Show of Hands 2019

No Shortage of Good Food … and Dinosaurs … at Upcoming Show of Hands

One is shooting for a “dino-mite” win. Another is no chicken in this match. A third is really working it for the dough. And the fourth one is hoping for a big serving of votes with a cool side of cash.

At what has become a popular and well-attended event, the 18th edition of the Wheeling Heritage Show of Hands will present four new contenders on Wednesday, Oct. 23, on the third floor of the Wheeling Artisan Center, located at 14th and Main streets, downtown Wheeling.

They are:

• The Blended Homestead, Brianna and Eric Blend

• In The Mix Bakery, Missy Mazeska and Tina Boyd

• Rachel’s On 16th, Jeramie Alverado and Rachel Williams

• SMART Centre Market, Libby and Robert Strong

“These four businesses are a mix of both long-standing and brand new ventures — from SMART Centre Market, which has been a part of Centre Wheeling for nearly a decade, to Rachel’s On 16th, which just recently opened its doors,” said Alex Weld, director of operations at Wheeling Heritage. “Also, there’s an interesting mix of funding needs. A fiberglass T. rex head and ‘chicken tractors’ were both firsts for the Show of Hands committee. They’re unique requests that serve important purposes. All four of these business owners are seeking funding to expand, which is exciting for all of us.”

Representatives of the four businesses will pitch their projects at the Wednesday event. The one who receives the majority of the votes from the audience will take home more than $3,000. About $60,000 has been awarded thus far to winners since the event began.

Prize money comes from sponsors and from money collected at the door. Orrick is the event corporate sponsor, and Friends of Show of Hands include: Dave and Beth Weaver, Wheeling Volkswagen and Subaru; Dr. and Mrs. Dan and Debbie Joseph — Joseph Orthodontics; Brian Joseph — Touchstone Research Laboratory; Fuzz and Barb LaRue; H. Lawrence Jones; Kennen & Kennen Realtors; Warwood Armature; Rabbi Joshua and Rebecca Lief; Bob Hitchman; and a private donor.

Doors open at 6 p.m. with music provided by Adrian Niles. Guests will have the chance to network, socialize and enjoy an hors d’oeuvres buffet.

The four-minute presentations begin at 6:30 p.m. The audience can ask up to four questions of each presenter. Then, the voting begins. Attendees who pay $5 at the door will be entitled to one vote.

During tallying time, audience members who have paid an additional $5 at the door can make a one-minute community announcement. Also, the winner at the spring Show of Hands, Hangover BBQ, will apprise the audience of their business improvements.

Billy and Stephanie Litman with their winning check at the spring Show of Hands.

Show of Hands committee members are Melinda Koslick, Steve Johnston, Michael Biela, Ron Scott, Devon Hepburn and Valerie Piko. These individuals decide who will present at the event. “We had seven applications this time. They were all very high-quality requests,” Weld noted.

Prior to the event, join friends at a happy hour from 5-6 p.m. at River City, on the first floor of the Artisan Center.


Brianna and Eric Blend

Explain the concept of your business? What do you do? Who do you serve?

We are a Wheeling farm. We grow all of our products with the best possible care. We rotationally graze our animals, which means they are constantly moving. Our broiler chickens get moved daily, yes, every day, and our egg-laying chickens get moved every week or so. Our pigs are moved every two weeks. This is valuable to ensure a more positive life for the animals, but it gives our pastures plenty of time to grow. This also minimizes erosion, and makes it so we do not have to use antibiotics or hormones. We sell to local restaurants and customers at our local farmers’ markets. We currently sell at the [Wheeling, Warwood and Brooke County farmers’ markets]. We also educate the youth and adults at events around the area how things are grown, and the challenges farmers encounter regularly. We also make videos we post on our Facebook page to educate our customers and possible future farmers on tips and tricks of farming.

Eric and Brianna Blend display items at a local farmers’ market.

What main selling points will you be presenting to the audience at the Show of Hands? In other words, why should they vote for you?

If we would win the Show of Hands, we intend to use that money to expand our poultry section of our farm. With a larger trailer, poultry crates and another chicken tractor, we can fulfill larger orders, and meet the needs of the Wheeling community. We would also be able to lower our operating cost and keep our prices low to compete with commercial poultry producers. We are encouraged by customers that try our products and say, “I haven’t eaten chicken that tastes like this since I was a kid.” It is disappointing when we are sold out of certain products, and customers are turned away from supporting a local farm because supply is limited.

Why Wheeling? Why here for your business? How does your business enhance the city of Wheeling?

