and academia has prepared her to champion a model of higher education that anticipates the needs of the economy. The online platform makes college attainable now for adults whose professional and personal lives don’t allow for an on-campus experience, she says. She advocates for attention to the total college experience by any institution that offers degrees online—not only courses but registration, advising, student organizations, and other needs. Though Powell grew up in Chicago, her mother was born and raised West Virginia. “It’s fun to be part of this great state knowing it has a place of meaning in the life of my family,” she says. wvliving.com 83


In 2010, Necia Freeman put out a call on Facebook for donations to feed needy Huntington elementary school students over the weekends. In 2011, with members of her church and the community supporting that Backpacks program, she started a Brown Bag food program to offer a hand to prostitutes in Huntington. Today the Backpacks and Brown Bags Ministry provides weekend meals to 60 to 70 students. The organization has also formed relationships with more than 250 women making their lives on the streets. “We’ve seen some girls accept Christ as their savior, graduate from college, get married, have babies, get professional jobs—it’s been really cool to be able to be a part of that.” But don’t think this is Freeman’s day job. She’s been a full-time Realtor and single mother through it all. Along with more than 10 dedicated volunteers, both of Freeman’s daughters, now grown, are an important part of the program.


Going into her ninth-grade year at Huntington High School, Malak Khader decided to declare her Muslim faith to the world and cover her hair. The consequences were immediate. People began staring. A classmate tried to yank off her scarf because he “didn’t like what it stood for.” “That’s when I realized, people have a very negative opinion of my faith because they haven’t experienced it firsthand.” Khader began volunteering around Huntington—at church soup kitchens, the Special Olympics, Relay for Life events—anywhere she could interact with people and show that Muslims are just like everyone else. She also began working within her faith community, founding a Girl Scout troop at her mosque. Neighborhood kids started joining, too, and now the troop is hodgepodge of ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Khader, now 25, will soon leave her hometown for a Ph.D. program in Texas. But we haven’t seen the last of her. “I’ll be back. This is my home. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.” 84 wvl • fall 2017

In her day job, Kelly Palmer is chief tax deputy for the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office. It’s a position she was appointed to in 2009 and one her mother held decades ago. Palmer has a history in community development, having worked at Mainstreet Morgantown and the Greater Morgantown Convention and Visitors Bureau in the early 2000s. Chief tax deputy satisfies a different part of her personality: “I’m a numbers geek,” she says. But Palmer also maintains an impressive volunteer schedule. She serves on the West Virginia Tourism Commission. She chairs the Monongalia County Democratic Executive Committee, a longtime family commitment. She got involved more than a decade ago with the Miss West Virginia Scholarship Organization and fulfills a leadership role there. Most important to her, she’s been an active member of Quota International of Morgantown for much of her life, working alongside her mother, aunts, and sister-in-law to bringing awareness and advocacy to the hearing- and speech-impaired. “It’s just something we’ve always done as a family.”




Francine Jones is proud to be from Matewan, a place where her family has long worked to help those in need. She joined Matewan’s city council in June 2013, the first black woman elected to the office. Her platform was trifold: rebuild the town’s amphitheater, save the historic jail, and restore the town’s sense of community. She worked to achieve these goals by diligently supporting Matewan’s “Turn This Town Around” campaign and serving on the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum board. Although she did not win re-election in June 2017, Jones continues to work on her platform. She hopes to one day assist teenage mothers and those with drug addiction by offering clothing, support, and anything else they may need. “I want people to remember that I really do believe in people working together,” she says.



After graduating from West Virginia University and serving as director of marketing for the Wheeling Nailers hockey team, Wheeling native Susie Nelson became the executive director for the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley. The foundation has expanded its outreach under her leadership, creating the Women’s Giving Circle, a group of women who pool their money and offer grants meant to empower other women and girls. Together, they raised more than $200,000 in the past seven years. Nelson also serves as chairwoman of Philanthropy West Virginia’s board and is part of the Rotary Club in Wheeling. She’s glad to help others through her work. “Since I have lived here my whole life, the area is important to me and I’m hoping my kids will stick around when they’re old enough to make that decision,” she says.

