Jackson County organizations among ‘Best of West Virginia’ nominees
If you asked someone in Jackson County where to get the best of West Virginia, the answer would be simple.
“It’s right here,” they said.
When the folks at West Virginia Living magazine asked for nominations for their annual “Best of West Virginia” competition, many finalists ended up coming from Jackson County. Some of them have participated in the competition in previous years. Some are newcomers. One of the local competitors has only been in business for a few months, another for a little over a year, but rumors have spread about their specialties.
What is the story behind these nominees? Why do they think they are different from others in their categories? Why should they be considered by those who go online to vote?
The seven nominees who answered these questions agree on one thing. It is a real honor to be nominated.
“This appointment means the world to me and my family,” said Justin Johnson of Hot Johnson. “I think there is a comfort in nostalgia and the food does it for me.”
The support and pride that the community has invested in these businesses has sparked optimism.
“It gives me hope that we will be in business for a long time,” said Shari Leavitt, owner of WV Artisan Market. “It makes me cry when I think of all the encouragement this county has given me. Getting this nomination is beyond belief. “
So who are the Jackson County nominees and what makes them special?
Best Hot Dog – Hot Johnson’s
Johnson said his restaurant’s appeal isn’t just the hot dog. It’s the love he and his father, Jess, have for food and making people happy. Growing up, Johnson said his favorite hot dogs were Skeenies and The Big R.
“I’ve tried to pay homage in a way, to mimic good taste, but these are definitely unique to Hot Johnson’s,” he said. “My dad’s recipe is for chili and I improved my mom’s coleslaw, in my opinion.”
A vote for Hot Johnson’s is for the food but also for perseverance.
“Our food represents not only a great hot dog, but also a life on our terms and serving our customers in the best possible way,” Johnson said.
Best Gift Shop – WV Artisan Market
This unique boutique offers a gathering place, as well as a chance to purchase handmade items.
“We’re not really competing with other stores,” Leavitt said. “My objective was to offer a place of relaxation to the artisans of the region to present their beautiful work. It’s something you really don’t see unless you go to a place like Tamarack.
Always looking for ways to grow, Leavitt now offers lunch and various courses taught by artisans.
“We have 100 artists represented at the moment,” she said. “Just when I think we’re full, someone comes up with something that we just can’t refuse. I like being able to present these talented people.
Best Law Firm – Adams, Fisher & Chappell
To be the best, you need the best. That’s exactly what Ceason Ranson, associate attorney at Adams, Fisher & Chappell, says this company has in Rob Fisher and Leah Chappell.
“No one knows real estate better than Rob Fisher, a man who has a memory and a skill with details that amaze me,” said Ranson. “With Leah, you get an expert in family law which is one of the most difficult areas of practice. She captures all the nuances and manages all the emotions with coolness and professionalism.
To be chosen as the best law firm, Ranson said, would recognize a firm founded on home, family and community.
“We are there for our customers for whatever life brings them,” she said. “Our support staff, our passion for the law, our willingness to go above and beyond in everything we do are all things that set us apart.”
Best Local Flower Shop – Evergreen Florist & Christian Supply
Evergreen Florist is the result of three generations perpetuating a family tradition. As Rhonda McCutcheon says, “The face and location of the building may have changed over the years, but the focus has remained on God, family, and service to others. “
Being a small town business allows for a close relationship with customers and suppliers.
“Our customers visit us during lunch, bring us treats during busy times, and join us for fun activities,” said McCutcheon. “We know our suppliers by name and recognize how important they are to our success. “
This success means there is no job too big or too small for the hometown florist.
“We are motivated by what our flowers and gifts can do for others,” she said. “A Vote for Us recognizes the love, hard work and role model that exemplifies West Virginia. It is truly a lesson in humility to be nominated.
Best Local Furniture Store (Bricks and Mortar) – Vail Furniture
Those who operate Vail Furniture today say the store’s success reflects that in some ways it never changes.
Dave Lowry says, “This store is 177 years old and we still run it the old fashioned way. We believe in helping our customers, not just trying to make a sale. We even have free delivery locally when most stores charge.
One thing that changes is the inventory. Everything from grandfather clocks and dining sets to beds and mattresses can be found in the store which still belongs to the descendant family of the founder, Isiah Vail.
“We were here before West Virginia became a state,” Shali Casto said. “We continually strive for good quality furniture at affordable prices, while doing our own repairs and customer service in-house. We truly believe this appointment is a result of our commitment to service and quality and the wonderful support we have received from people in this region and across the state. “
Best Festival / Fair Event – Mountain State Arts & Crafts Fair
Not many people know that the Mountain State Art & Craft Fair was meant to be a one-time event to showcase West Virginia’s centennial. It was such a success that it is now in its 60th year.
“This fair is historically recognized as the state’s premier juried arts and crafts fair,” said Debra Gard, festival co-chair. “Being a trendsetter has become one of the hallmarks of this craft fair.
Unlike most other festivals, each artisan must demonstrate and share how each work of art, dance, music or food product is created. The possibility for festival-goers to create a work of art is made possible through hands-on interactive programs.
“The sound of Appalachian music, the smell of homemade bread, the laughter and joy of family and friends sharing a moment together while celebrating our heritage are priceless,” said Gard. “A vote for the Mountain State Art & Craft Festival is truly a vote for everyone who put their heart and soul into this event. “
Best Mayor – Carolyn Rader
For many, Ripley’s face is his mayor, Carolyn Rader. For Rader, Ripley’s face is his people.
“For me the only reason I was nominated for this award is because of the citizens of Ripley,” she said. “They’re the ones who make this place special, not me. “
While the post of mayor comes with many responsibilities, Rader says it’s never a chore to come to work. But she says she knows she was elected a public servant and that she takes her job very seriously.
“I can communicate with all types of people, businesses and agencies who really care about getting things done,” she said. “And the staff I have are unbeatable and neither can our city council. They all care deeply about this city.
Rader thinks it’s important for her to be visible, active, and aware of everything that’s going on at Ripley. Anyone who has seen this mayor painting curbs, mowing the grass, directing traffic when necessary, and making emergency calls with her “town guys” will not doubt that she serves that purpose.
“I have something that will be a moment of great pride for me,” said Mayor Rader. “When the current lagoons are great sports grounds for our young people and our new sewage plant is up and running (it will be) a big day for the town of Ripley.”
Other nominees from the region for the Best of West Virginia competition are Appalachian Distillery (Best Distillery), Ravenswood Inn Bed & Breakfast (Best Bed & Breakfast / Inn), Sold Sisters Realty (Best Real Estate Agency), I Scream Sundae (Best Ice Cream Shop) and Fairplain Yacht Club (Best Local Waterer, Best Brunch, Best Burger, Best Sandwich, and Best Wings).
Online voting will take place from September 13 to October 13. 3. To vote, visit www.wvliving.com or visit WV Living Magazine on Facebook.