Two-Ton Doors, Four Vaults, and One Heck of a View

Dave, Cristina, and Ben Trainor open their two-ton doors to their Downtown home and explain how they ended up living in a former bank.

How did you end up buying this building?

Dave explains, “when my now wife, Cristina and I started dating we always looked at buildings in Baltimore and Philadelphia that were being remodeled and neighborhoods that were getting restored. Ever since then we had this dream of one day getting involved in a historic building.

The office used to be in the Pickled Pickles building next door. So, when we heard that Fulton Bank, which was located in this building, was planning to move up to the pad site outside of town, our ears perked. We had our real estate agent look into the building. Since we had our homework already done when Fulton Bank moved we were able to purchase the building quickly without it ever going on the market.

We bought the building six years ago, in April 2012.”

How did you end up in Oxford?

“When I moved out here from Delaware County I lived behind Avon Grove High School. We did the house with the yard and all the grass to mow. In that house, with that big yard, you wave to your neighbor as you pull into the garage and that was the only interaction. Living in this Downtown building you walk from your car to the house and you see three friends walking by. There is such a sense of community and connection to our neighbors. We like to charcoal grill, and when we do that in our backyard, many friends walk by and ask “what’s for dinner?” It’s fun being able to impromptuly invite them up.

What shape was this building in when you bought it?

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“When the Fulton Bank branch was located here they didn’t occupy the upper floors. So, they sat vacant for some time.  We ended up gutting the second floor completely. It now has two bedrooms and our kitchen/living area.

The third floor still needs to be gutted and remodeled.  We plan to make that floor our primary living space and then turn the second floor into an in-law suite.  Cristina was born and raised in Costa Rica and her family is still there. So, when they come to visit it will be nice to have a private space for them to enjoy.

One of our hobbies is boating. When we finished remodeling the second floor Cristina wanted to jump right into the third floor. But instead we bought a boat.  We joke that we should have named the boat “The Third Floor.”

Have you found anything interesting while remodeling?

Dave jokes, “we haven’t found any gold bars yet.”

But when we were working on the second floor bathroom our plumber found a concrete floor and he began breaking it up to move some plumbing lines. It ended up being the top of a vault that was over six inches thick.

The building was built in 1925 and there are three vaults and a fourth one with no door. We estimate that the main vault door is two-tons. Now it’s a great place to store our party supplies.

What is it like living above your work?

I thought there would be more of a challenge, keeping work and family life separate. But it actually has been quite the opposite. Before I would jump out of bed with a work idea and have to quickly write it down so I wouldn’t forget before getting to the office. Now when I wake up with an idea I can run downstairs and take care of that quickly and then go back to getting ready for the day.

When it snows, I call Ellen, my office manager, and say, “oh sorry, I can’t make it in today.” And she typically snaps back with, “get down here!”

Our son, Ben is 14 and he loves living in Downtown. If he wants to grab something to eat he can walk down to the SawMill or grab a snack somewhere else. He also thinks it’s just plain cool that we have a vault in our house.

Cristina drives to Delaware and is a Regulatory Manager for Dow Dupont. She loves the sense of community we have living in Downtown.

We live in a great place, an hour away to Philly, Baltimore, Annapolis and DC, an hour to the mountains, an hour to the beach and 25 minutes to the river.

Work hard, work a lot, then play hard.

 

What would you tell someone who doesn’t know Oxford?

The people here are so awesome. So engaging and welcoming. You can write about it, but until you feel it yourself, you just can’t explain it.

Always look forward and ask, what can we do to improve it.

The Rodriguez – Trainor Family

Mary Lou Baily
Your Next Adventure Awaits

Shop owners, Lori and Randy Grace opened the Maroon Hornet in October 2016 and have been bringing adventures to their customers ever since.

Lori worked in the corporate world for 20+ years but had a dream of doing something she truly enjoyed on her own. At the same time, she began thinking more about Oxford, and about what was missing from town that people would enjoy going to. She wanted to bring something different into town. Something that would bring families Downtown to shop.

During this same time Randy would visit his kids in Reading, PA and after dinner he always took them to the local comic book store. Randy got to talking with that shop owner and mentioned that he and his wife had an idea about opening a shop in Oxford. Lori shared, he was so welcoming to us and shared his knowledge, he really became a mentor to us.”