BERNIE DEEM As she approached her 50th birthday, Bernie Deem was a senior vice president of human resources at One Valley Bank, where she had worked for 18 years. She had climbed as high as possible on the career ladder. So she quit, made a list of the 20 things she’d do if she had time and money, and set about doing them. In the meantime, BB&T purchased One Valley Bank, which led several of Deem’s former colleagues to join other banks or start their own. “Those guys called me and said, I don’t know what you’re doing, but I need HR help.” She launched her company Deem HR in 2000 and began hosting seminars, writing employee handbooks, and advising clients on a host of human resources needs. Today she continues that work at Align HR, a company she formed with co-principal Zach Abraham in 2013.


Growing up in Beckley, Dr. Ayne Amjad’s hematologist-oncologist father made one thing clear: Practicing medicine isn’t enough. “If you really want to help the community, you still have to volunteer,” she says. “I don’t consider being a physician donating my time.” Amjad was a candy striper through high school, then volunteered at a nursing home in college. After completing her medical school residency in Pittsburgh, Amjad came home to set up an internal medicine practice. She noticed her hometown was a different place than when she’d left. Heroin was everywhere. Cases of hepatitis C and HIV were on the rise as a result of addicts sharing needles. She read about needle exchanges in Charleston and Huntington and suggested Beckley local health officials start one, too, but they weren’t interested. So, true to her raising, Amjad started a needle exchange on her own—unpaid and off the clock. Amjad bought thousands of needles out of her own pocket. A local pharmacy agreed to serve as the exchange site. In just three months, Amjad’s fledgling program distributed nearly 1,000 needles. “It’s scary, because you wonder what they were doing before.” The project hasn’t been without difficulties. After starting in August 2016, the exchange was so overloaded with demand after just a few months that Amjad had to shut it down. She restarted it in March, but closed again af after two months when the pharmacy complained of addicts shooting up in the parking lot. Now, Amjad is trying to find a way to get the exchange running again. But she’s also thinking of bigger ways to tackle the problems her community faces. In July of this year, she announced she would run for state’s third district U.S. House of Representatives seat. wvliving.com 85


Parkersburg native Jill Parsons majored in hospital administration and finance at Marshall University, then got her MBA at the University of South Carolina. Pursuing a career in hospital marketing, Parsons became the director of marketing at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Parkersburg and was eventually promoted to vice president. Then, when the president and CEO position opened up at the Parkersburg Chamber of Commerce, Parsons decided to apply. Networking proved to be important— she knew every person in the interview room, and each one continues to play a role in her position today. “It’s always about relationships; connecting and being accessible with our members to find out what their needs are,” she says. Parsons is also the president of the local Rotary Club, where she has been a member for 10 years. She is active in the local Marshall University alumni group and enjoys playing pickleball, a game similar to tennis and wiffle ball.

It was the bagpipes that called her away. Rebecca McPhail hails from eastern Kanawha County and graduated from the West Virginia Institute of Technology, but she moved to Cleveland to play drums in a competitive bagpipe band. She also worked at the YMCA of Greater Cleveland, where she oversaw the group’s fundraising efforts. McPhail moved back to West Virginia after starting a family and became president of Vision Shared, a community and economic development organization. Now she’s president of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, focusing on policy and advocacy. She also volunteers with March of Dimes, where she helps organize the Charleston March for Babies, and serves on the Early Childhood Advisory Council of West Virginia, a group that strives to improve the education and livelihoods of young children in the state. McPhail can often be found outdoors, spending time with her two sons and her partner, Dave. This past summer, they completed their first triathlon as a family. 86 wvl • fall 2017


Joan Browning’s scholarship at her small Georgia college disappeared after she started attending a nearby black church—but that’s when she found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and joined the Civil Rights Movement. “It made all the difference in my life.” She came to West Virginia to work with an anti-poverty program and later opened a successful bookkeeping agency. She wanted to become a writer, however, so she squirreled away a nest egg, closed her business, and began writing for magazines and newspapers full-time. In the 1990s, she contributed to the book Deep in our Hearts: 9 White Women in the Freedom Movement. She’s since become a popular speaker at schools, where she stresses that the Civil Rights Movement was one of ordinary people. “And yet we took down those nasty signs,” she says of placards all across the South that relegated black Americans to separate drinking fountains, seating areas, and all other public functions. “We made sure people had the right to vote.”




