The real estate market is expected to do very well in 2021, with mortgage rates that are hovering at historic lows and forecasted by experts to remain favorable throughout the year. One challenge to the housing industry, however, is the lack of homes available for sale today. Last week, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released their Existing Home Sales Report, which shows that the inventory of homes for sale is currently at an all-time low. The report explains:
“Total housing inventory at the end of December totaled 1.07 million units, down 16.4% from November and down 23% from one year ago (1.39 million). Unsold inventory sits at an all-time low 1.9-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 2.3 months in November and down from the 3.0-month figure recorded in December 2019. NAR first began tracking the single-family home supply in 1982.”
(See graph below):
What Does This Mean for You?
If You’re a Buyer:
Be patient during your home search. It may take time to find a home you love. Once you do, however, be ready to move forward quickly. Get pre-approved for a mortgage, be prepared to make a competitive offer from the start, and know that a shortage in inventory could mean you’ll enter a bidding war. Calculate just how far you’re willing to go to secure a home and lean on your real estate professional as an expert guide along the way. The good news is, more inventory is likely headed to the market soon, Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR, notes:
“To their credit, homebuilders and construction companies have increased efforts to build, with housing starts hitting an annual rate of near 1.7 million in December, with more focus on single-family homes…However, it will take vigorous new home construction in 2021 and in 2022 to adequately furnish the market to properly meet the demand.”
If You’re a Seller:
Realize that, in some ways, you’re in the driver’s seat. When there’s a shortage of an item at the same time there’s a strong demand for it, the seller is in a good position to negotiate the best possible terms. Whether it’s the price, moving date, possible repairs, or anything else, you’ll be able to request more from a potential purchaser at a time like this – especially if you have multiple interested buyers. Don’t be unreasonable, but understand you probably have the upper hand.
The housing market will remain strong throughout 2021. Know what that means for you, whether you’re buying, selling, or doing both.
Due to changing advisories, please check local travel guidelines before visiting.
Christmas lights glistening in the snow, town squares with decorated trees, and Christmas carolers singing familiar melodies echoing through the streets. A few snowflakes falling put you in the mood for a joyous celebration. Holly jolly holiday towns that remind you of the ones you see in a Hallmark movie. These are the type of towns you find in West Virginia, where the country roads lead to home.
Let's take a look at a few of the notable towns in West Virginia where visiting feels like you’re in a Hallmark movie.
If you are considering visiting any of these Hallmark towns in 2020, please check their websites and Facebook pages to verify the events are still happening. Many plans are changing due to COVID.
West Virginia's oldest town, Romney, serves as the county seat and the town spearheading Winterfest for Christmas. Nestled in the beautiful rolling hills, Romney is rich in history, culture, and Christmas cheer. With a population of 1,707 people, everyone gets involved in the holiday celebration. Picture a charming small town, a giant tree decorated with carolers singing, and a train going by as it heads out for a breathtaking winter wonderland excursion on the Potomac River. It sure sounds like a Hallmark movie town to me.
Winterfest in Romney, this year, will include decorating the courthouse's interior and exterior, a town Christmas tree with a tree lighting ceremony, wreath and garland making, businesses holding open houses, a Santa breakfast at the local fire hall, and a Santa Parade.
The town of Romney and the entire Hampshire county business community are hosting an Elf Hunt as part of the Holly Jolly Hampshire Christmas. It seems 36 elves are lost and need to be found in various stores and businesses in the community. Before you start thinking this is a children's activity and not something the 50+ traveler would enjoy, think again. It is for all ages, and there are cash prizes.
Nearby you will find a tree decorating contest, ornament crafts, and a Hampshire county-wide house decorating contest. All along the highways, you will see giant greeting cards wishing you season's greetings.
Unfortunately, due to COVID, the North Pole Express will not be running this year.
A few miles south of Romney, you will find Augusta, which hosts the Christmas Festival of Lights. This town of 4,728 people is brimming with Christmas spirit. Everyone attending the festival lighting ceremony is welcome to enjoy coffee, hot chocolate, and cookies.
What started as a small 24 display community light show has grown to 225 displays, including a 22-foot Christmas tree.
Step into a festive fairy tale town and visit Lewisburg, population 3,831. Lewisburg pulls out all the stops as it transforms the downtown area into a winter holiday wonderland. The Magic of Christmas in Lewisburg is complete with horse-drawn carriage rides, sweet treats, and seasonal shopping.
Twinkling lights, magical decorations, and giant snowflakes line the streets.
If you are bringing little ones with you, they can take a Christmas Tale stroll through town and stop by Santa's Mailbox.
The town of Harpers Ferry is full of history. When it comes to Christmas, the entire town joins in the festivities of their Olde Tyme Christmas and Holiday Light Tour during the first two weekends in December.
Candles were put in windows starting in colonial times as a symbol of good news, a welcome for tired visitors, or when a family member was abroad. The Edison Light Company extended this practice with the advent of Christmas lights. This year, more than ever, in search of this holiday spirit, tourists will be coming to the small towns of Harpers Ferry and neighboring Bolivar to see the lights.
A map will direct tourists to see the shops and beautiful homes decorated and illuminated in the traditional holiday style. Tourists will vote for their favorites!
Visitors will feel like they are in a Victorian-era holiday season with quaintly decorated streets, shops, and inns. Wagon rides are available. Locals can be found dressed in period costumes from the 1860s. Folk music from the 19th century, extended shopping hours, and Mr. and Mrs. Claus in the town’s gazebo make Harpers Ferry a great place to spend some holiday time.
Shepherdstown invites guests to experience the past and enjoy the present during their Christmas in Historic Shepherdstown. This year things are different due to COVID; their town will still be celebrating with restaurants and shops still open to enjoy.