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“The one thing I was nervous about before opening the shop was the fact that I would be here during the day while Randy works his 9-5 job. Now, Randy knows comics inside and out but I’m still learning. And our customers expect you to know a lot. But, the more I’m in here the more I learn.”

“I like reading the weird stuff Dracula, Redneck, and Witchblade are a few. Randy’s favorite series are Daredevil, Ironman, and Spiderman.”

Lori explains how she takes customer service to the next level, “we live close by the shop, so if a customer is coming into town and we’re closed, they can call me and I’ll run over and open the doors for them.”

“We also offer subscriptions. A customer can sign up for a subscription to a series and that comic automatically gets added to our weekly order. We have a mailbox for each customer and we just add their subscription to their box each week. This way they will never miss an issue.”

“We also have a loyal customer who provides our giveaways. Each month he purchases an item from the shop that we can provide as a giveaway. Every customer who buys something is then given a chance to roll the lucky number and take the selected item home with them. It’s amazing how kind and generous our customers are.”

“We work really hard to provide personal and exceptional customer service.”

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“We have one newer customer who came in looking for comics for her daughter who has trouble reading and envisioning. So, she came in and bought comic books to help her overcome this. She has connected me with a group of teachers online who are learning how to use comics in their classrooms.  There are many studies that have shown how comic books are good for literacy and helping kids learn to read.”

The Maroon Hornet carries new, key, and back issue comics, along with trade paperbacks and graphic novels. There is also a nice selection of new and vintage toys and action figures. They also carry games and gaming supplies.

The Maroon Hornet hosts multiple game nights/days throughout the month. Including, Magic the Gathering every other Saturday in the shop and Warhammer every Sunday at Flickerwood Wine Cellars. You can find out about the next one on their Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/themaroonhornetcomics

May’s First Friday is Comics & Heroes, with a Kids and Adult Costume Contest, a Superhero Scavenger Hunt, Photobooth, Batmobile, Ghostbuster’s Ecto-1, and more surprises!

The following day, Saturday May 5, is the national Free Comic Book Day! The Maroon Hornet is hosting special guests and events throughout the day.

Put on your mask or cape and make your way into Downtown Oxford for this Comic and Hero Weekend! 

Visit the Maroon Hornet at:
45 South Third Street
Oxford, PA 19363
(610) 757-5819





Mary Lou Baily
Keeping History Alive with 3 Simple Letters
 

One of the most iconic buildings in the Borough of Oxford is none other than the 187 year-old Octoraro Hotel & Tavern, affectionately called the OTE. For years during its vacancy, the only letters that remained lit on the large exterior sign were the O.T.E. That’s how the nickname stuck.

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Walk inside these hollowed doors and you walk into history. Having gone through numerous owners, many building additions, seeing prohibition come and go, and the heart wrenching fires, it still stands as a beacon in the center of Oxford. Welcoming locals and travelers alike to pull up a barstool or grab a seat on the porch and enjoy a beverage as you watch the town pass by.

The current stewards of this Landmark building, John and Nickoel McGlothlin have restored the building to its former glory and have given new life to these historic walls.

After the devastating fire in 2014, a 15 month and $1 Million renovation, the OTE has returned, and some would say the culture that it brings has never left.

Walking into the OTE you see what makes Oxford such a unique place. You have the professional business people in suits, the local farmers in cowboy boots, and our Amish neighbors in suspenders, all congregating side by side.

Entering the soon to be opened, second floor event space, the original first-floor bar that survived the fire wears it’s scorch marks as a badge of honor.

The McGlothlin’s have created an atmosphere where everyone feels welcome to come as they are. With the underlying sense that being nice to everyone you meet is the way to foster a sense of community.

The All American Burger is a favorite item on the menu. Eating one inside the OTE you can chat with a stranger, watch friends play pool, enjoy a local band, and see a buggy pass by. One thing is for sure, you can only find this experience at the OTE in Downtown Oxford, PA.

Stop by the OTE this Wednesday, March 14th for the Guest Bartender Night, 6-9pm.

Octoraro Hotel & Tavern
2 South Third Street
Oxford, PA 19363
(610) 932-2290

Mary Lou Baily
Awesome Beer and a Great Group of Guys
 

There’s always a smile when you talk to the owners of Bog Turtle Brewery. We asked them how they keep the long brew days fun. “With five partners with a varied set of interests such, as movies, music, sports and outdoor activities, there are always subjects to argue, debate, and even sometimes agree on.  And there is always beer to talk about.”