New Jersey native Jessica Waldo followed her love of skiing to West Virginia, where she studied hospitality management at Davis and Elkins College and spent her weekends at Snowshoe Ski Resort. After graduating, she moved to Tucker County to be near friends and quickly fell in love with the area. “People from West Virginia are very proud and, even though I was not born and raised here, this is my home. I’m from here now,” she says. Waldo now serves as executive director of the Tucker County Convention and Visitors Bureau and is a member of the Tucker Community Corporation, the Alpine Festival, and the Tucker County Cultural District Authority. She also supports local nonprofits as well as the Potomac Highlands Farm and Food Initiative. And she’s about to take on one more title to her resume: mom. Waldo and her husband, Tyler, are expecting their first child in October 2017.



Joanna Tabit had no clear plans for the future when she headed off to Marshall University. Then, the summer before her senior year, she interned with then–Circuit Judge Margaret Workman. “She was the reason I went to law school,” the Belle native says. After law school, she clerked for West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Thomas McHugh and worked for the state Attorney General’s office before joining Steptoe & Johnson as a litigator. She stayed for 22 years but was always keeping her eye open for bench openings. Then, in 2014, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin appointed her as Kanawha circuit judge. She was elected to the seat in 2016. Now, in addition to her regular docket, she’s a member of the state Supreme Court’s Juvenile Justice Commission, which ensures young people are treated fairly in the court system. She also hopes to mentor future lawyers the way Workman mentored her. “I think that’s so critical to young people’s development.” wvliving.com 87


After earning a teaching degree by the time she was 19, Jada Hunter kickstarted the state Human Rights Commission case that forced Mingo County to integrate its teaching staffs in the mid-1960s. She ended up teaching in Mineral County, however, where after two years she was hired as supervisor of the county vocational center’s business department. With the encouragement of her principal, she became the first black contestant and winner of the Miss Eastern West Virginia beauty pageant. Hunter moved back to her native Mingo County after a few years in Connecticut. She taught at Lenore High School before becoming the county’s first female high school principal, at Matewan High. She was then principal at Birch High for 14 years, retiring in 2003. Hunter remains active in her community: tutoring at a youth center in Williamson, serving on Southern Community and Technical College’s Board of Governors, and presiding over Action in Mingo, a group that organizes the county’s King Coal Festival and the Great White Way holiday event, among other happenings.


Jefferson County saw a record-breaking number of tourists in 2016—20 percent more than the year before. This is thanks in part to the leadership of Annette Gavin, CEO of the Jefferson County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Gavin—who has been involved in the tourism industry for 23 years, having worked at Hilltop House Hotel and the Inn at Charles Town—is a masterful marketer and consensus builder. In 2016, she helped to successfully lobby state lawmakers for the passage of the so-called “brunch bill,” which relaxed regulations on Sunday alcohol sales. “Annette is the face of tourism in Jefferson County,” says Christian Asam, president of the Jefferson County CVB board. “She shares our story passionately with visitors, business leaders, and legislators alike. Most amazingly, Annette’s drive for the success of tourism is equaled by her compassion for the people of our community. “She truly is a wonder woman, who is making a gigantic impact not only here in the panhandle but statewide.” 88 wvl • fall 2017

If anyone understands the transformative power of education, it’s Sherri Nash. She tried college as a teenager but dropped out. “I just didn’t have the confidence.” Then, in her early 30s, she gave it another try. She worked her way through school, graduated in 1991, got a job with a career center, and quickly found herself in the center’s administration. In 2007—by which time she’d earned both master’s and doctorate degrees, raised a son, and survived a bout with breast cancer—Nash left the career center and went to work for a national accreditation agency. But she wanted to do something more for students in her home state. She joined the West Virginia Department of Education in 2011 as the executive director of career technical education. Now she’s working to reshape technical schools in West Virginia, and she’s writing a book in hopes other women will be inspired by her story. “It was the education that gave me my confidence, and it was the career success that gave me purpose.”





Ever since she was a little girl, Jen Waggener wanted to help those in need. The South Charleston native married her husband at the age of 19 and soon started having children, then moved out of state to pursue a marketing career. But sixteen years later, the Mountain State called her back home. True to her childhood desires, she began working at the Alzheimer’s Association, where she noticed an inadequate system of support for seniors in the Charleston area. So Waggener left her job to bring Faith In Action—a volunteer-based program that helps senior citizens with basic needs like getting groceries and driving to appointments—to the Kanawha Valley. “The people on your street need a helping hand every once in a while, and Faith In Action tries to recreate that good neighbor feeling,” she says.