During a non-COVID year, Shepherdstown exemplifies the Hallmark town holiday spirit. They throw in some Civil War history, provide carriage rides, Christmas caroling around the community, a tree-lighting ceremony, and a big parade to make their celebration a Christmas tradition. While some of those things are not happening in 2020, the town will still be full of festive decorations and a touch of holiday magic.
White Sulphur Springs
With a population of 2,398 residents, White Sulphur Springs certainly qualifies as a small town with an abundance of holiday cheer and old-fashioned Christmas spirit. It is located just west of the Virginia/West Virginia border and east of Lewisburg. Community shops, angel trees, and a holiday parade down Main Street make White Sulphur Springs a charming place to visit during the holidays.
The Greenbrier Resort, located on Main Street West, is a gorgeous place to visit during the Christmas season. It offers winter sleigh rides, a weekly tree lighting ceremony, viewing Christmas lights while riding on a trolley, and other delightful events during the holidays.
Stunningly decorated, the Greenbrier provides 60 days of holiday cheer with their decorations and lights. Visitors and locals alike enjoy fun-filled activities such as the Christmas Bell Ceremony in the Cameo Ballroom, a “Reindeer” Fun Run, and a Christmas Eve Gingerbread Ball (now doesn’t that sound like it is right out of a Hallmark movie?).
The spirit of Christmas flows throughout the Greenbrier and White Sulphur Springs.
Bluefield community, a population of 9,730, turns their city park into an impressive drive-through light display. Bluefield Holiday of Lights showcases over 1.2 million lights and winter scenes. Drive through 50+ acres of Lotito City Park and enjoy the glow of holiday themes along with their Christmas Festivities.
They celebrate with a live nativity scene, music, hayrides, trolley rides, and letters to Santa’s post office.
Elkins has a population of 6,690 people. A magical town, people come from miles away to visit Elkins and ride the famous annual Polar Express train ride. Tickets are sold out for this year, but the 50+ traveler will enjoy the holiday decorations and a Christmas show. The town has a decorating contest, and everyone in the community tries to outdo the other with decorations for cash prizes. There is also Mountain Memories Christmas Dinner show at the Gandy Dancer Theatre.
During non-COVID years, a Holly Jolly Christmas Parade would take place, and other events are held.
Nearby in Mill Creek, six families joined together to create a festive display of the town of Whoville from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” The homes and yards are extravagantly adorned with decorations and lights accompanied by the sound of Christmas music. This tiny neighborhood loop turns into West Virginia’s most magical street starting Thanksgiving night.
If you are in the area, it is certainly worth a visit. To get there, travel to Mill Creek, and turn onto Back Road/Woody Simmons Drive, adjacent to the fire department and follow the road about a half-mile until you see the lights display.
Cass is a tiny Christmas town of 38 people and is considered one of the nation's most well-preserved historic towns. Founded in 1901, the town is relatively unchanged. The snowy Allegheny highlands near Snowshoe Mountain are a backdrop to this magical holiday town. The Cass Scenic Railroad State Park is a highlight and runs excursion train rides.
Cass uses simple decorations to add to its charm. Each company house is decorated with twinkling holiday lights and greens for the Christmas Season. The Last Run Restaurant and the Company Store in Cass are usually the places to be for Christmas! They hold an old-fashioned Christmas open house and holiday bazaar. A tree-lighting ceremony and a holiday square dance round out their events.
Decorated for the holidays, the village of Cass indeed resembles the front of a Hallmark card.
Berkeley Springs provides Hometown Holidays right out of a Hallmark movie. With decorated meters, a Santa’s mailbox, street lanterns, holiday photograph “selfie” stations, and more activities, everyone can find something to do in this small town’s holiday celebration.
During non-COVID years, they host a huge parade. Unfortunately, due to WV mandates, it is canceled this year.
This charming quintessential town has an abundance of small shops to spend a day in, and the people are friendly, just like in the Hallmark movies. Known for its mineral springs, there are many spas for the 50+ traveler to enjoy as they kick back and relax after a day of fun.
While Wheeling is considered a city and not a town, It draws thousands to visit to see the amazing Christmas Lights display each year at the Oglebay Resort. The spectacular Christmas lights display, The Winter Festival of Lights, was started in 1985. Since then, it has grown into one of the nation’s largest holiday light shows and has appeared on several top 10 lists of Christmas Light Displays in America.
The Winter Festival of Lights is part of a 6-mile drive through 300 acres of twinkling lights. Over 90 lighted attractions and a million LED lights create a dazzling display of holiday magic. It is a can’t-miss extravaganza when visiting the area. If you love Hallmark movies as much as we do, you will love these charming Pennsylvania towns that feel like you're in a cute Christmas movie.
This cascading stream flows into a gravel bed, not a pond, so it stays clean with little maintenance.
Create a rippling, rock-lined stream with multiple waterfalls in your backyard. Use gravel and stone filters and a heavy-duty pump to reduce maintenance and maintain water clarity.
Step 1: Overview of DIY Pondless Waterfall
We’ve all stopped, gazed and listened upon encountering a rippling brook or small backyard waterfalls—to soak up the serenity that nature provides. But where is that spot when we need it most? Since you probably can’t drive and hike to a tranquil location after a hard day’s work, you can use this project to help you recreate these all-too-fleeting moments in your backyard. And you can build your stream in two weekends.
We designed this DIY pondless waterfall stream to eliminate the filtering and cleaning maintenance that comes with ponds, making it one of the best backyard waterfall ideas in our opinion. The trick to low maintenance is to let nature (layers of gravel and stone) filter the water, using an underground sump at the lower end to catch the filtered water before pumping it back up to the top of the stream. All you have to do is occasionally add water to replace what evaporates—and rainfall may handle this task for you. In this story, we’ll show you how to slope the stream, lay the liner and install the pump and the catch basin as well as landscape the stream. We’ll help you plan the ideal location and size of your stream, and tell you how to select liners, pumps and stone. We won’t get into pond waterfall kits that are available either online or at home centers. We chose to build our system with parts and components that are readily available and less expensive than pond waterfall kits. They’ll give you more flexibility to design the stream that best fits your yard.