We bought our house in 2015 after moving to the Wheeling area in 2014. We wanted to start raising some chickens for our personal consumption after we had educated ourselves on how food from the grocery store is raised. We started our small homestead in 2016 with four egg-laying chickens and 15 chickens for meat. We have grown steadily every year and will produce more than 1,000 meat chickens this year. Our egg-laying flock has also increased to include 80 birds. We added honeybees and pasture-raised pigs in 2018.

We value a homestead in which everything works together, hence our name, and we do so sustainably. Setting up at local farmers’ markets, we are able to speak directly with our customers and have had excellent feedback from customers. We appreciate all of our customers in the Ohio Valley and hope to grow even more.

Farming is becoming more uncommon every year, but with this growth, we hope to curb that trend. We try to help other future farmers and other business owners in the Wheeling area. To do this, we participate in events such as Hands On Ag Day in Marshall County and the Women in Agriculture Conference held in various locations around the state each year. We love educating people on our philosophies and the way we farm so that we can inspire others to be self-sufficient.

We also support other local farmers and businesses because we ask for our customers to do the same. If we don’t grow or produce a certain product, we point them in the direction of a local farmer that has those crops or meats available. With us having the ability to grow, customers can support us, and realize how easy it is to support other Wheeling farms as well.

Eric and Brianna Blend

Are you from Wheeling? Can you tell me a bit about your educational/professional background?

I am from Buckhannon, West Virginia, and my wife Brianna is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We met at West Virginia University and began dating shortly after graduating. I have a degree in wildlife and fisheries resources management with a minor in conservation biology and currently work for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

Brianna graduated from WVU with a psychology degree and found a love of teaching following graduation. She commuted to WVU to get her master’s in elementary education and is currently a special education teacher at Warwood Elementary.

We hope to live in Wheeling for the rest of our lives and to grow our family here. We are self-taught farmers, not coming from farming families. We started our business from scratch when we bought our first chickens in 2016. We have asked many questions and received invaluable advice from various farming outlets in the area, including our local WVU extension agent, Karen Cox, and our West Virginia Department of Agriculture business coordinator, Kacey Gantzer. Other farmers and entrepreneurs in the area have also been a great help to guide us in the right direction. We cannot thank them enough for helping our farm grow.

Where is your business, and for how long has it been established?

We are located at 4145 Oglebay Drive, Wheeling. Our homestead is on Route 88, in between Oglebay and West Liberty, one mile past the old Henry’s gas station. If you have driven to West Liberty in recent years, you have probably seen our operation, with our pigs and chickens alongside the road. We have been in operation for three years.

If you win, how do you plan to use the winning funds?

We plan to buy a trailer, poultry crates, and purchase supplies to build another chicken tractor or two. With these additions, we would be able to expand our poultry section to help to accommodate the local demand for pasture-raised chicken in the Wheeling area. If we win, these additions will immediately help our business in the upcoming growing season and help us better serve the community. These improvements have a direct impact on Wheeling and the surrounding area so that we can provide local, high-quality, pasture-raised meats.

Has this been a longtime dream? Why?

It became a dream in 2016 when we bought our house and had some land of our own to work with. So many people say that farming can’t be done, and we have worked very hard to get to where we are now so that we can show those same people what we have accomplished. We accepted the challenge and love exceeding the expectations that have been faced with. We have gained so many customers that appreciate our product and the hard work we put into everything we produce. Everything you see on our tables at our farmers’ markets is something we have produced with our own hands, and that is something we take great pride in.

Feel free to share any personal information you’d like — family, hobbies, etc.

We have been married since 2016 and enjoy working as a team while farming and visiting local fairs and festivals. We love spending our free time with our families in Pittsburgh and Buckhannon.


Missy Mazeska and Tina Boyd

Explain the concept of your business? What do you do? Who do you serve?

In The Mix Bakery is a full-service bakery located in the Elm Grove part of Wheeling. We offer a daily variety of sweet treats, make specialty cakes, cookies and desserts for all types of events. We serve the people of the Ohio Valley that are looking for a special treat for a large event, for morning breakfast or for dessert after dinner. We also handle commercial accounts for everything from meetings to large events and menus.

What main selling points will you be presenting to the audience at the Show of Hands? In other words, why should they vote for you?

The main points to be presented at the show are our need for some equipment that will aid in faster and more pristine production, a larger selection of items and our need for a larger space so that we may continue the growth of our business in Wheeling. We are currently [one of] the only full-service [bakeries] in the Wheeling area.

