Local business owners, trail users and Oil Region Alliance and Chamber of Commerce members gathered Wednesday to reaffirm the economic importance of the area’s trail systems by endowing small businesses with a little boost of cash.
“At first I was not a firm believer in the economic impact of the trails, but now I believe 150 percent … these businesses are economic drivers,” Venango County commissioner Vince Witherup said during the event at Cross Creek Resort.
Witherup said a Trail User Survey and Economic Impact Analysis of the trail system in the Oil Region Alliance area indicates it attracts more than 158,000 people per year and has a direct economic impact of around $7 million for the area.
The Alliance announced the winners of the third annual “Get on the Trail!” entrepreneurial business plan contest Wednesday. The contest was aimed at promoting economic growth along the corridor from Hydetown in eastern Crawford County to Foxburg Borough in western Clarion County by offering rewards to new and expanding businesses that submitted solid business plans to provide vital goods and services to trail users, project manager Deb Lutz said.
First place went to Kathy and Larry Licht of Warner’s Bakery in Titusville who won $5,000 that will be used to install handicapped restrooms in an expansion of their business. The bakery is located in a landmark building at 115 N Franklin St. in Titusville’s historic downtown district.
Warner’s is recognized as the birthplace of the Eat’n Park Smiley Face Cookie and the Boston Brown bread also served at Eat’n Park.
The bakery is now expanding to open the Grandmas Kitchen restaurant, which will offer a select range of comfort foods typically found in grandmas’ northwest Pennsylvania kitchens.
In addition to family recipes already on hand, tested recipes from local grandmothers will be featured.
“Pursuing this business is really making our dreams come true,” Kathy Licht said.
Second place went to owners Anna and Danae Mong, of Impel Pilates of Franklin, who won $2,000.
Impel Pilates & Yoga Studio has been in Franklin since 2009, when the Mongs decided to move back from Florida to their hometown of Franklin to establish their business. They chose a former dance studio in the heart of Franklin’s downtown business district to operate their studio.
Through the purchase of additional studio equipment and targeted marketing projects, the Mongs will develop, promote and offer additional pilates and yoga classes both in the studio and outdoors at various sites along the trail.
The third-place prize went to AmaZing Boxes in Franklin, a new endeavor owned by Judy Grandelis that won $1,000.
AmaZing Foods Catering Co. & Cafe offers both on-site and off-site dining services at its Elk Street location in Franklin. AmaZing Boxes is a new product idea that will be launched in order to better serve takeout and catering customers.
Many trail users now order lunches to take with them as they bike, hike and kayak. The new business will create identifiable ‘boxes’ that can be customized with breakfast, lunch and snack items.
Grandelis plans to use her contest winnings to purchase various pieces of food storage and catering equipment needed for the new product.
This year’s contest got underway in April when 10 contestants submitted their applications.
The competition was funded through a grant from Venango County and hasn’t cost taxpayers a penny, Lutz said. The grant received from the county is enough to allow the competition to be run again next year.