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How did Bog Turtle Brewery get started?

“When we first got started, 5 of the 6 partners lived in the same development, Sycamore Crossing, and all of us lived in Oxford Borough. At a neighborhood barbeque one weekend, the group of us were standing around talking about what we do for fun.  Steve chimed in and said he brews beer in his garage. We all did a double take and the rest, as they say, is history.”

“The first Saturday of the month became Brew Day. It didn’t matter what was going on around us, blizzards, hurricanes, even the 2012 apocalypse. If it was the First Saturday, we were in Steve’s garage brewing.”

“Our home brew setup was quite intense, we brewed on propane, it was like having 200 bunsen burners in a ring. It sounded like the space shuttle was taking off,” Jon jokes. “After finding a home for the brewery, where cooking with propane was apparently frowned upon, our Brewmaster, Steve built out an electric system for the current brewhouse by hand. It’s that attention to every detail you get when you have Steve as the brewmaster.”

“One weekend we brought some of the home brew we made to a friend’s barbeque and John McGlothin, owner of the OTE and SawMill was there. He tried some of the beer and said if we ever open a brewery he would give us a tap at the OTE. This was pre-fire.”

“At first we laughed and said we would never be able to be an actual brewery. But then we turned around and said, wait a minute, maybe we can give this a shot. So, in 2014 we divided up the tasks to explore the idea of opening a brewery.”

On March 1, 2015 they signed the lease with the Oxford Sewer Authority to rent their municipal storage space.  The guys spent 9 months cleaning, renovating, and getting the brewery up and running.

Today, the guys brew almost every weekend and can produce 5 batches which is 68 cases of beer a weekend!

“We have a fun time coming up with the beer names. We are all Oxford residents, so we try and use local references and inside jokes when naming our beers.”

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“Two Stories Blonde Ale, is named based on the Oxford Hotel, which was the first two-story building in Oxford.”

Bog Turtle’s most popular beer, Devil’s Nine Ball, also has an interesting story behind it. Be sure to get that story first-hand from one of the guys the next time you’re in the brewery.

You also won’t want to miss the story behind the Willy Loman and the Chocolate Stout. Here’s a clue, it started with a beer or two!

“It’s interesting being in an old building in Downtown Oxford. It used to be an A&P Grocery, a Charter School, even the Oxford Historical Society was housed here. When I first moved to Oxford in 2003, it was a Mexican restaurant and I spent a lot of time eating all my lunches here.  I’ve come full circle, because I still spend all my free time in this building.”

“While doing the build out of this space we got excited about this awesome huge walk-in fridge we installed. We’ve reached the point now where its busting at the seams.”

“These are those growing moments when we take a minute, look around and realize how far we’ve come.”

Bog Turtle is a second job for all the guys.

Chris Davis – Regional IT Manager by day. BTB Director of Finance.
John Ewing –Pipefitter by day. BTB Director of Operations.
Johnny Topmiller – Engineer by day. BTB Director of Regulatory Compliance
Steve Applegate – IT Storage Engineer by day. BTB Brewmaster
Jon Campbell – Physical Therapist by day. BTB Director of Community Relations and Marketing

5 guys with 5 very specific set of skills.

“We each are hands on when brewing. But we also have our own responsibilities of running a business that we focus on.” They’ve managed to turn a weekend hobby into a growing passion that has been for the most part self-funded. “We’ve turned all profits back into the business, not taking any salaries for ourselves.”

We divide up brewing into shifts, 2 guys on Saturday and 2 guys on Sunday. It works out that we each get one weekend off brewing duty a month.  It helps that we are all locals. It’s easy for one of us to cover for the other if we need to take the kids somewhere or be with our families.

People keep coming back for the beer, which is very good, but they also come for the experience.

“We’re a fun bunch of guys, we’re all dads, we all work our tails off. In the end we are doing what we love.“

The guys at Bog Turtle Brewing also give back to the community as much as they can. For example, at Sacred Heart’s Octoberfest they are literally the grand prize.

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“We take the winner’s home brew and do a full production run. It’s is an awesome prize for a home brewer!”

“First Friday’s are always a great night, but we also can’t wait for the weather to break so we can open up the Outdoor Café again.”

The Bog Turtle Brewery Tasting Room is now open. Stop by and try out of their four standard brews along with their seasonal favorites.

They recently hosted the first live music event with Blades of Grass bluegrass band, who will be coming back on Thursday March 15. They also host a weekly movie night, View with a Brew, on Wednesday’s.