Why Wheeling? Why here for your business? How does your business enhance the city of Wheeling?

We started our business in Wheeling because of the growth possibilities and the love of the area. We looked in many areas and decided that Wheeling offered the best opportunities in helping small business flourish. Thus far, we were correct in our decision in every aspect, including everything from meeting with inspectors to the CoStarters classes [offered by Wheeling Heritage], to other local businesses being supportive and the RED program. Wheeling really stands up for small business, and it shows.

According to our customers, our business enhances Wheeling simply by being a full-line bakery. Many people have talked about the fact that it just doesn’t exist anymore in this area; I have had many conversations about how we used to have bakeries in every area of Wheeling, and now there aren’t any. My favorite is when people share a memory of going to some of the very well-known bakeries such as Royal Bakery or Green’s Donuts on a Sunday morning with their family for those special treats. We believe there is a need for a place like In The Mix Bakery in today’s Wheeling, and that is what we are building.

Tina Boyd, left, and Missy Mazeska.

Are you from Wheeling? Can you tell me a bit about your educational/professional background?

Tina Boyd and Missy Mazeska are both residents of Martins Ferry, Ohio. Both Tina and Missy have been working in the food and beverage industry most of their working lives. Both of us have worked in just about every aspect of a restaurant/resort possible, from server to manager. Tina worked at Oglebay Park as the pastry chef  for more than 17  years and Missy as her right hand  for about 14 years. Between the two of us, there really isn’t much we haven’t faced. We both have our strong points, and that’s what makes us a great team.

Where is your business, and for how long has it been established?

We opened on Jan. 5, 2019, and we are located at 40 Junior Ave., Wheeling.

If you win, how do you plan to use the winning funds?

Winning The Show of Hands would truly help us continue to grow our business by giving us the ability to procure some much-needed equipment including a machine called a sheeter, which is used to turn dough or fondant into sheets for covering pies/cakes. This will enable us to increase our productivity by about 25 percent. We also have need for more freezer space, which will also allow us to increase productivity and offer more selection than we currently have. So another two-door freezer is a second item we would like to acquire unless we find a place to move that has a walk-in freezer in it. That brings us to the final use for funds that we generate — we need a larger location so that we can continue to grow and start creating jobs for others here in Wheeling, West Virginia.

Has this been a longtime dream? Why?

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Not just a dream … it’s been pretty much an assumption that one day we would have our own bakery. Over the years, it was often a topic of discussion, and the reason why — well for the adventure of course — the dream of making a thought into a reality and being successful at it, is truly a rush in itself. The love of seeing someone’s face when you unveil their vision for a wedding cake or birthday cake is an amazing feeling. Getting to chat with customers stopping in to grab treats for the office on their way to work. Really it’s all about community and having a place to make the valley just a little sweeter.

Feel free to share any personal information you’d like — family, hobbies, etc.

Tina has four awesome children (three girls and one boy) and an amazing boyfriend. She loves the outdoors, and her absolute favorite activity is fishing. Tina says that she is the silent partner in the business (behind the scenes). She started baking 30 years ago and has worked in local establishments including Stratford Springs, Nail City and Oglebay Park. Missy has two children (one girl and one boy) and an amazing grandson who you will see from time to time at the bakery. When she isn’t cutting cake, she is cutting wood as a member of the Oglebay Woodcarvers Guild. She loves to travel and has been to just about every state in America (mostly Florida and North Carolina).


Jeramie Alverado and Rachel Williams

Explain the concept of your business? What do you do? Who do you serve?

The concept of our business is diner-style comfort food. Our menu was designed from our own experiences, whether it be working in the restaurant industry or enjoying a meal at many mom and pop diners throughout our travels. For us, we thought that Wheeling has a lot of different eateries, but one that Wheeling didn’t yet possess was a breakfast and lunch counter.

Jeramie Alverado

What we do is serve up [are] homecooked breakfasts that one may enjoy on a trip to grandma’s house. Our lunch menu is also delicious with a variety of sandwiches, soups and salads. Now, we in no way are reinventing the wheel. What we have done is taken simple recipes, put our home-cooked twist on them and made them our own. One that has become quite famous already is our hot roast beef.

About 85 percent of our customers consist of the great people that work in Wheeling. Our customers are usually on their way to work in the morning or have walked over on their lunch break. The other 15 percent of our customers are friends, family and a good bit of the general public that have heard great things about our food and have now found themselves coming every week and sometimes every day.

What main selling points will you be presenting to the audience at the Show of Hands? In other words, why should they vote for you?