You can complete this project successfully even if it’s your first water feature. But it’s heavy work. The only special tools you’ll need are a strong wheelbarrow (one with pneumatic tires is best) and a two-wheel ball cart for moving and placing heavy boulders.
Although these pools are shallow, they can be a drowning hazard for small children. Check with your local building department for local regulations. And be watchful of toddlers.
Step 2: Select a location
Sit in a favorite spot and visualize where a stream with waterfalls would fit into your landscape—perhaps near a patio or deck.
Waterfall features: planning elements to consider
If your soil is easy to dig, then excavate the entire project. If digging is difficult, build your stream above ground with stones and other backyard rocks for the base.
Very little slope is needed (minimum 2 in. drop per 10 ft. of stream). For faster moving water or taller waterfalls, make the grade steeper (which also adds more sound).
Plan your stream size first to determine how much water the lower basin and upper pool must hold when the pump is off. Figure 5 gallons per linear foot of flowing stream (2-1/2 ft. wide x 3 in. deep). Our lower basin (40 gallons) and upper pool (240 gallons) easily held our 75-gallon stream capacity.
For a babbling brook sound, use a waterfall height of 2 to 4 in. To drown out street noise, use 10-in. and greater waterfall drops. More waterfalls equals more noise.
Waterfalls should be visible from your favorite deck, patio or inside-the-home chair. Consider a location near the bedroom if you like the sound of running water at night; you can always turn it off if it’s too loud or distracting. Make sure your pump location (lower basin) is close to an electrical source, and that you can reach the stream with a garden hose to add water as needed. For our site, we wrapped an S-shaped stream next to a ground-level deck built into an existing perennial garden. We varied the height of the four waterfalls and the width of the stream to give it a more natural look and sound. Plus we added a ball valve to the return water line so we could speed or slow the flow rate, and control the sound level.
Figures A-C: Stream and Waterfalls Layout
Use these illustrations to help you plan your water feature, and learn how to build a pondless waterfall.
Step 3: Order Stone
When you start your stone search, look under “Rock,” “Quarries” or “Sand & Gravel” online. Call to check prices and types of stone available. Go visit dealers to get exactly what you want, plus you can select specific colorful accent boulders and flat stones for the waterfalls—then have it all delivered. Some quarries will even bag the stone by type and size (for a fee), and these palleted bags take up less space on a driveway, as opposed to piles of gravel and boulders.
For gravel (3/4-in. to 2-in. stones), figure you’ll need 1/2 ton per 10 ft. of stream, plus we used 1 to 1-1/2 tons for the upper pool and lower basin. For basic field boulders (6 in. to 24 in.) to line the stream banks, figure 3/4 ton per 10 ft. of stream. Add 1-1/2 to 2 tons more of larger 12-in. to 24-in.boulders for the upper pool and lower basin. Because we built the top half of the stream above ground, we used 3-1/2 tons of extra boulders.
If you want specialty colorful accent boulders, expect to pay premium prices. Avoid limestone, as it can encourage algae growth.
A few days before you plan to dig for your stream, call 811 to have underground utilities in the area located and marked.
Step 4: Map the stream and start digging
Photo 1: Design the stream
Haul in your boulders and stones and place them around the worksite. Outline the location of your stream with a garden hose, then paint a line around it. Also use paint to mark waterfall locations and ideal spots for large decorative boulders.
After all the stone and gravel arrive, map out your design and mark it with spray paint (Photo 1).
We built the upper half of the stream and two waterfalls above the ground, then carved the lower half of this 15-ft. stream out of the soil (Figure A). Pick whichever technique works with your soil and go with it. Either way, keep the ibuprofen handy to soothe those sore lifting and digging muscles!
Next, dig the lower basin for the sump basin and surrounding stone and gravel. Dig a square hole at least 2 ft. wider than the basin diameter and 6 in. deeper than the height. It should be at least a foot wider than the stream.
Simultaneously, build a ring of stone for the upper pool foundation and the stream banks (Photo 2). Place 12-in. tall stones flat side up (if possible) so the next layer of stone will fit more securely on top (Figure B). Use a rubber mallet to pack dirt and gravel tightly around the stones to hold them in place.
Step 5: Complete the lower basin first
Photo 3: Prepare the basin and pump
Drill holes in the basin using three different size hole saw bits (see Figure C). Prime, cement and attach the hose adapter to the pump.
Use a 2-in. hole saw bit and drill holes every 4 in. in the bottom third of the pump basin (Figure C and Photo 3). Repeat the process with a 1-in. hole saw bit for the middle third, then use a 3/8-in. bit for the top third.
Remove sharp objects from the bottom of the basin, then lay in the underlayment and liner. Calculate the size carefully and cut the underlayment first. Then cut and fit the liner so it is tucked in all corners and extends about 2 ft. out of the hole in all directions. With the pump basin in place, insert the pump, connect the water line and lay it in place to ensure it will reach the top of the upper pool. Add layers of stone around the basin and top with the lid (Figure C and Photo 4).
Step 6: Dig out (or build) a long staircase
Photo 5: Dig the streambed
Carve a winding stream bed 6 to 8 in. deep, 2 to 3-1/2 ft. wide. Dig the channel so it stair-steps down at waterfall No. 3, and dig 3- to 4-in. deep pools below waterfalls No. 2 and 3 (Figure A).
First, at each waterfall location, dig down to the approximate depth of the drop you desire or build up the fall if you’re working above grade. This gives you a streambed depth target. Now move to the bottom of the stream and carve a 2 to 3-1/2 ft. wide streambed 6 to 8 in. deep, sloping upward as you dig upstream to meet that streambed depth target at each waterfall (Photo 5). Then dig out shallow pools below waterfalls as needed (Figure A) to slow the water flow.
