Currently viewing the tag: "Frederick County Office of Economic Development"

James Rada, Jr.

Thurmont recently recognized its business all-stars with the “You Make Thurmont Proud” Awards. The awards recognized businesses and individuals who “exceeded or excelled at a county, state, or national level,” Thurmont Economic Development Manager Vickie Grinder told the Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners.

The first set of awardees came from the Frederick County Office of Economic Development that recognized the top 50 young professionals under 40. Thurmont had two representatives on the list: Alex Uphold with State Farm Insurance; and Amber Seiss with Gateway Candyland, Gateway Liquors, and Farmhouse Exchange.

Seiss told the commissioners that people had told her that she was too young, that she was a bad person, and/or that she wouldn’t make it in business. She said that she considers the naysayers “white noise.”

“It’s a distraction, something that is a waste of energy,” Seiss said.

She focuses on the positive and surrounds herself with people who build her up rather than tear her down.

The next pair of awardees were businesses that received national recognition: Kountry Kitchen was named the Best Chicken in Maryland in 2021 by MSN;          Playground Specialist’s Tim Boyle was named the National Playworld Representative of the Year.

Grinder then listed the various Thurmont businesses that were finalists in the Frederick News Post’s Best of the Best awards:

Best Festival—Catoctin Colorfest (2nd).

Best Company to Work For—Kountry Kitchen (2nd), Woodsboro Bank (3rd). “Two of the three best places to work for are right here in Thurmont,” Grinder said. “That needs to be duly noted.”

Best Barbeque—Bollinger’s Restaurant (2nd).

Best Buffet—Mountain Gate Family Restaurant (3rd).

Best Place to Camp (Regional)—Ole Mink Farm Recreation Resort (2nd).

Best Lodging—Springfield Manor (2nd).

Best Butcher Shop—Hill Side Turkey Farm (2nd).

Best Electric Contractor—G&S Electric (2nd).

Best Bingo—Thurmont Event Complex (3rd).

Best Chicken—Kountry Kitchen (2nd).

Best Local Band—5.5 Men (3rd).

Best Small Town—Thurmont (3rd). Grinder said she and some other municipalities complained to the Frederick News Post because Frederick was considered a small town for this category when it is clearly not. Frederick also took second place, so Grinder said in her mind, Thurmont was actually second.

Next, Grinder went through the local businesses that actually won their categories and were named Frederick’s Best of the Best:

•    Best Tree Service—Baker’s Tree Service (four years in a row).

•    Best Pick-Your-Own Farm/Orchard—Catoctin Mountain Orchard.

•    Best Winery, Distillery, Brewery—Springfield Manor.

•    Best Wedding Venue—Springfield Manor.

•    Best Wine Drink—Springfield Manor’s Farmhouse White.

•    Best Candy Shop—Gateway Candyland.

•    Best Orthodontist (Individual) —Dr. Jon Moles.

•    Best Funeral Home—Stauffer Funeral Homes.

•    Best Landscaping—Hawkins Landscaping (seven years in a row).

•      Best Place to Camp—Cunningham Falls State Park (four years in a row). Park Manager Mark Spurrier told the commissioners, “It’s your park. It’s our park, and everything we do in it is for you in the community and visitors that come to us.”

•      Best Bank—Woodsboro Bank.

Finally, Grinder made a special award called the Community Heart Award. It was given to Kountry Kitchen for their work in providing area students meals while the schools were closed.

The Kountry Kitchen restaurant was providing between 125 and 175 meals a day during the pandemic lockdown.

You Make Thurmont Proud Award recipients (from left): (front row) Mark Spurrier—Cunningham Falls State Park; Sherry and Rob Myers—Thurmont Kountry Kitchen; Alex Uphold—State Farm Insurance; David Hawkins—Hawkins Landscaping; Amber Seiss—Gateway Candyland; Angie Simmons, Stephen Heine, Hannah Smith—Woodsboro Bank; Commissioner Wes Hamrick from Stauffer Funeral Homes; (second row) Thurmont Commissioners Bill Buehrer and Wayne Hooper; Mayor John Kinnaird; and Commissioner Bill Blakeslee.

James Rada Jr.

