Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 23, 2014

Plenty to do in Mercer County, but new businesses would be welcomed


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — First, I want to congratulate Marie Blackwell of the Mercer County Convention & Visitors Bureau for becoming the Princeton-Mercer County Chamber’s Citizen of the Year. I know that both she and her staff work hard to promote Mercer County to people outside the region.

I recently attended a convention and visitors center board meeting and heard about the many things you can do in Mercer County. We have assets such as Camp Creek State Park and Pinnacle Rock State Park, the historic homes of Bramwell, and now the Pocahontas Trail, the new branch of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail. Neighboring Tazewell County, Va., and McDowell County have attractions and developments of their own.

Of course, I keep hearing people complain that “there’s nothing to do around here.” I heard that very phrase in the newsroom when I fished around for a column idea. Naturally, I countered with my own question. What do you want to see around here?

Lifestyles Editor Jamie Null said she wanted to see more coffeehouses in the area, especially ones with extended hours. Coffeehouses connected with bookstores are even better, and I have to admit that I like that idea, too. I’ve seen those sorts of stores in towns along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and they’re pretty enjoyable. The used bookstores let me add some new titles to my Sherlock Holmes collection.

Assistant Managing Editor Charles Owens said he would like to see a Barnes & Noble. Those stores offer coffee and pastries, so I guess one of those would be in the bookstores plus coffeehouse category. I wouldn’t mind seeing one of those stores, too. Next time I visit my sister’s family in Charlotte, I’ll try to pop in the store there.

Editor Samantha Perry summed her wish list up in one word, Macy’s. New reporter Anne Elgin chimed in and said she would like to see a Target store, too. Anne added that she would like to see an outlet mall as well. I guess these wishes fall into the shopping as recreation category.

Jamie then said she would like to see more businesses with longer hours. She finds that stores she would like to visit tend to be closed when she leaves work.

I’ve found myself in a similar situation years ago. I was working for a weekly newspaper in Montgomery, W.Va. There were plenty of stores and I often ate breakfast and lunch at the local restaurants. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do much more shopping because many of the stores closed at 5 p.m. I usually left the office at 5 p.m. or later, so that was a problem for me. I pointed that out to local merchants whenever they asked why they didn’t see me.

Then Samantha, Jamie and Anne said they would like to see more restaurants with outdoor seating; especially if they were dog friendly. I immediately pictured Samantha taking her Neapolitan Mastiff, Pugsley, out for coffee and a snack; he weighs almost 200 pounds. I also pictured little problems like overturned tables and cappuccinos topped with slobber, but maybe the restaurant could bolt down its tables and have extra-large umbrellas.

I’m pretty content with the stores and attractions we have in the region, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more. A coffeehouse and bookstore combination would be great, and I’d like to see more antique shops. I visit the ones here when I have time, and I’ve found furniture and books worth buying. I sometimes visit the big antique malls near Wytheville, Va., and seeing more of those around our area would be a welcome development.

Writing a wish list is a good idea because it gives entrepreneurs a good idea of what would fly in this region. Jeffrey Lusk, of the Hatfield-McCoy Recreational Authority, has repeated said that Mercer County’s Pocahontas Trail and new ones like the Warrior Trail slated for McDowell County need more lodging, restaurants and other  businesses if they are to realize their full economic potential.

I’m sure ATV riders would like more restaurants with outdoor seating and coffeehouses with bookstores. Not all members of visiting families hit the trails, so antique stores, antique malls and outlet malls would offer things for them to do while their loved ones ride their ATVs.

I’ll try to visit more of our local restaurants and stores, but there is always room for new additions. The more we have to do around here, the less we will hear the phrase “there’s nothing to do around here.” What people wished to see around the region could inspire entrepreneurs to create new businesses catering to ATV visitors and local people alike. I wonder what other things to do are floating around out there.

Greg Jordan is senior reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at gjordan@bdtonline.com.