Since we built above ground for the upper section of the stream, we next added a level row of stones for waterfalls No. 1 and 2 (Photo 6). Pick the height you desire. Use 6- in. tall stones to frame the banks. Also finish compacting a gravel and dirt mixture to the inside and outside of the upper pool stones. Then tamp down the upper pool area and the streambed.
Step 7: Lay the liner and position waterfall stones
Photo 7: Spread the liner in the streambed
Lay the underlayment and a rubber liner into the streambed. Leave 3 to 4 in. of slack in the liner at the base of the waterfalls, extend about 2 ft. up each bank and overlap the basin liner by 2 ft. Place decorative boulders at waterfall locations.
Position the fabric underlayment and liner to extend from the lower basin to the upper pool, with slack at the base of each waterfall, because placing boulders can stretch and rip a tight liner (Photo 7). Place decorative boulders at the side of each waterfall, and add an extra piece of rubber liner underneath each heavy stone to protect the base liner. For stable, above-ground stream edges, backfill the edging stones with a gravel and dirt mixture and compact it (Photo 8). Next, lay the final piece of underlayment and liner in the upper pool so it tucks in at all corners and extends 2 ft. out in all directions. There’s no need to tape the liners to each other; just make sure the top liner overlaps the liner underneath it by 1-1/2 to 2 ft. Then add the top layer of stones around the upper pool.
Step 8: Add spill stones and foam the gaps
Photo 9: Build up the waterfalls
Set decorative boulders at each side of waterfalls No. 1 and 2. Then coat the bottom of the flat spill stones with foam sealant so they adhere to the liner. Wedge stones into cracks between the spill stones and the sides of the stream bank.
Once you place the decorative boulders at the waterfall locations, place all the flat spill stones. Apply black expanding foam sealant, designed for ponds and waterfalls, to the underside to adhere them to the rubber liner. Now fill all gaps with stones to force water to go only over the waterfall (Photo 9). Then apply foam sealant to all sides and to the underneath of each spill stone to create a good seal (Photo 10). After the foam has dried for 30 minutes, take your garden hose and run water down the stream. Look for any water trails (leaks) along the spill stone edges and underneath. Fill any leaks with more foam and repeat until all water goes over the top of the spill stones.
Step 9: Add gravel and clean the stream
Photo 11: Add boulders to complete
Add a top layer of small boulders to complete the upper pool and streambed. Place steppingstones in the middle of the stream and the stones below the waterfalls. Cover the rest of the streambed liner with gravel.
The final construction step is to place steppingstones in the middle of the stream to make it inviting for people, birds and pets. Then carefully layer in gravel to cover any exposed liner (Photo 11).
Spray down the entire stream area with a garden hose nozzle until the water level rises above the gravel in the bottom basin. Now power up the pump and direct the pump hose away from the stream. Keep washing down the stream and rock until the water from the pump hose runs clear. Then insert the pump hose into the upper pool (make sure it is hidden), and finish your stream by trimming and covering any rubber liner that shows (Photo 12).
Now it’s time to take that favorite seat, with a cold beverage in hand, and relax to the soothing sounds of your new stream.
Submersible pumps are rated by gph (gallons per hour) at a specific discharge height (known as head or lift). To calculate the gph you need, figure 150 gph for each inch of your widest waterfall. Next, to figure the head/lift you need, calculate the distance your water line travels from the pump to the upper pool (measure vertical and horizontal; 10 ft. of horizontal distance = 1 ft. of vertical rise). Look for a high quality pump (bronze, brass or stainless steel; not a cheap sump pump) that can exceed the gph and lift you need.
Required Tools for this Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
Hand tamper, scissors, ball cart (for moving boulders)
Required Materials for this Project
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.
Event features concerts from Jon Pardi, Chris Tomlin and more
LEWISBURG, W.Va. – A summer event that draws thousands annually, including many from our area, will happen as planned, despite concerns over the coronavirus.
The State Fair of West Virginia will take place August 13-22, featuring concerts from musicians and groups like Jon Pardi, Cody Johnson, Chris Tomlin and Whiskey Myers.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Thursday encouraged people to go to the state fair while also warning that coronavirus cases are rising in states that have eased restrictions.
The conflicting messages came minutes apart during a news conference in which the Republican governor urged people to follow safety guidelines as restrictions are lifted in the state.
“Because our numbers are phenomenal doesn’t mean that there can’t be issues tomorrow in West Virginia,” he said. “It’s all up to you.”
Justice promoted the State Fair Of West Virginia at length, congratulating its organizers for deciding to move forward with the annual event this summer. When asked if he thought holding the fair could result in an increase in cases, Justice said people must socially distance.
“Just look out after yourself as best you can. Abide by the guidelines and social distance, and everything, and I’m sure the guidelines we’re giving and that the state fair’s giving are going to be the very best that we can possibly do,” he said.
An Associated Press analysis found that coronavirus cases are rising in nearly half of U.S. states, with experts saying at least some increases are due to lifting restrictions put in place during the spring to stem the virus’s spread. Justice singled out Texas, Florida, Arizona and North Carolina as places that are seeing upticks.
New cases in West Virginia have trended downward over the last two weeks, according to the AP analysis. The number of total cases and deaths also remain low in West Virginia when compared to other states. At least 85 people in West Virginia have died and around 2,200 have tested positive, state health data show.
Justice has already allowed most businesses in the state to reopen. Low-contact youth sports teams as well as middle and high school teams were allowed to start practicing Monday. The governor also has said fairs and festivals can begin again on July 1.
Take A Relaxing Drive On Monroe County’s Rural Heritage Quilt Trail To Enjoy Some Of West Virginia’s Best Country Roads
You know what sounds really good right about now? Stepping back in time and away from our cares, all without leaving the car. In beautiful, peaceful Monroe County, you can.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now: https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/nominate/
Since its inception almost nine years ago, the Rural Heritage Quilt Trail has continued to grow, with new patterns added periodically. You can navigate it with the help of the trail’s website and the I-Treks app; be prepared to download or print the map ahead of time, since cell service will not always be available as you drive.