BRITTANY JAVINS When Mindy Walls saw in the early 2000s that many of her design students at West Virginia University wanted to start businesses, she created an entrepreneurship minor in the business college. Later, as director of the Entrepreneurship Center, she took the fledgling WVU-only annual student business plan competition to colleges statewide. Now, as WVU assistant vice president for entrepreneurship and innovation, she’s infusing a pyramidal approach to innovation throughout the university. “We introduce as many students as possible to the innovator mindset,” she says—the base of the pyramid. “At the second level, we’re teaching students to see problems as opportunities rather than obstacles and to solve them creatively—a skill that’s important for everyone. And that may or may not lead to the top level, which is starting a venture: a business, a social enterprise, a nonprofit.” Seeing entrepreneurship as one possible outcome of problem-solving, it’s easy to understand Walls’ view that the number of business starts isn’t necessarily the best way to assess entrepreneurship education. Even so, the university’s growing innovation ecosystem is bearing fruit in start-ups. “We recognize how important innovation is for the prosperity of West Virginia,” she says, “and what a key driver WVU needs to be in that.”

Brittany Javins was spreading herself too thin. She was teaching middle school English and private ballet lessons, running an afterschool dance program, and performing with local dance companies. “I started to think, was there something that could tie it all together?” She stumbled on an arts administration master’s program in Florida. “It never occurred to me that working on the business side of the arts was something I could do or was needed.” When it came time for her internship, she came home to work with FestivAll, Charleston’s popular two-week summer arts festival. Soon FestivAll became the focus of every class project and case study Javins completed. After graduation, she got a job with the festival and, in 2015, she became co-director. Javins, who took over as executive director in 2016, hopes to continue expanding FestivAll by getting more people involved and bringing in fresh, new events. “It’s not just business. I’m excited now to start to take risks, artistically.”


Lifelong Weirton resident Catherine Ferrari got a job with the Hancock County Savings Bank after high school. She began as a teller before being promoted to teller supervisor, then branch manager. The promotions continued. She became a vice president, then senior vice president, then executive vice president. Now, she’s president of the bank. Working her way through the ranks gave her an expertise few other bank presidents possess. “You don’t have to be the expert, but you have to ask the right questions,” she says. Ferrari says community banks like hers are important because they understand and adapt to needs of the people they serve. She still gets notes from people she helped 30 years ago, and still loves being able to help families rebuild their credit or purchase their own homes. “I work for a company that has the same values as I do. I like to come to work. That says something.” wvliving.com 89



Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Elise Bowling watched friends sign up for the military and get shipped off to Afghanistan and Iraq. She wanted to find a way to support them, so she began writing letters—first to her friends, and then to friends of friends who weren’t getting much mail. Bowling then began volunteering with troop support organizations, putting together care packages for service members from all over the country. She wondered if there was an organization that catered especially to Southern West Virginia troops, but couldn’t find any. “Somebody told me long ago, if you see something that needs to be done, you’re probably the one who needs to do it.” She launched Drive for the Deployed in 2015 with her church, Immanuel Lutheran in Bluefield. Thanks to generous donations and a dedicated squad of volunteers, the group expects to send 3,000 care packages this year. “I am so pleased where it is right now. But I’d love to see it become a huge organization like the big ones that crank out 10,000 mailings a year.” 90 wvl • fall 2017


When a poll of high school students shows they don’t get flu shots because they believe doctors just give the shots to make money, that’s valuable information from a public health perspective. But say the poll was conducted by disadvantaged high school students. Say those students get to explain to their classmates that doctors make money from sickness, not from prevention, and tell them where to get free flu shots. And say more of their classmates decide to get shots—helping them stay in school and saving their families the cost of doctors’ visits. Now something transfor transformational is happening: Those student researchers start to see themselves in health care careers. They also become advocates for public health in their own communities. This is just one of many research projects conducted by students enrolled in Ann Chester’s Health Sciences & Technology Academy (HSTA), based at West Virginia University. Working with WVU’s Health Careers Opportunity Program in the late 1980s, Chester saw that the students HCOP aimed to support—college students from underprivileged backgrounds in West Virginia—weren’t applying. “They’d decided long ago, ‘There’s not anybody there that looks like me or sounds like me. Why would I go there?’” she says. She started HSTA in 1994 to encourage students at an earlier age. Today, 80 volunteer HSTA mentors work with hundreds of high school students across the state. Participants are diverse, with a higher proportion of young women, first-generation college-goers, financially disadvantaged students, and students of color than the state’s health care professions have had in the past. More than 2,400 students have completed the program, and more than 90 percent of them earn college degrees—and then, 85 percent stay in West Virginia to work. Chester sees the difference today she set out to make in the HCOP program. “Now our applications are full of HSTA students trying to get into medical, dental, and pharmacy programs. It’s just so much fun.”


