From Allegany Magazine’s January 2022 edition. Read the full article here.
One Year In…
A Sleepy Charming Town and Touting the Truth that Self-Discovery Lies in the Outdoors
One of Cumberland’s newer businesses reports on its first full year in business — amidst a global pandemic and a new emerging civic reputation.
A friend of mine once told me “The only thing more overrated than having children is having your own business,” and although this was said tongue-in-cheek, it does in some way capture the range of emotions that accompanies owning your own business, something we imagine is amplified when said business is located in a small town like Cumberland.
First – let’s review the good:
- Positive energy – The city seems to be buzzing with it, you can’t miss it if you are looking and listening for it. This new energy exists like little fireflies that suddenly appear on warm summer evenings, when the temperature is just right, the stars align and people for whatever reason decide to come down to this community square. You see this energy in the sounds of new construction, talk of new businesses opening and formerly vacant buildings being purchased. There is an undercurrent of what could be, what is happening and what most likely will be happening in the near future. With our location right in the middle of downtown Cumberland, it is fair to say that we could report a 15% increase in revenue if we collected $1 for every tourist who comes into the shop in awe of the Cumberland downtown and amazed at the untapped potential. 15% is hyperbole of course.
- The better – The better builds on the good. In our community, the thing that makes us uniquely wonderful, memorably quaint is the same thing that is the number one asset in any business can boast of – the people. Wheelzup has been blessed to be supported by some of the most wonderful people. People who make the voyage downtown, find a parking spot and walk the mall directly to our shop. People who when asked, what are you doing downtown, respond with the coveted nectar of “we came to check out the store”. We have been amazed by the people, overwhelmingly willing to embrace our gospel of “Access, Knowledge and Community,” refusing to lower their standards to what American society pictures Appalachia to be — poor and forgotten, but proudly linking arms and working to build a place to be proud of. As a new business, it is amazing what a $15 purchase, some great conversation and parting words of “we are glad you are here and we will be back” does to validate resolve and quiet the doubting demons.
- The bad – It would be dishonest to deny that we could very well lose the jestfully aforementioned 15% if we had to surrender $1 for every “Negative Nelly” – the local who comes into the shop, commends us on how beautiful the shop looks and then promptly proceeds to spend the next 10 minutes complaining about all the things wrong with the city and comparing it to what it was when they were kids in the “good old days.” That conversation always ends with, “I hope you guys make it” as they proceed to leave without even purchasing a $15 item, of which we have many.
- The bad is the sadness that comes with missed opportunities for our community and opportunity cost from policy rigidity. The lack of a higher level of collaboration between individuals, businesses, the city, and the county. It is the sadness that arises every time a tourist says “I saw the beautiful city and got off the exit only to find that the buildings were mostly empty, ghosts of greater times.”
And now, the truth.
- The truth – the truth is that we have no regrets, on the contrary we are elated that we were bold enough to jump. We are one year now into this voyage and still afloat. Every month we have learned the hard but true lesson bestowed by a mentor of mine – You can do everything right, yet the business does not succeed. It may be that you don’t have the right product for your market, or maybe you are too early and the market is not ready for you … yet, the things you must pursue and value are the lessons being learned along the journey.
- The truth is that in this short time we have built an incredible community, we have made amazing friends, connected new colleagues and planted seeds of new things many would have been afraid to try in the recent past. We have made a sleepy charming town our playground and touted the truth that self-discovery lies in the outdoors.
As we slowly navigate into the new year of 2002, we hope people make the time to make the pilgrimage to this cobbled street of walnut bottom where many businesses try to continue to hold the torch for what our wonderful city can be — at least until the Calvary arrives and completes the fairytale of the queen city.