Then follow the roads back in time, immerse yourself in the mountain beauty, and experience a time when life was lived closer to the land and communities were sewn more tightly to each other.
You Can Rent This Entire Island In West Virginia For Just $332 Per Night
Have you ever dreamed about having an entire island all to yourself? Well, in West Virginia, you can! Whether you want to enjoy an isolated getaway or share it with a handful of friends, your dream has become a reality! This private island with a cozy cottage and a sandy beach on the New River is available to rent and it’s a little slice of paradise right here in the Mountain State.
Do you know someone that would love to rent an island all for themselves? This private island isn’t the only awesome thing you can rent in West Virginia. Check out this two-story party boat that’s guaranteed to be a blast.
Greenbrier Valley Brewing moves into new markets, new brews, opening new Lewisburg taproom
When Brilliant Stream’s West Virginia Beer Roads podcast team visited Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company (GVBC) recently, we got lots of news and updates. Brewery president and majority owner Bill Heckel and his crew are in the midst of taking West Virginia craft beer to places it has never been before.
Their aggressive distribution posture is fueling sales and taking GVBC to the top position among WV breweries. While finishing second in sales volume last year to Big Timber Brewing, their current pace is so strong that they could easily end this year in first place.
Their marketing push has really gained steam within the state. Heckel says when he came on board a year and a half ago, they were only in a handful of Kroger stores. “Now we’re in every single one in West Virginia,” he said. “We’re moving into more convenience stores, and we just sent [pricing/product information] out to Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas. That’s pretty nice to be invited by them.” GVBC’s strongest market is southern West Virginia, where they feel they have the highest market share among WV brands. Anyone who looks around the WV market can easily see that GVBC beer is on the move.
Entering new markets
The brewery’s current big marketing push, however, is out-of-state. Never before to this extent has a West Virginia brewery aggressively marketed in Virginia, District of Columbia, and Maryland. GVBC now has three full-time sales representatives out in the field. All have responsibilities for covering sections of Virginia and/or Maryland and D.C. Heckel also says they are making plans to enter more markets in Virginia and then on to Ohio, Kentucky, and North Carolina. Achieving this would make GVBC a true regional brewery — a first for West Virginia.
“Right now we still have over 50 percent capacity that we can do in our facility,” Heckel says. The brewery has a five-year plan to grow sales and use up that extra capacity. With their current sales track and momentum, they could actually meet those five-year goals in three or four years. If they stay ahead of schedule, that would mean moving up the date for an expanded production facility. Those expansion plans are in a very early stage right now, Heckel says.
As in the Virginia market, GVBC will take small steps when entering large markets like Ohio and North Carolina. They will enter each area section-by-section rather than trying to enter the whole state at once. Both Heckel and Sales Manager Alex Durand say that one of the keys to building out-of-state distribution is finding distributor and retailer personnel with West Virginia links. They say they’ve had a lot of luck with finding people in key wholesaler/retailer positions who are West Virginia transplants. They find those folks want to promote a West Virginia beer and GVBC benefits from that connection.
Change of management style
Heckel says one of the things they have changed is their management style. He says they have moved from a vertical-style line of command, run under a strong general manager, to a more horizontal style. While everyone still ultimately reports to Heckel, key unit directors now have more autonomy and authority for decision making in their areas. The current management team includes:
Brian Reymiller, brewing
Gary Vermillion, logistics/operations
Alex Durand, sales and marketing
James McLendon, information technology
Beer brand development
Greenbrier Valley Brewing has been much more focused in its beer production than many of the small WV breweries. They maintain a tight group of flagships and augment that with about six or so seasonal beers. Devil Anse IPA accounts for a solid half their overall sales. Their newest flagship, Ole Ran’l Pilsner has come on strong to challenge for the number two spot. Wild Trail Pale Ale, Zona’s Revenge Witbier and Mothman Black IPA follow. Bat Boy Black Lager has popularity in a few places. Among seasonal beers, their spring-release Irish Dave’s Maple Bourbon Porter is hot. It will hit the market again this year at the first of March.
Big news on the new beer front: GVBC will be coming out with a Double IPA this year. No word yet on just what it will be like, but Reymiller promises the use of some different hops that they haven’t used before. When the seasonal FestivAle Kölsch returns in early summer, look for it to be released in 19.2 oz. stovepipe cans that should also hit some convenience store cold boxes. Last year’s FestivAle was a super good brew, and brewer Brian Reymiller assures us that it will stay that way this year. Look for some brand new seasonal releases too, the specifics of which have not yet been decided. Reymiller said three of last year’s seasonals will be replaced with new brands this year.
The brewery will double or triple the production quantity of several seasonals this year over last, including FestivAle, Green Bank Gose, and Irish Dave’s Maple Bourbon Porter. Sales manager Alex Durand says some of their seasonals will also see distribution in Virginia, D.C., and Maryland this year.
Exploring new beer styles for GVBC
Reymiller says he used to follow the philosophy of “I’m going to brew beers that I like to drink. That worked in the nineties and early 2000s.” But today, he sees a different dynamic. Reymiller says he relies more on the much younger Alex Durand, GVBC’s sales manager, and their field sales reps to keep him up with what’s hot and what’s not in the world of beer styles.
“You really need to be flexible,” he said. “You need to pay attention to your consumer—what they like. And a lot of times, if you listen to your consumers, they are going to turn you on to new things.”
So Reymiller depends on the brewery’s sale staff and taproom workers to be his ears in the market.
“As brewers go, I’m kinda one of the older guys,” Reymiller says. “When I started back in the 90s, there was no Milkshake IPAs. There was nothing like that. So I kind of rely on Alex to keep me up with the trends.”