You can get growlers and pints at the Tasting Room at 14 South Third Street. They also have taps at the SawMill and the Octorara Hotel and Tavern in Oxford. As well as Sovanna Bistro in Unionville. We are looking to expand this network. Once this summer hits and the Tasting Room takes off we’re looking to expand this network.

Bog Turtle Brewing
14 South Third Street
Oxford, PA 19363

Mary Lou Baily
How Kettle Corn Became a Family Affair
 

We grabbed a cup of coffee with Cheryl and Jeff Hamm, owners of  Wholly Grounds and their kids to find out how a family run business is making their mark in Downtown Oxford.

When asked how they ended up in Oxford. Cheryl said, “it all started with the Kettle Corn,” her favorite snack.

“Jeff got tired of driving around trying to find it so one day he decided to just buy the kettle and make it,” Cheryl says. “He found the whole setup down in North Carolina, so we took a weekend trip and drove down there. When we first started he would pull it out into the driveway and make a batch for me. The neighbors would smell it and come over and get their bags. That led to doing events and eventually First Fridays in Oxford.”

“The kettle corn came first to make me happy, and I still love it. I haven’t gotten tired of it yet!”

“After becoming good friends with the late Jerome Rodio, one thing led to the next and the timing worked out that we were able to purchase this building after the Lighthouse Youth Center built their new facility,” explained Jeff. “We thought we would just be doing kettle corn here. But while we were remodeling I came upon this coffee equipment, so we decided to split the store and open the coffee shop.”

“We’ve been surprised by how welcoming this community has been. Our customers have become friends, our good friends. They really are like family and if we don’t see someone for a day or two we get worried.”

“Oxford has become our new hometown.”

Cheryl explains that, “Jeff has always had entrepreneurial ideas brewing, even from the time we were first married. I also spent a lot of my childhood in family run businesses. My grandfather and great grandfather owned general stores in New Jersey and Philadelphia. I actually have some photos of their old stores hung up on the wall over there.”

“We both come from large families, I’m one of six kids with four sisters and a baby brother. Jeff is also one of six kids, but he’s the baby brother in his family. We met in high school and are going on 32 years of marriage. It’s a blessing being able to work with our kids, Kyle, Tyler, Emily, and Luke and their families.”

We asked how they keep it fun day in and day out working with their kids. They explain that they have a very sarcastic sense of humor and their kids always keep them laughing.

Being the only sister, Emily can sure keep her own. One of her charms is coming up with nicknames for their regular customers, even before she knows them.

As we sat there, “Cliff” the mailman, whose real name is Dave, comes in for his daily coffee and to share his Fun Fact for the day. Shortly after, “Grandpa Bill,” Bill Bilger the local barber, stopped in. He is one of Emily’s many adopted granddads around town. He delivered a framed map of Oxford for the Hamms to display in the shop.

The Hamms consider themselves major foodies as well as a family that loves a good pun. This is one of the ways they keep work fun. One of their signature smoothies is their green healthy option called the Hulk. And Emily came up with the name for their egg sandwich, the Eggraham Licoln. If you’re going to order it, be prepared to order it by its full and proper name.

Tyler has also taken on his dad’s enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and recently got into the hotdog business. Jeff jokes that Tyler stole his idea. “There would be no ideas left in the world if my dad did them all.” Tyler bought the hotdog cart at auction and the two drove out to Pittsburg and back in a day to pick it up.

“I’m also the reigning employee of the month, according to my self-portrait I hung on the wall”

The oldest, and self-proclaimed, favorite son Kyle opens the store at 6:30am. Cheryl jokes that “even though he has the reputation of never being anywhere on time.” She also explains that “the morning’s I don’t open the store with him, I wake up early wondering if he’s up on time and I usually end up texting him to make sure he’s on schedule.” To his mom’s surprise, Kyle says, “despite my reputation, I’ve never been late to open the doors.”

“I work on Kyle time, and if it wasn’t family I would have been fired by now”

He and his wife Patience are expecting the Hamm’s second grandchild this Spring, and her Hey Y’all mug is fitting for this Tennessee native who is studying to be a dental hygienist. When asked, what is your favorite thing about working here, Kyle answers, “the endless supply of coffee, and that I can still say ‘mom, what’s for lunch?’”