Thurmont is one of the leading business creators in Frederick County, according to the database used by the Frederick County Office of Economic Development.

Data Axle (formerly Reference USA) reports on businesses by zip code across the country. In the Thurmont zip code (21788), Data Axle reports there are 468 businesses, and second only to the Frederick zip codes in the county.

Thurmont Economic Development Manager Vickie Grinder said, “That sounds about right. Thurmont is pro-business. We promote our businesses, and more importantly, we retain our businesses.”

She said being pro-business is not always about attracting new businesses. You also need to retain them, which, in times like these, can mean helping them stay open.

“We have not lost any businesses during this pandemic, and we have even opened some,” Grinder said.

During the months of the pandemic last year, Thurmont saw ribbon-cuttings for three new businesses: Tracie’s House of Hair in July, Thurmont Veterinary Clinic in August, and Beautiful You Salon and Spa in October.

It is not surprising that Frederick, the county seat and largest city in the county, by far, dominates with the number of businesses in its zip code. However, Thurmont, Walkersville, and Brunswick are all roughly the same size, and Thurmont has nearly the same number of businesses (468) as Walkersville (302) and Brunswick (200) combined.

Grinder attributes the larger number, in part, to initiatives like the Thurmont Business Network. Any Thurmont business is welcome to the meetings to hear speakers, talk about business opportunities, and share knowledge.

The town also runs advertising, promoting the town’s businesses and recognizing successful businesses with its “You Make Thurmont Proud” awards. The advertising even tied into the small-town and parks aspect with a tagline: “We’ve been socially distancing for decades.”

The town also started helping local businesses with micro-grants before the federal government announced it would reimburse such programs through CARES Act.

“I’m here to tell you… that $1,000 that was given to those businesses… people cried,” Grinder told the Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners during a recent meeting.

Some of the leading employers in Thurmont include NVR, R.R. Donnelly, Criswell Chevrolet, and Playground Specialists. However, the town also has lots of small businesses that employ just a handful of people.

Besides storefront businesses, the numbers also include home-based businesses. Grinder estimated that home businesses probably make up 75 to 100 of the Thurmont-area businesses.

James Rada, Jr.

Thurmont has been a Maryland Main Street Community since 2005—one of twenty-eight in Maryland, five of which are in Frederick County. What is not as well known is that Thurmont has also been a nationally recognized Main Street.

According to Main Street Manager Vickie Grinder, the Maryland Main Street program works in conjunction with the National Main Street program, operated by the Trust for Historic Preservation. The Trust sets the standard for Main Streets so that if a community is accredited at the state level, it also receives national accreditation.

Main Streets have to renew their accreditation each year, which means that Thurmont has continued to meet the standards for public outreach, programming, economic development, sustainable practices, and the creation of a business-friendly environment, annually.

According to a town press release, the highlights of Thurmont’s Main Street activity this past year include:
• The opening of the Thurmont Main Street Center at 11 Water Street, which serves as a visitor center with tourist information about Thurmont. It also serves as a venue where artists can display their work and make it available to the public. A public meeting area is available for group meetings. It is the headquarters for Christmas in Thurmont and other holiday events. The center is staffed by volunteers and open most weekends.
• Thurmont Farmers’ Market, Gallery Strolls, “Thurmont Think Pink” program, and the “Buy Local” program have all been rejuvenated.
• A recent downtown revitalization took place that included new sidewalks, new street lights, new benches, trash cans, and bicycle racks.
• Christmas in Thurmont, with photos with Santa Claus, prizes, caroling, and the lighting of the tree in Mechanicstown Square Park, continues to be a popular annual event.
• Partnerships were established with Catoctin Mountain Park, Cunningham Falls State Park, and Frederick County Office of Economic Development.

Grinder is especially pleased with the cooperation that the county Main Streets receive from the county government, including quarterly meetings with Sandy Wagerman in the Frederick County Office of Economic Development.

“The meetings allow us to work together, brainstorm and feed off each other,” Grinder said. Four of the county Main Streets (Thurmont, Mt. Airy, Brunswick, and Middletown) actually have a lot in common and something that works well in one community may work in the other communities.

For more information about what is happening with Thurmont’s Main Street, visit