Marlinton to lose another Main Street business
When Marlinton rings in the new year, it will say goodbye to another Main Street business.
On December 24, Main Street Music and Fitness will become the second business on the town's main thoroughfare to close within two months. French's Diner, which served hungry customers for 60 years, closed on November 28.
Main Street Music will reopen January 3-17 to sell off inventory.
Bill Harold, of Frost, opened the music store in November 2005. In January 2007, he added a fitness center in the back of the store, complete with a shower and changing rooms. Harold cited weak music sales, lagging fitness memberships and high utility costs as reasons for closing. After an initial enrollment of about 100 members, the number of regular customers leveled off at about 30.
Harold said downtown Marlinton lacks sufficient retail businesses.
"We don't have enough retail businesses," he said. "We have too many offices and things like that. After we lost Dollar General down here, we basically lost our foot traffic. Dollar General even brought tourists down here because they'd come into town to buy their paper plates and toilet paper and whatever. Now, they're going up on [Route] 219 and doing it. Basically, I think what is killing downtown Marlinton is the lack of retail businesses."
The gym has been popular with a small but loyal group of customers, who socialize as well as workout at the little gym and store.
The fitness enthusiasts received some good news last week. After a visit to the gym for an inspection, the Pocahontas County Parks and Recreation board voted to purchase the extensive collection of fitness equipment for the planned community wellness center.
Construction of the $3 million wellness center, to be located next to Marlinton Elementary School, is expected to begin in the spring.
The equipment, including free weights, benches, universal machines, Nautilus machines, treadmills, lockers and assorted other exercise equipment, would cost nearly $50,000 if purchased new. Harold agreed to sell the entire inventory to Parks and Rec for $15,000.
The store owner said a proposal for Parks and Rec to lease the building and operate the gym at its current location, until the wellness center is complete, had been discussed.
Marlinton Mayor Dennis Driscoll said he was disappointed to see the gym close, but that he's working to get new businesses in town.
"It's very difficult to keep businesses going in this economy, no matter where we are - downtown Marlinton or anyplace else," he said. "At the present time, I'm working on two projects - both involving what will be empty buildings and, hopefully, filling one within two months. With the gym, I have a few leads of people who might be interested and we'll see what happens. That has to be between the owner and them, I just try and get them together.
"Buy, rent, lease - whatever I can do to get people together, as we have done with The Pocahontas Times building, with Darren Jackson and at Snowshoe [Career Center]. These were all projects that came about because of the involvement of the mayor."
Driscoll said increased tourism is a bright spot for the local economy.
"We're getting a lot more tourist traffic than we were before," he said. "Unfortunately, we don't get a lot of direct money out of it. The direct money we get out of it is bed and breakfast money - the hotel/motel tax - and we don't have that much right here in town.
"In talking to the people at tourism, I think we're seeing a lot more day-trippers. They're coming and skiing and not staying. They're coming and visiting and not staying. In the past, they stayed two or three nights to see some of the different things, but last year was more of the day-trippers. Hopefully, this year it will start to go in the opposite direction."
Hotel/motel tax collection for this year is on pace to meet last year's total of $1,309,202. The county assessor's office reported hotel/motel tax revenue so far this year of $905,471, with part of November and all of December unreported. Hotel/motel tax collection greatly increases during the winter months, thanks to the Snowshoe resorts. In January 2010, during peak ski season, $310,447 was collected. In October 2010, a non-skiing month, $25,470 was collected.