From the outside you would think working with family each day would have its hiccups. But the Hamms’ fun loving and lighthearted nature makes it a joy.

We’re glad these high school sweethearts found their new hometown in Oxford. Stop in on your next visit to Downtown Oxford and say hello to Jeff, Cheryl, and the kids!

You can also stop in during the monthly Story Time, the third Friday of the month at 10am.

Mary Lou Baily
Music = Lifelong Entertainment
 

The Oxford Arts Alliance is celebrating their 10-year anniversary in 2018. The Alliance began as a Fine Art Gallery… and then came the music and art education programs, the brainchild of a 23-year-old music school graduate with a vision.

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We had a chance to sit down with Director of Education, Tony Derrico to learn about how the education programs developed and the amazing things happening at 38 South Third Street.

“The education programs at the Oxford Arts Alliance have truly been a grassroot effort. We’ve grown from 5 students taking a group guitar lesson in 2010 to over 150 students a week taking music lessons. Today we have nine different instructors from drum, violin, bass, guitar, piano, and more.”

“We started giving private lessons by receiving an out-of-tune donated piano with dents and dings. One day we convinced three volunteers to hoist it up the stairs to the second-floor lesson room.  Now, each year there is an increasing demand for lessons, having grown from teaching guitar in the director’s office on the first floor, to now occupying the whole building.”

“I was an ice hockey player growing up, but got injured in early high school. That’s when I really started playing bass and guitar.  I joined a band in 9th grade with some friends, but was promptly kicked out for not being good enough.  I became “I’ll show you,” so I started taking lessons at Cecil College with Andrew Dickinson and would practice six hours a day.  By the time I was a senior at Oxford High School I was going to Cecil College part time to study music theory. I was hooked.”

“Learning to play an instrument is a life-long skill that doesn’t have any age or physical limitations. We have taught students as young as four to play violin. Even students with vision-impairments have been able to learn guitar using felt pads to feel the frets rather than see them.”

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Music is a creative outlet that you can do for you entire life. -Tony Derrico

“That is what keeps my job interesting, the vast age range we teach and the different skills each student brings to the lesson.”

“The benefit of taking one-on-one lessons is that each session can be customized to each student. The challenge with learning to play an instrument is that you need to use all your senses, it is tactile, aural, and visual. One student may be a visual learner and can read music and figure out an arrangement that way, while another student may be a tactile learner and will never be great at reading music. But, once they hold an instrument and begin playing they can pick it up. The other challenge about teaching music is the key lesson that’s taught is, how to make mistakes. And, it’s not the fact that you made the mistake, but how you react to that mistake and how you overcome it is the true lesson.”

“The students that have the biggest impact on me personally are the ones that are extremely creative. They may not be the best players, or practice the most, but if they come to a lesson having done a ton of research about a style of music or a song and we can have an intellectual conversation about that research, those are the students that stand out to me.”

“I have been truly surprised by the immense interest from the community in taking lessons. We have had over 700 students come through our doors. I had no idea it would spread and grow so fast. I’m also impressed with the vast amount of talent in our community – there are some really great musicians.”

Instructors are mainly pulled from those graduating from Cecil College’s music program. Tony, who is also an Assistant Director at Cecil College, has a goal of keeping those who study music or art in that field. He has found that if they use those skills they learned in college soon after graduation there is more of a chance they will stay with it for their career.

“I want to see more Oxford students go into the Arts and Music fields.  When you talk about a town you talk about the artists that came from that town. I want Oxford to be in on those conversations.”

“My goal for the next 10 years is to see the Arts Alliance offer scholarships to 50% of our students. We currently offer very limited scholarships in addition to the Richard Beard college scholarship offered to graduating seniors. Being able to offer free music lessons to students who may otherwise not have an outlet would be amazing. I would also love to see the Alliance develop a youth orchestra.”

“One of the more surprising things about me is that I am extremely introverted. I may talk a lot as a teacher and instructor, but when it comes to music, I prefer to sit in my office with my cup of coffee and write music at my computer. It may stem from my childhood, I had leukemia as a kid and spent a lot of time alone or at museums.”

Tony has spent years teaching music to hundreds of students of all ages and we are lucky to have such a passionate instructor right here in Downtown Oxford. While he doesn’t currently play with a band, his interest now lies in composing and arranging. You can see his work at Cecil College, where he is the Assistant Director of Chamber Ensemble and take lessons from him at the Oxford Arts Alliance.

Mary Lou Baily