Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Trend-Setters in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

This article appeared in part in "The Journal" of Martinsburg, WV on Sunday June 5, 2011, page D5

Trend-setters.  They can make a business or break it.  They have been targeted in stealth marketing campaigns, researched as a phenomenon by the likes of Malcolm Gladwell and Duncan Watts, and aspired to by rising generations including the Boomers, the X-ers, and the Y Generation.  They have been labeled revolutionaries, influencials, and Indies, to name a few.  They are, perhaps by their own design, misunderstood, evaluated, criticized, and imitated.  But it is their creativity, their imagination, and their innovative ideas that have brought to fruition realizations such as harnessed electricity, democracy, Sputnik, and the Internet.

Trendsetters are not typically found at a run of the mill operation, but are more often part of the fray, making up an aspect of the fabric that gives its essence beauty and life.  Trendsetters define contemporary, establish fashion, and personify the arts.  They are the earliest of adopters, but the first to move on to explore new ideas.  A diverse and interesting business community will offer havens for trendsetters to mingle, to explore their creativity, and to garner strength for their ideas from the creativity of those around them.  Such havens can be found in places like Soho, the French Quarter, and Niagara on the Lake.

I spent some time this weekend at just such a haven right here in our own backyard. A place that distinguishes itself as being one of the only towns in the country that can boast more massage therapists than lawyers, it is a place where our founding mothers and fathers used to get away for a few days so that they could relax in bath houses and take advantage of fresh spring waters.  The rural setting, small town feel, live sidewalk music, and small boutiques and cafes set the stage for a relaxing and enjoyable experience.  An emphasis in art, healing, and history is evident.  The local ice cream shop becomes a social gathering for those who want to escape the heat and, if you want to catch the newest flick, you can do so at one of the country’s last surviving downtown cinemas.  It is our very own Berkeley Springs, and it is a thriving and fundamental component to the greater Panhandle’s business community.

If you know anything about Berkeley Springs, you know that its voice is often expressed by the one and only Jeanne Mozier.  Mozier, author, business owner, self-proclaimed “popcorn empress” at the Star Theater, and a Cornell grad no less, is herself a trendsetter, and one who thrives in the atmosphere that makes up Berkeley Springs.  She describes her town as having a dynamic leadership and attributes that to the support that comes from being a creative person in the Berkeley Springs community.  She explains the common thread that binds its business members’ collective vision.  “The notion that Berkeley Springs is itself a brand and that everyone does their part in their own unique way to contribute to that brand is what makes Berkeley Springs,” says Mozier. “People feel that connection. And when we feel it as part of the business community, people feel it when they come.  So when people come to visit, they want to come back and often will eventually stay.”

Mozier goes on to say that “one of the things that makes Berkeley Springs unique is that historically there has always been a flow of outside energy such as the founding fathers and industrialists who came to build their summer cottages and who brought electricity to town.”  The attraction to outsiders is still at play, as Mozier explains that “this in-migration of creative people now make up the people who are retiring here and starting their own businesses and doing their own kinds of interesting things.” She explains how this constant influx of new people creates a business culture where things don’t get stuck in an entrenched power structure, but instead allows creative change and rejects the notion that things should always be done the same old way.

A nice getaway location, yes, but Berkeley Springs isn’t so out of the way that it’s not attractive to new business development.  “We’ve done such a good job at selling Berkeley Springs as a weekend getaway that people forget how close it really is to places like Frederick and Baltimore,” says Bill Clark, Executive Director of the Morgan County Development Authority. “We have access to big population centers even though we’re in a more rural setting.”  Examples of businesses that have found a home in Berkeley Springs include places like US Silica, as well as Caperton Furniture Works, a unique and growing online furniture distributer.  Additionally, Washington Homeopathic Products, the second largest homeopathic manufacturer in the nation, is headquartered in Berkeley Springs.  

Mountain View Solar and Mock’s Greenhouses are also headquartered there, two of the area’s most rapidly growing businesses that are attracting attention from the State and other businesses up the East Coast.  Berkeley Springs Water Works and Berkeley Springs Instruments are also important pieces to the business landscape there.  Bob Margraff, a resident Business Executive and Consultant in Berkeley Springs, is pleased with the support that the Development Authority provides to new and growing businesses in the region. “They work hard to assist area business and support an environment in which companies like these can develop,” says Margraff,  “the Development Authority will assist in finding investment resources and will stay involved with smaller businesses to be sure they can grow.”

Smaller businesses in Berkeley Springs that make up the town’s eclectic culture include those like Ridersville Cycle, the Lion’s Lair, Tari’s Cafe, Nature Niche, and Temptations Too Bakery.  There are seven spas in Berkeley Springs, including the nation’s first spa and the historic bath of President George Washington.  It’s the home to beautiful Cacapon State Park and a dozen or so bed and breakfast destinations.  Mozier shares that the town has a very active and very inclusive Chamber of Commerce, an engaged Development Authority, and a thriving Convention and Visitors Bureau that identifies itself as Travel Berkeley Springs.  These groups work closely together to ensure that local business has the support that it needs.  The Morgan Arts Council is also a valuable resource to artisans and shop owners who make a living selling unique and interesting art to weekend tourists.  All of this and more is what makes Berkeley Springs the perfect backyard escape where people from all over the Panhandle and beyond can take their friends and out-of-town visitors to show off our area.

So how can area business leaders become a part of the trendsetting culture in places like Berkeley Springs?  Mozier offers this final word of advice, “What you do needs to be authentic.  This town exists by virtue of legislation that incorporated the vision into its establishment, which is to encourage and build housing and support for those persons who came to take advantage of the waters for their health. Know what is authentic in your area and how you can use that resource to expand your own business.”  And with that, you’ve got the secret of the trendsetter.  Looking forward to seeing you about town.

No comments:

Post a Comment