Susan Jack was leaving West Virginia—just five more days of work and she and her family were moving to Dayton, Ohio. Then the floods came. In late June 2016, floodwaters ripped through Southern West Virginia, including Jack’s hometown of Elkview. Her plans instantly changed. Jack threw herself into full-time relief work. A natural leader with lots of contacts in the community, she took charge and began coordinating the swarms of volunteers who poured into town. “I became a dispatcher-slash-project managerslash-coordinator.” She worked as a volunteer for 10 months, living off her savings, before becoming executive director of the Greater Kanawha Long-Term Recovery Committee in March 2017. It’s exhausting, nearly round-the-clock work— some families and businesses haven’t even started rebuilding. But Jack is as energized as ever. “Bottom line, I just felt it was the right thing to do. I would have felt like I was bailing if I had left.”


Gretchen joined WBOY in Clarksburg as an anchor in 2013 where her fresh smile and lively reporting on economic development, health, and education have made her a favorite with viewers. As a volunteer with Bridgeport Junior Woman’s Club, Ross was named 2017 Junior of the Year for her work with the Harrison County Backpack Program. Ross is often seen on-stage, most recently playing roles in M.T. Pockets Theatre of Morgantown’s spring 2017 production of Steel Magnolias and in Vintage Theatre Company of Clarksburg’s summer 2017 production of The Merry Wives of Windsor Windsor.



Lisa Melcher lost her daughter and son-in-law to overdoses. Tara Mason’s ex-boyfriend went to jail over drug-related charges. Kristie Plotner’s daughter and Tina Stride’s son both struggle with opioid addictions. The women met one another in a support group for families affected by addiction. As they worked through their pain, they hit on an idea. “We’ve got to be the new dealers,” Melcher said. “The dealers of hope.” The Hope Dealer Project was born. Those needing help reach out via the group’s toll-free number, Facebook page, or word of mouth. Then the Hope Dealers spring into action to find the treatment program best suited to each client’s addiction and personal needs. Once they’ve located an open spot, one of the women transports the client in her personal vehicle, often driving through the night. The Martinsburg-based group became an official nonprofit in 2016 and still mostly operates as a four-woman operation. It’s heartbreaking work, but they’re as committed as ever. “We’re not doing this for praise. We’re doing this to get the addicts into recovery,” Stride says.


In July 2017, Buffalo swore in a town council completely comprised of women—the first town in West Virginia history to do so. The five-member council includes two incumbent members, Barbara Reed and Leah Higginbotham, as well as three newcomers, Jenny Buck-Leighton, Billy Whittington, and Alisa Scott. Council members say they are focused on attracting new businesses and making their community a better place to live. wvliving.com 91



In her senior year of college, Nellie Rose Davis realized she’d lost her joy. The child of two textile artists, Davis spent her youth behind a sewing machine but had since stepped away from art. So she went to Japan to study traditional silk art, then moved to Virginia to work in her mother’s studio. Davis was selling her Shibori scarves at a fair in Charleston when a woman suggested she sign up for one of the Tamarack Foundation’s artisan support programs. Davis applied, got accepted, and moved home to Elkins to set up shop. She later relocated to the Lamplight Gallery in Thomas, adding a retail side to her business. Nellie Rose Textiles has now expanded to include clothing made from hand-painted raw silk. “It’s been a dream of mine to dress bodies,” Davis says. “It’s really important to me that women feel good. Because when they feel good, they do really amazing, powerful things.” 92 wvl • fall 2017


Girls Night Out is a celebration of the power of women. In 1998, a group of women came together under the leadership of Sandy Graff and Elsie Carter to create Girls Night Out—“a party with a purpose”—to raise money to help the Charleston-based YWCA Resolve Family Abuse Program. Nineteen years later, GNO has raised more than $1 million for YWCA Resolve. The event has become a much-anticipated summer event, at attracting more than 2,000 women each year, and was named a Southeast Tourism Society “Top 20 Event” for August 2017. And it still abides by its original mission, expressed in the tagline: “Women helping women with power, passion, and purpose by raising funds and awareness to eliminate domestic violence.”