Reymiller says he finds success in putting a Greenbrier Valley spin on their products. By that he means he incorporates local ingredients to differentiate some of their brews. And you can look for more of that in the future. They get wheat from a Pocahontas farmer that they use in Zona’s Revenge Witbier. Irish Dave’s Maple Bourbon Porter uses maple syrup from Raleigh County and Bourbon barrels from the brewery’s neighbor, Smooth Ambler Spirits. They have also used local berries and local salt in some brews.
New Craft House opening soon
Greenbrier Valley’s new Lewisburg taproom is getting close to opening. Located in the heart of downtown, it should greatly increase the visibility of GVBC brews in the town. While the brewery’s current on-site taproom is only five miles out of town, many people don’t make the trip very often and thousands of Lewisburg tourists likely miss it. With a downtown taproom, however, business will benefit from the tremendous foot traffic that Lewisburg’s many restaurants, shops and bars draw to town. This should be a great move for the brewery.
Officially called the Greenbrier Valley Craft House, in addition to serving GVBC brews, it will feature a selection of other West Virginia-made beers. Durand says to think of it as a visitors center for WV beer for the many thousands of tourists that hit Lewisburg annually. They will also distribute tourist information and promote all the other things there is to do in the area.
GVBC worked with local artisans who produced some the the taproom’s furniture and fixtures. The brewery’s graphic artist painted a large wall mural in the front room. A large garage door makes up most of the building’s front and will be opened in good weather. An outdoor patio will expand table space in summer.
Durand says the new venture will be managed by their current taproom manager, Annie Smead. Smead will also continue to oversee the existing taproom at the brewery.
The look, smell, and taste of Maple Bourbon Porter
With Irish Dave’s Maple Bourbon Porter scheduled to hit the market March 1, the Brilliant Stream team held a preview tasting with the beer — and took the opportunity to sample a few other GVBC dark beers, as well. Tasters were Rob Absten, Erin McCoy and Charles Bockway.
Brian Reymiller had told us that this year’s Porter was tweaked a bit from last year’s version. Fewer hops were added to the boil to lessen the bitterness and a bit different mix of malts were used to give the beer a little malty flavor boost. The maple syrup came from a producer in Daniels, Raleigh County, WV. A portion of the beer was rested in bourbon barrels and then blended back in with the non-barrel aged beer.
Appearance: Nice foamy head. The brewery calls it an American style porter and says the color is dark brown. While at first glance, it might appear dark brown, our sample of Dave’s was a good bit lighter in color than that and had definite red highlights when held up to a light, Seems colored more like an English porter than the typical modern American style, which are nearly black these days.
Aroma: Maple, chocolate and caramel are all present. No fruity esters.
Taste: The brewery notes call it rich and full bodied with noticeable hops and a slightly sweet finish. We found it more medium bodied, with hops just slightly registering and the finish just barely sweet. Definite tasty notes of chocolate, granola, and caramel come through. Just a tiny hint of bourbon is there.
Overall: Very nicely balanced beer with great drinkability. Good carbonation. The flavors work well together. A unique beer. This porter would be a worthy alternative to drinking an Irish stout or Irish red ale during the St. Patrick’s holiday season. Give it a try. 5.2% ABV. 12 IBU.
Great Claw and a porter-stout blend
We also tried a can of Great Claw, the GVBC bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout that was released last December. The beer still shows quite boozy and the distilled spirit flavor overpowers about everything else. Hopefully, with some additional age the booziness will diminish and the sweet roasted malts can get a chance to shine.
Rob Absten, who has a knack for blending beer, grabbed some Great Claw and mixed it with the Maple Bourbon Porter. He took a sip. His reaction was immediate and very positive. We all tried a blend, maybe 50-50, and found the results most delicious. We also tried portions of one-third porter with two-thirds stout.
The porter definitely reduced the booziness of the stout and everything went together so well. The beer really opened up. Caramel and vanilla came though strongly. Even the maple seemed enhanced and added character. Bourbon was still there, but now it was in a supporting role to the malt. We think we found a great drink. If you can still find a can of Great Claw around the market, you can’t go wrong picking one up to blend with some Irish Dave’s Maple Bourbon Porter next month.
I recently rode the Cardinal train through West Virginia, stopping in Huntington, Charleston, and White Sulphur Springs/Lewisburg. It was a spectacular ride, featuring fall foliage, mountains, the Shenandoah Valley, and views of West Virginia’s whitewater rivers only accessible by train. While I fell in love with the entire region, Lewisburg won a special place in my heart with its friendly people, beautiful main street, small-town charm, innovative dining scene, and unique lodging options.
This small town, with a population of about 4,000, boasts the arts and fine dining of a much larger city. It’s easy to see why Frommer’s Budget Travel named Lewisburg America’s coolest small town.
1. It’s Got A Vibrant Culinary Scene
Lewisburg is a foodie’s paradise, and it’s easy to find mouthwatering meals, from Southern comfort food to farm-to-table cuisine to fine French dining.
At The French Goat, I dined on hot and savory French onion soup and a main course of filet mignon with whipped potatoes and French beans topped with oh-so-rich foie gras butter. After dinner, we relaxed on the front porch with an aperitif apres le diner while chatting with locals.
At The Local, a grocery and deli, the menu changes daily, but if it’s available, try the smoked brisket chili. Or stop by Stardust Cafe, a farm-to-table favorite for locals and visitors, for the caper berry trout salad. At Draper’s, inside the Greenbrier Resort, you’ll want to try Mr. Justice’s Favorite Fried Chicken. If you stop by Food & Friends, a cozy American cafe, at lunchtime, order the Carolina crab croissant and be sure to pick up a piece (or three) of the delectable chocolate at the cash register. At Livery Tavern, you can enjoy American fare like steak and seafood or try one of the vegetarian or vegan options, all served in an 1800s-style dining room.
2. It’s A Small Town That’s Big On The Arts
Though it’s a small town, Lewisburg is home to an outstanding arts scene.