The reason we would like everyone to vote for us is quite simple really. Like any small business in this great city, we are here to provide a service to the public, provide jobs and provide for our family. The business we are in is food. Simply put, we need [a] walk-in cooler. Having a walk-in cooler will give us the absolute space we need to store and organize the many items it takes to run our restaurant. We are doing it now with ordinary residential-style freezers and refrigerators, and, although it has worked so far, they are packed to the gills with our inventory, and, on several occasions, we have had to replace a few of them.

Recently, we have introduced special items that aren’t on our regular menu and have run them as our weekly specials. So far, these weekly specials have been selling like crazy. When doing some of these specials, we oftentimes have to purchase more and different items to stock for that particular week. We want to do way more in the future and having this walk-in cooler will help us get there for sure.

Why Wheeling? Why here for your business? How does your business enhance the city of Wheeling?

Wheeling is the perfect setting for small businesses like ours. This great city is full of hardworking people that have chosen this great city to raise and educate their families. Wheeling is the city we love, and it is the city we wanted to become a staple in. Rachel’s On 16th enhances the city’s spectrum of restaurants by providing a menu that no one else does. Not only do we do that, but we do it at a price that anyone can afford. Before we ever opened, if someone wanted to get a small diner experience they would shoot over to Ohio and find themselves at Sonny Boy. Now that we are open, that trip across the river outside of our great city is no longer needed.

The crew at Rachel’s On 16th

Are you from Wheeling? Can you tell me a bit about your educational/professional background?

Rachel was born and raised here in Wheeling. I, on the other hand, am not. I came here in 1997 to attend college at West Liberty State College. Once I finished college, I went back to West Chester, Pennsylvania, to teach at a private school. Rachel is a Wheeling Park graduate. I eventually came back to Wheeling to continue my education and decided to stay thereafter. I’ve been working in restaurants for as long as I can remember and have always talked about having my own place one day.

Where is your business, and for how long has it been established?

Our business is located at 86 16th St. in East Wheeling. We have been open since Aug. 13, 2019.

If you win, how do you plan to use the winning funds?

If we win the funds from the Show of Hands, we plan on getting someone local to begin the plans on building this walk-in cooler we so greatly need.

Has this been a longtime dream? Why?

This has been a life-long dream because I just love food and people. Every time I have tried work in another industry, I always ended up back in the food, beverage and service industry. I love people, and there is nothing more rewarding then creating something in the kitchen, and people loving it.

Feel free to share any personal information you’d like — family, hobbies, etc.

Rachel is the mother of two of our four children. We when first met six years ago, she and I both had daughters from previous relationships. Since then we had another daughter and a son together.

[Rachel] was diagnosed with breast cancer in February and so far has completed her chemo and had a double mastectomy not long ago. She is currently going through radiation on a daily basis and will soon have reconstruction surgery. She sometimes can be seen at the restaurant talking with customers and telling her story, but because of her current condition she unfortunately cannot physically work.

Rachel Williams, third from left, enjoys the food at Rachel’s On 16th.

Rachel has always been a strong independent women and pretty much was my muse for the idea of this restaurant. In the movie “Rocky,” he opened an Italian restaurant and named it Adrian’s. I felt like that was a great idea. To give a restaurant a woman’s name is very smart. You give it a woman’s touch in decor, paint colors and all-around ambiance, and your customers will come. People like a nice clean place to come eat; they like a good atmosphere. You mix all of that in with a great product and great service, you can’t lose.


Robert and Libby Strong

Explain the concept of your business? What do you do? Who do you serve?

Do you love dinosaurs, space and/or ice cream? SMART Centre Market has all three! SMART stands for Science, Mathematics, Art, Research and Technology. SMART Centre Market is an interactive science store where all sorts of science toys, books, games, puzzles, rocks, minerals, fossils, fossil replicas, science and nature-related art, Orion telescopes and even Kirke’s ice cream may be purchased.

There are STEM-related exhibits and hands-on activities and events offered throughout the year at the facility, including StarWatches with telescopes. We also host a variety of musical artists on First Fridays, including Cabin Fever String Band Trio, Laura Cramblet and Brooke Deal, Michael Iafrate and more. Most of our events are free to the public. SMART Centre Market is the host facility for numerous teacher workshops, science camps, school visits and birthday parties.

We serve the residents of the Wheeling area by acting as a venue to engage in STEM and a place to ask science-related questions. We are a family-friendly destination for tourists to the Wheeling area. We have had visitors to our shop from many countries as well as large cities throughout the United States as they are visiting the friendly city.

Robert wears a Santa hat at SMART Centre Market.