Fairmont native Judie Charlton went into ophthalmology because of the big difference improved vision makes in a person’s life. She also liked the idea of taking care of her patients in both the clinic and the operating room. She specialized in glaucoma to address unmet needs across West Virginia, and she rose to chair WVU’s Department of Ophthalmology and lead the WVU Eye Institute. In 2011, Charlton was appointed Chief Medical Officer for WVU Healthcare. She makes sure all departments have the capacity to meet patient needs in a reasonable time frame. “What’s most meaningful for me are seeing the sudden and dramatic positive impact we’re having on health disparities in West Virginia,” she says, “and seeing the graduates of our educational program become tomorrow’s health care providers.” She still gets to do a little ophthalmology—a group of donors recognized the value of her monthly glaucoma outreach clinic in Gilbert, West Virginia by creating the endowed chair she now holds: the Judie F. Charlton Chair for Glaucoma Outreach.


Phoebe Randolph is an architect by profession, but she is leaving her mark on more than just buildings. As a principal at Edward Tucker Architects in Huntington, she was part of the team that worked on Huntington’s award-winning efforts in the America’s Best Communities competition. In 2006, she helped found Create Huntington, and she served as the organization’s first board president. “We wanted to combat toxic and defeatist attitudes and challenge everyone to get involved in the community and do something instead of criticize and complain,” she says. She also founded the Livable Communities Committee for West Virginia’s chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), which provides free urban planning advice to cities in the state. And, in addition to serving on several boards including the Huntington Museum of Art and United Way of the River Cities, in 2016 she became the first female president of AIA West Virginia.



When Alyson Hehr was born, her lungs didn’t work like they should, so she spent nearly a week in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown. She grew up hearing that story, eventually realizing families were living their own version every day. So Hehr, her parents, and her brother began putting together care packages for families with children in Ruby Memorial’s NICU. Seven years later, what started as a small service project is now a full-fledged nonprofit organization: Alyson’s Angels. The Hehrs have delivered nearly 1,000 care packages to the hospital. Each one is filled with snacks, gas cards, and basic hygiene products like toothpaste, shampoo, and soap. Many of the items are donated by the public, but the Wheeling family also holds annual fundraisers to purchase the rest—usually raising a few thousand dollars each time. “The most rewarding part is seeing how involved the community gets,” Hehr says.


In March of this year, Governor Jim Justice appointed Loita Butcher as acting commissioner of the state Division of Corrections—making her the first woman to hold that post. It’s a job she worked hard to earn. After high school, Butcher went to work at a small law firm before joining the Clay County Prosecutor’s Office. She then went to work for the state Attorney General’s Office, serving in the Division of Corrections, which turned into a job with the division proper. She was hired as executive assistant to the then-commissioner, worked her way up to the commissioner’s chief of staff and then assistant commissioner before taking her current position. She hopes her success serves as inspiration. “Hopefully it sets the tone for career advancement of other females in the state,” she says. “I would love to see more females named in these higher-level roles.”

KARA DENSE When tragedy strikes, leaders step up. And when Greenbrier County was devastated by the floods of June 2016, Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Kara Dense did just that. Horrific images of houses floating down the river and of The Greenbrier’s premier golf course under water made national news, scaring tourists away. “After the initial shock, we realized that it was going to have a significant impact on our economy—particularly tourism, which is the largest employer in the county,” Dense says. She negotiated an agreement with county commissioners to provide funds to launch an aggressive media campaign, considered by many to have been instrumental in drawing tourists back. Dense has also held a leadership role for the past eight years in the West Virginia Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus, was recently appointed to the West Virginia Tourism Commission, and serves on the boards of the Lewisburg Rotary Club and the Greenbrier Valley Theatre. wvliving.com 93