The Greenbrier Valley Theatre, the state professional theater of West Virginia, offers plays, poetry, and live dance, plus special events like the GVT Play Fest, which features several 10-minute plays written by West Virginia playwrights.
Then there’s the Trillium Performing Arts, which for 36 years has encouraged artistic expression through education, participation, and performance. The organization's Lewis Theatre opened in 1939. After nearly 70 years, the structure was in need of some TLC, so Trillium initiated a capital campaign to renovate it into a space suitable for both film and live performances. Today, you’ll find a variety of performance arts there, including Friday Night Alive, a family-friendly event showcasing local talent.
As if that weren’t enough, Lewisburg is home to a Carnegie Hall, one of four remaining in the world.
3. There Are Charming Boutiques And Galleries
West Virginia-made products, art, and even kitchen items can all be found in the downtown district. It would be easy to spend a day perusing the shops and taking home pieces you never knew you needed.
At Wolf Creek Gallery, you’ll discover carefully curated women’s clothing and jewelry. Lee Street Studios is a school-turned-artisan collective where artists create, display, and sell their work. Patina offers an eclectic mix of antiques, vintage decor, and art.
If you’re visiting on the first Friday of the month, check out the First Fridays After Five event, where you’ll find shops, galleries, and restaurants open through the evening and offering complimentary refreshments and entertainment. When I visited, I purchased some cheese for the train at Bella and enjoyed a wine sample (or two) at the boutique shops.
The scenery surrounding Lewisburg is spectacular. Go for a drive to take in all the area’s scenic beauty, including rolling hills and expansive farmland. Along the way, stop to take photos of the Herns Mill Covered Bridge, one of only two covered bridges remaining in Greenbrier County. Follow the Lower Greenbrier River Byway that travels 27 miles along the railroad to view more of the scenic countryside and wooded areas, or head to the White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery for a guided or self-guided tour. After touring the hatchery, enjoy the walking trails on the grounds or hike up one of the neighboring mountains.
5. You Can Enjoy Lots Of Live Music
In any of Lewisburg’s bars or pubs, you might just hear your new favorite song.
Staying true to its Appalachian roots, Smooth Ambler utilizes local ingredients like mountain water and hand-selected grains to distill its bourbon. Green Valley Brewing Company brews up six flagship flavors, six seasonals, and an ever-changing selection of small batches for craft beer lovers. Hawk Knob is West Virginia’s first cidery, specializing in dry-aged meads and traditional dry ciders.
7. There’s A Great Farmers Market
I love discovering what food is local to an area and where that food comes from, so I was like a kid in a candy store when I learned that Lewisburg has not one but two farmers markets. The two markets -- the Greenbrier Valley Farmers Market and the Lewisburg Farmers Market -- have since merged to form the Courthouse Farmers Market, open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
There’s traditional market fare -- locally grown produce, grass-fed beef, honey, syrups, and jams, plus baked goods -- but what really got me excited were the fresh-baked bagels from Blue Moon Bagels. The story I heard was that a New York film crew had been in town, and when they discovered these bagels, they ordered dozens to take home with them -- to New York. That says a lot, considering that New York is known for its bagels. Whether the story is true or not, these were fantastic bagels -- so soft and savory that they nearly melted in my mouth. We took a few dozen with us for the road, too.
The year-round market is located outdoors from May through October and indoors from November through April.
8. It’s Close To A World-Famous Resort
White Sulphur Springs, just down the road from Lewisburg, is where you’ll find The Greenbrier, a world-famous resort since 1778. One of the most luxurious resorts in the world, The Greenbrier has not only hosted celebrities, business leaders, and 27 U.S. presidents, but it also has a secret bunker! The space was carved into the mountainside beneath the resort to serve as a Cold War fallout shelter and as a government-relocation facility for Congress. Today, visitors can tour the bunker and see this piece of history.
Take a carriage ride around the property, swim in the mineral-water pool, indulge in a spa treatment, or shop to your heart’s content at this luxury resort with lavish decor by the famous Dorothy Draper & Company.
Pennsylvania groundhog declares early spring ‘a certainty’
Posted: / Updated:
PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s most famous groundhog on Sunday declared: “Spring will be early, it’s a certainty.”
At sunrise on Groundhog Day, members of Punxsutawney Phil’s top hat-wearing inner circle revealed the cuddly oracle’s prediction — his 134th, according to the Pennsylvania Tourism Office.
Awoken by the crowd’s chants of “Phil!” the groundhog was hoisted in the air for the assembly to hail before making his decision. He then grasped the glove of a handler as a member of his inner circle announced that spring would come early this year.
The annual event has its origin in a German legend that says if a furry rodent casts a shadow on Feb. 2, winter continues. If not, spring comes early.
In reality, Phil’s prediction is decided ahead of time by the group on Gobbler’s Knob, a tiny hill just outside Punxsutawney. That’s about 65 miles (105 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh.
Over the past five years — from 2015 through 2019 — Phil has predicted six more weeks of winter thrice and an early spring twice. According to records dating back to 1887, the Pennsylvanian prognosticator has predicted more winter more than 100 times, making this year’s forecast a rare one overall.
Phil’s prediction was mirrored by one of his fellow groundhogs in New York.
At the Staten Island Zoo, schoolchildren and elected officials cheered Sunday morning as a curtain was pulled back at a glass enclosure containing Staten Island Chuck. He also didn’t see his shadow.