What main selling points will you be presenting to the audience at the Show of Hands? In other words, why should they vote for you?

The main selling points for our idea are greater than just the more prominent signage. The “grab your attention” dinosaur will increase foot traffic to our shop, and we expect that the installation of the dinosaur head will boost the numbers of visitors to the Historic Centre Market area. Photographs may be taken with the newest of the Centre Market artistic installations. It will be cool, unusual, and everyone wants a good place for a selfie in Wheeling these days!

Why Wheeling? Why here for your business? How does your business enhance the city of Wheeling?

We love West Virginia. We want to make it better. We believe in science education and in the love for learning that we all need to foster. Wheeling is a great small town with big-city amenities. We chose to stay here and cultivate what we have been doing in the region for almost 25 years.

When we started SMART Centre Market, there was no science store in all of West Virginia. When we would do a program for the SMART-Center (the non-profit science education outreach), people would ask where they could purchase many of the items we used (gyroscopes, prisms, fossils, etc.). We decided to start SMART Centre Market in the Historic Centre Market area after finding a space to lease owned by Andy Hogan at 30 22nd St. We opened in spring of 2010.

We believe that SMART Centre Market enhances the quality of life for the residents of the Wheeling area. Many families frequent the business to “talk science” or to peruse the plethora of science-related merchandise. It is a “one-stop shop” for many who have friends and relatives who enjoy science. It is a unique store with a full-size Tyrannosaurus skull replica in the front window and telescopes in the other.

The SMART Centre Market exhibit room

Are you from Wheeling? Can you tell me a bit about your educational/professional background?

Robert has lived in Wheeling since 1990, and Libby has lived in Wheeling since 1995 (when she married Robert). Robert lived in many different places throughout the U.S. as a child and graduated high school in Richmond, Virginia. He received his degree in physics from West Virginia Wesleyan. He taught mathematics and science in both Benin, West Africa, and in American Samoa before moving to Wheeling. Robert holds a master’s degree in space studies from the University of North Dakota. Robert was a classroom science and math teacher for over 10 years and has been an informal science educator for more than 25 years.

Libby grew up in Petersburg, West Virginia, as the daughter of a conservation officer, spurring her love of nature and a curiosity about the world. She holds a degree in biological sciences and is permanently certified in biology, chemistry and general science in the state of West Virginia. She holds a master’s degree in secondary education with a science emphasis from WVU. Libby taught in both Grant and Tucker counties before moving to Wheeling. She has also lived in Germany and upstate New York. Along with working with the SMART Centre Market and SMART-Center, Libby is employed part time through EC Staffing and Consulting in Glen Dale as the project director for the West Virginia Handle On Science program, a hands-on STEM program for K-6 grades in Brooke, Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties. The program has been in effect since 1998. It provides FOSS (Full Option Science System) science kits and refurbishment along with support for teachers in the participating area.

Libby and Robert Strong

Where is your business, and for how long has it been established?

We are located in the Historic Centre Market area of Wheeling across from the upper Centre Market house at 30 22nd St. We opened in April of 2010.

If you win, how do you plan to use the winning funds?

The budget for our project is approximately $5,000. We plan to purchase a life-sized fiberglass T. rex head for the exterior second-floor window with new signage on both the market house side of the building and above the front door. This fiberglass dinosaur will appear to be bursting out of the second-floor window and serve as a destination/attraction to the Historic Centre Market area.

Has this been a longtime dream? Why?

The idea of the fiberglass T. rex head and the new signage has been in the works for several years. Before we acted on this idea, we needed approval from the Historic Landmarks Commission. This was acquired in September of 2019 after applying for a certificate of appropriateness. We then moved forward with the Show of Hands application. We are grateful to have this opportunity to present our idea to the general public.

Feel free to share any personal information you’d like — family, hobbies, etc.

Robert loves doing math and reads prolifically! Robert loves writing as well. Libby loves nature study and also enjoys writing. Both enjoy antiques, travel and science fiction movies. Libby is the oldest of five children. Her father, Roger Wilkinson, is a retired conservation officer. He and his wife, Faye, live in Petersburg, West Virginia. Robert and Libby have no children but have 11 nieces and nephews.

Having spent nearly 38 years as reporter, bureau chief, lifestyles editor and managing editor at The Times Leader, and design editor at The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, Phyllis Sigal now serves as Weelunk’s managing editor. She lives in Wheeling with her husband Bruce Wheeler. Along with their two children, son-in-law and two grandchildren, food, wine, travel, theater and music are close to their hearts.