Jack's Floral, Gift & Garden Center, a business that thrived in the St. Clairsville area for more than a quarter of a century, has ceased operations.
As Greg Malik, son of the man who founded the popular horticultural center in 1985, put it with a touch of sadness in his voice, "Jack's is out of business."
But the site where it was located along historic National Road less than a half-mile west of St. Clairsville is being redeveloped and will soon have new life. A new office building is being constructed and when it is completed, it will complement another major business as anchors on the 15-acre site where additional expansion is anticipated in the future.
As I talked to Malik, a dozen or more workmen were feverishly working around us, constructing a 5,000-square-foot building that will house the new business that has indicated an interest in occupying the structure. He said the workers are employed by the Malik family firm, M5 Management Group, LLC.
Malik preferred not to discuss the name of the prospective tenant that will take over the building. "We have a business that is very interested in moving into this place, but negotiations are still to be finalized," Malik asserted.
He indicated the tenant should be revealed in the near future because, "This building will be available for occupancy in 60 days." He did admit, however, that the firm is a well-known, established company.
Since the redevelopment project started in January, Malik said the family firm has sold six of the 10 greenhouses that had been located on the site. "They were sold to businesses locally and in Columbus." He's hopeful the other four greenhouses will soon meet the same fate, so that the entire acreage can be leveled to attract other commercial businesses.
When the floral center and gift shop was developed 26 years ago by his father - attorney and former Belmont County Probate Court Judge John J. Malik - the center included 10,000 square feet of greenhouses. it was a business where all types of gifts and colorful floral designs off all shapes and sizes could be obtained, as well as lawn and garden plants and supplies. Before Jack Malik took it over, the huge building on the site was known as the "Red Barn." With the opening of his new business, it became known as the "Green Barn."
All of that is now gone. "We're getting rid of all the greenhouses to make space for other commercial development," Greg Malik explained. "On the remaining acreage, we'll build to suit any commercial operation that wants to locate here."
The new business that will be making its headquarters there in the near future won't be the first to occupy part of the 15 acres included in the development site. For the past six years, Lashley Tractor Sales has operated its Kubota Barn franchise at the site and Lashley officials said their plans are to remain there.
Looking over the area as he directed the feverish construction activity, Greg Malik commented, "In 90 days there will be quite a transformation in this property."
With the results of the March primary election now official, both the Belmont County Democrat and Republican political parties will be concentrating their efforts on preparing for the November general election and the first order of business, as dictated by Ohio law, will be for each of them to hold their annual reorganizational meetings.
The leaders of both parties - Ed Good of the Shadyside area in the Democratic Party and Diana Kennon of St. Clairsville in the Republican Party - have declared their intentions of being candidates for re-election. Good has completed four years as party chairman, while Kennon was named the GOP chairwoman in March 2011 to fill the vacancy crated by the resignation of Kent Moore.
While the re-election of Kennon appears to be a cut-and-dried matter by members of the GOP county central committee, the same does not appear to hold true for the Democrats, where some differences have infiltrated the ranks. The Democrat situation will be ironed out at the party's meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the Justice Center at the Belmont County Jail.
Republicans will also be meeting Monday at 7 p.m. at the GOP headquarters in Belmont.
During the May primary, 57 candidates were elected or re-elected to the Democrat Central Committee. They were: Penny Jo Frizzi, Rosalie Pappano, James Tekely, Robert Hunkler, Phil Wallace, Andrew Sutak, Anthony Saratore, Pam Wampler, Jean Partezana, Robert Quirk, Pamela Sue Neff, Ginny Favede, Michael Shaheen, Lillian Misencik, Steve Kubic, Chuck Probst, Jeff Gazdik, Scott Mazzulli, Sandra Diosi, Patricia Purtiman, John Mattox, Todd Kildow, Douglass Kemp, Jay Morgan, Dwayne Pielech, Ed Good, Diane Pitt, Kathleen Shanks, Shirleann Murad, Bob Weaver, Elizabeth Timko, Stanley Simoncic, Roger Weaver, Gloria Closser, Silvy Roseberry, Cheryl Zeno, Catherine Nixon, Donna Shubat, Carl Lehman, Gordie Longshaw, John DeBonis, Gregory Bizzarri, Tracey Lloyd, Fred Thompson, David L. Jerico, Thomas J. Miller, Tom McCort, Alma Stoich, Daniel Carlier, Elizabeth Willis, Rita Hall, Jeanette Hissom, Catherine Carlier, William Davis, Joe Marchisio, Jeryl McGaffick and Mark McVey.
Republican committee members elected included: Ronnie Marling, Denise Robinson, Robert Davies, Kenneth Williams, Kristi Lipscomb, Bonnie Krock, Richard Myser, Chris Berhalter, Frank Carrothers, David Jones, Karen McKeen, Paul Schafer, Robert A. Lewis, Diana Kennon, Kellie Conway, Tim Johnson, Cynthia Fregiato, Kelly McCabe, Kent Moore, Laura Groux, Donald Eberhart, Brad Hudson, Thomas Ebert and Christopher Walisiak.
Besides setting a record for the largest amount of money ever given to Belmont County organizations for tourism-related activities - $59,000 - the Belmont County Tourism Council has had another significant "first" record this year:
An organization returned the money it had been given.
In 2011, Sharon Hanse of the Barnesville Rails to Trails Committee submitted an application for a grant to be used "to create and print and up to date trail map of Barnesville and Belmont County because this has not been done for 15 years."
The tourism council trimmed her request slightly but agreed to grant the committee $500 for the project. She received the funds in March 2011. Two weeks ago the tourism council received a letter from Hanse and with it was a check for $500.
"Enclosed please find a check for $500 - a return of the funds from the grant issued to the Barnesville Rails to Trails Committee for the purpose of creating a map," Hanse wrote. "Unfortunately we were unable to complete the project at this time. We are still working on it."
"That's the first time anyone ever returned a grant," commented tourism council Director Eugene "Doc" Householder. "I'm certain her truthfulness and honesty will be remembered next year when the council considers her application for a grant."
The relatively mild winter we have just survived has been a welcome boon to the economy of Belmont County and in particular to the engineer's office, where thousands of taxpayer dollars have been saved over winter expenses encountered in previous years.
County Engineer Fred Bennett points out that for the 2011-12 winter, th engineer's office used $185,529 for snow and ice control materials such as salt, cinders and grits. That figure, however, does not include labor and equipment used.
That's a big savings over the $315,755 spent last year and the $362,726 spent the year before to make the county roads as safe as possible for traffic during the winter months.
But likely, Bennett is keeping his fingers crossed as he notes, "With the little snowfall we received and the warmer than usual temperatures so far in 2012, let me remind you that Easter is a couple of weeks away and we usually get an 'Easter snow'."
Al Molnar can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.