When Dr. Jillean Justice graduated from Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2012, she had no idea that, in addition to working as a physician, she would soon become the first female and youngest-ever president of West Virginia’s crown jewel, The Greenbrier. But that’s exactly what happened when her father, Jim Justice, was elected governor in 2016 and had to step away from his family businesses. Justice wears many hats in her new position. When she’s not seeing patients at Greenbrier Care—many of whom are employees and their families—she’s managing food and beverage budgets, dealing with engineering problems, overseeing entertainment and recreation, and evaluating retail numbers. “For me, it’s all about the employees,” Justice says. “We are a tight community. The employees have taught me more about the hotel than our seasoned managers. I’m constantly learning, but I have a lot of people around me who I depend on.” The responsibility of running the state’s premier resort—and managing its 2,000-member staff—is not lost on Justice. “The Greenbrier needs to be successful for the employees, their children, and our state. I take that responsibility very seriously. You want to do well for everyone who works here.” 94 wvl • fall 2017

Jo Statler’s mother, Bonnie Wells Wilson, died of breast cancer in 1992, partially because she lived in a rural community with no access to screening mammography. That’s why Jo and her husband Ben made a donation to the WVU Cancer Institute to help launch Bonnie’s Bus, a mobile mammography unit that travels across West Virginia to make sure all women have access to life-saving cancer screenings. No one age 40 or over is ever turned away. The bus provides screenings for women with private insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare, along with uninsured women through the West Virginia Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program. Since hitting the road in 2009, Bonnie’s Bus has provided more than 13,000 mammograms all over West Virginia, detecting dozens of cases of breast cancer that might not have been diagnosed until it was too late.


84 Agency is a media production company and public relations firm created by Lewisburg native Jen Susman and Carling McManus of Boston, Massachusetts. Susman attended Marshall University and the University of Toledo, where she majored in art. She then went to graduate school at the San Francisco Art Institute, where she met McManus, who was pursuing a career in media and film after attending graphic design school. The two started combining their talents on projects and, in 2012, Susman and McManus moved to Charleston and opened their agency. The company specializes in using videos and photography tell its customers’ stories. Underlying their work is a commitment to making their adoptive hometown a better place. “Our interest is in improving our community and working with nonprofits through media production and art,” says McManus. The couple married in summer 2016 and enjoy spending time outdoors in the state’s natural playground.




Katie Fallon’s first word—“bird”—told of things to come. Fallon worked in a pet shop as an undergraduate at Penn State in the 1990s, where she hand-raised parrot chicks. As a graduate student in creative writing at West Virginia University in the early 2000s, she started writing about vultures, without a clear goal at the time. Instead, she wrote 2011’s Cerulean Blues about the decline of the cerulean warbler, a finalist for the prestigious Reed Environmental Writing Award. Fallon is now an English instructor at WVU. Her fascination with birds has become a labor of love: she, her veterinarian husband, and a couple of friends started the nonprofit Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia in 2012 to care for injured birds, conduct educational programs, and do research. Her earlier writings became Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird; that book and her first children’s book, Look, See the Bird!, were released in 2017.

Frances Benjamin Johnston was born in Grafton just one year after West Virginia became a state. As a young woman, she studied drawing and painting at the Académie Julian in Paris, France, before returning to the States and setting up her own photography studio in Washington, D.C. in 1894. Johnston became one of the first female press photographers in the country, training her lens on some of the most important events and people of her day. Her subjects included Susan B. Anthony, President William McKinley, Booker T. Washington, the Tuskegee Institute, the White House during Spanish-American War, and, after gaining special permission from Teddy Roosevelt, the U.S.S. Olympia following the Battle of Manila Bay. Her photography career spanned 60 years, during which time she also documented contemporary architecture and conducted a survey of historic buildings across the South. She died in 1952 at the age of 88.


When Beth Walker took the bench with the state Supreme Court of Appeals earlier this year, West Virginia became one of only 11 states with more women than men on their high courts. It’s fitting that Walker would be part of that history, since the Ohio native has dedicated her entire legal career to the Mountain State and its people, first at Bowles Rice in Charleston and then with West Virginia University Hospital System in Morgantown. Now she’s doing her most important work yet. It’s a big adjustment, she says, but she’s enjoying the challenge. “I work with some really incredible people. It really is a collegial environment, even though we disagree on things.” She hopes her election will encourage other women to seek public office. “I would encourage anyone who thinks they can make a difference to try.” wvliving.com 95

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