For more than 25 years, Eggplant has been a destination for customers seeking one-of-a-kind accessories, bath and body products, gifts, and home decor. The shop also carries adorable baby items for your own little bundle of joy or for an expecting friend. Put a bow on it with complimentary gift wrapping services, perfect for the holiday season. Need birthday party invitations or wedding save the dates? Eggplant carries gorgeous stationary befitting any occasion. 1011 Bridge Road Suite A, Charleston, 304.346.3525, eggplantshop.com, @eggplantshop on Facebook
Founded in 1947 by Calvin Broyles, this jewelry shop is now a third-generation, family-owned business with three locations throughout the state. The friendly staff has assisted generations of folks in commemorating special moments with engagement rings and wedding bands. They’ve outfitted customers with stunning earrings, stylish necklaces, and handsome watches, which are kept in tip-top shape with their jewelry cleaning and repair services. 4708 MacCorkle Avenue Southwest, South Charleston, 304.768.8821; 4144 State Route 34, Hurricane, 304.202.4006; 1042 North Eisenhower Drive, Beckley, 304.803.2133; calvinbroyles.com, @broylesjewelers on Facebook
The rich aroma of coffee, the crinkle of pages yet to be read, and the clacking of keyboards writing the next bestseller— nothing beats a bookstore. And, in Charleston, that means Taylor Books. Spend hours searching shelves packed with novels and magazines, enjoy baked scones and free Wi-Fi at the cafe, or peruse the Annex Gallery featuring local paintings and pottery. There’s even live music weekends to make you really feel at home. 226 Capitol Street, Charleston, 304.342.1461, taylorbooks.com, @taybooks on Facebook
RUNNERS-UP A NEW CHAPTER BOOKSTORE
922 West Washington Street, Lewisburg, 681.318.3501, newchapterbookswv.com
CICADA BOOKS AND COFFEE 604 14th Street West, Huntington, 681.378.3463, @cicadabooks on Facebook
This frame shop in the heart of Charleston fills its 2,000-squarefoot gallery with the colorful designs of talented artists, including those from West Virginia. The walls always feature new and exciting exhibits of paintings, photography, pottery, and more. Art Emporium is a regular participant in downtown Charleston arts walks. Follow their Facebook page to stay updated on more gallery show events. 823 Quarrier Street, Charleston, 304.345.2787, artemporium.net, @artemporiumwv on Facebook
When gentlemen in Morgantown want to look dapper, they go to Daniel’s. Since 1963, the store’s mission has been simple: Make sure every man has at least one tailored suit in his wardrobe. The knowledgeable staff do their part to help customers find a classic yet comfortable fit for any event—job interviews, proms, weddings, and more. Daniel’s also carries WVU apparel so that, even if the Mountaineers don’t score, your outfit is a touchdown. 2908 University Avenue, Morgantown, 304.296.7202, danielsofmorgantown.com, @danielsofmorgantown on Facebook
TONY THE TAILOR
Two Way Tie
When you look like a million bucks, the confidence you feel is priceless. Master tailor Anthony Paranzino carefully creates a collection of exceptional men’s apparel from brands like Bruno Magli, Hickey Freeman, Oxxford Clothes, Samuelsohn, and beyond. Find the perfect fit right off the rack, or get a bespoke suit custom-tailored to you. Don’t forget to complete your new look with a new dress shirt, leather wallet, or patterned bow tie. 822 Virginia Street East, Charleston, 304.833.9403, bestmastertailor.com, @tonythetailorwv
Local Women’s Apparel
This Charleston boutique has you covered for every season. The colorful racks feature cozy coats for winter, cute boots for spring, flared skirts for summer, and plaid pants for autumn. Finish off any look with one of the statement necklaces or funky pairs of earrings. No matter your style, Geraniums has a unique piece unlike anything found in a bigbox store, and wonderful customer service to match. 1011 Bridge Road, Charleston, 304.344.1350, shopgeraniums.com, @geraniumsinc on Facebook
Tamarack was the first staterun artisan center and gallery in the nation. The iconic red roof continues to beckon interstate travelers to step through the doors and see for themselves. The center showcases West Virginia–made products of just about every variety, from jewelry and pottery to apparel and homemade specialty food items. Guests can grab a bite to eat or watch Tamarack’s resident artists create their next masterpieces. 1 Tamarack Park, Beckley, 304.256.6843, tamarackwv.com, @tamarackwv on Facebook
This family-owned florist shop has helped customers celebrate milestones since 1947. Throughout the decades, brides have clutched their custom-designed bouquets in hand, nervous teenagers have slid their beautiful corsages on their prom dates’ wrists, and unsuspecting spouses have been surprised by delightful “just because” arrangements. Young Floral also features gifts such as food baskets, tapestry throws, and wind chimes to make any occasion a special one. 215 Pennsylvania Avenue, Charleston, 304.346.5384, youngfloral.com, @youngfloralco on Facebook
Shopping in an antique store has all the excitement of digging for buried treasure. You’ll never quite know exactly what you’ll find, but it will always be a gem. This charming Fairmont marketplace holds three floors filled with a community of artists and vendors offering a wide array of artwork, housewares, jewelry, vintage clothing, furniture, toys, and more. This one-of-a-kind antique mecca also hosts art classes and workshops. 205 Adams Street, Fairmont, 304.534.8980, artsandantiqueswv.com, @artsantiqueswv on Facebook
Every bride wants to feel and look her best on her wedding day, and the dress shopping process should be enjoyable. This Morgantown boutique gives each beautiful bride the exceptional service she deserves with a personal stylist to assist her throughout the entire appointment. For a truly intimate evening, The Vow offers bridal party packages held outside of normal business hours so the bride can relax, shop, and make memories with loved ones. 4 Suburban Court, Morgantown, 304.291.7333, thevowwv.com, @thevowboutique on Facebook
With almost 100 years and five generations of furniture industry experience, this family now operates its own showrooms in both Charleston and Morgantown. Wells carries quality furnishings to deck the whole house, from dining room to living room and home office to bedroom. Much of the brands it carries are manufactured in the United States, including Amish handcrafted pieces. Wells also offers design services to ensure you truly get the home of your dreams. 101 Bowers Road, Charleston, 304.343.3600; 1040 Fairmont Road, Morgantown, 304.322.2129; wellshome.com, @wellshomefurnishings on Facebook