Local couple to restore building’s history

The building in question is actually two storefronts, which at some point in history were combined into one, and no photos can be located of the righthand storefront.

At 250 E. Main Street, the historic building that most recently housed Babb’s Upholstery and at one time was Harris’s, is going through another rebirth in its approximately 100-year life.

Stella’s Brick Oven Pizzeria and Bistro will soon take its place at the location as the newest addition to the ever-growing downtown district.

But first, owners Doug and Laurie Gottschalk are restoring the building to its original design — which, interestingly enough, is a mystery.

The building in question is actually two storefronts, and at some point in history were combined into one. Despite working with state preservation specialists, the local Main Street Batesville organization, and the Old Independence Regional Museum, no photos can be located of the right-hand storefront. Photos are usually readily available of most all downtown properties, but in the few that were located, the right-hand building is obstructed by parade floats, etc., or just out of view of the camera.

An old photo shows the building but is too blurry and obstructed by the parade to inform the construction. Courtesy of OIRM.
A photo of historic Main Street shows the lefthand storefront (circled) but not the righthand storefront. Courtesy OIRM.

The building(s) is currently covered over in aluminum, by means of a ‘slipcover’, a method used mid-century to try to make old buildings look more modern.


The building is suspected to be stucco or brick underneath the slipcover, although stone is a possibility as well, “so removal of the metal slipcover will be imperative to determine what materials exist and what restoration will need to be done,” the Gottschalks informed the city’s Historic District Commission (HDC), the approval authority on any changes to downtown commercial buildings.

The HDC approved the removal of the current metal slipcover to further investigate the situation, and commended the Gottchalks on their thorough research of restoration standards to ensure the building is properly restored to its original state.

“We love Main Street and we want to honor these two separate facades as they are intended to be,” the owner explained of the project, which on the exterior will once again be two separate storefronts, but on the interior, will function as one large space for the pizzeria.

They have also found a supplier of original “vitro lit glass” — a type of decorative tile found on several downtown buildings, including this one. They have ordered replacement glass that will perfectly match the originals, now broken.

The project is being completed by M&A Jones Construction Company.

Once open, the Gottschalks plan to serve Neapolitan style pizza — arguably the first type of pizza made in Italy. Neapolitan style pizza eventually gave rise to American adaptations of the pizza made by Italian immigrants to the United States in the early 20th century.


Also offered will be classic Italian desserts such as pizzelles and a gelato bar.

Work is currently in progress on the building. We will post updates as they unravel!

Organizer turns talents into a new local business

In less than two months, Beka McCormick has seen her professional organizing and home cleaning business, McCormick Maid, take off.

As Beka sits in the cookware-strewn floor and goes through the deepest reaches of the bottom kitchen cabinets for a client, she asks thoughtful questions:

“How often do you use this?”

“You have another one of these — do you need them both?’

“Are you attached to this?”

The answers to those questions determine where the object in question will go — within easy reach, out of sight on a higher shelf, or in one of the two big trash bags beside her: one for “give away” and the other for “throw way”.

As she makes her way through the kitchen, she is attentive the client’s lifestyle and everyday needs.

It’s all part of her process so that when the culling part is over, she knows exactly how to put the whole thing back together in the most efficient and functional way.

In fewer than two months, Beka McCormick has seen her professional organizing and home cleaning business, McCormick Maid, take off.

She’s always love organization, even as a teenager, she recalls.

“I’ve been doing this for myself and family about 5ish years but I just started doing it for people outside of family last month,” she explains. “I’ve had so many people asked me to come the more before and after pictures that I show.”

The pictures are admittedly gratifying. She posts photos of piled-high closets turned into perfect rows of clothes and bare floors.

“I would say people’s biggest problem areas are closets and cabinets, because that’s just a catch-all. It’s easy when you’re cleaning to just throw stuff in and not look at it.”

Beka, the mother of a 6-year old, a toddler, and a baby, is no stranger to just how quickly a house can become out of control. But she offers her main tips to keep things in check:

  • Pick up as you go
  • Clean things as you notice them. “If you open and a cabinet and you realize there are crumbs or dust, clean it right then instead of thinking you’ll come back later.” (“You won’t,” she advises.)
  • If you haven’t used it in the past year, get rid of it.
  • Eliminate duplicates. “Some things, I get it: you might need two large pots if you’re cooking a lot of food at once. But most things are unnecessary. You don’t need two sets of measuring cups. You don’t need two mixers.”
  • Keep things off the floor, and off the counters. “It makes the house look so much cleaner just to have those bare.”


“Most people just want me to do a de-clutter of their whole house, and we just work room by room,” she says of her process, adding that she also offers house cleaning. “But I enjoy the de-cluttering and organizing part way more than the cleaning part. So I’m trying to promote that more. This is definitely my zone.”

She says either way, it’s satisfying work to look back on the difference.

“It makes people happy and it helps people,” she said.

McCormick Maid is on both Facebook and Instagram and offers online bookings.



New summer festival coming to Batesville: “Big Fun on the Bayou”

Twenty-five volunteers from a cross-section of Batesville, many with personal stories to share of happy times spent on the bayou over the years, gathered today to begin creating a festival centered around the Poke Bayou.

The concept, introduced and spearheaded by Bob Carius and the Main Street Batesville organization, will be a day-long series of events on the bayou on July 26, culminating in an evening concert by ‘Trout Fishing in America’ at Maxfield Park. The band plays comedic songs for kids, as well as adult friendly music.

The recently finished Maxfield Park has been the first development on the bayou, an under-utilized asset for the town according the Carius, and provides a jumping-off point to more bayou activities.

The theme of the event, “Big Fun on the Bayou”, is drawn from the 1952 Hank Williams song ‘Jambalaya’.

“And there are a lot of things we can do with that besides just of course play the song,” Carius explained of the theme chosen by an initial working group, adding that watersports and triathlon-type contest could be part of the plan, but that “right now the slate is completely clean”.

A piece of property along the bayou near Maxfield Park will also be in play for the festival, thanks to its donation to the City of Batesville for such public-use development.

“The mayor and I visited the area about two weeks ago and it’s very overgrown,” Carius described of the work to be done. In the past, inmates have been utilized to clean up the bayou and could possibly be again for this particular parcel.


Anyone interested in being involved with planning “Big Fun on the Bayou” activities are invited to join the committee by contacting Main Street Batesville at mainstreetbatesville@gmail.com

Tomahawk Chop opens on Main Street

Tomahawk Chop Company is the newest business downtown, adding another entertainment activity to the growing district — and a somewhat unusual one at that.

“It’s an ax throwing entertainment center,” owner Mike Moss described of the new business, located next to door to the Main Attire boutique and The Royal on Main, downtown’s new luxury hotel.

He said Batesville is overdue for more activity-based businesses.

“You can go to the movies and you can go bowling or you can go to a bar… but there’s not much for people to do so we decided to do this,” Moss said, adding that his son Drew is involved in the undertaking as well, handling marketing and IT. Both have enjoyed ax throwing as a personal hobby.

“It’s gaining a lot of interest. It started in Canada, and has come down through the Northeast and is making its way across the United States,” Moss said. “It will garner enough interest to be popular for quite a while I think, because it’s easy to do and you don’t have to be great at it to have fun.” 

Moss said the fact that everyone can do it is one of the reasons he chose the building downtown: it has a wheelchair ramp and he wanted that accessibility.

“We looked around town at different locations… There were a couple on Harrison Street, and we thought about high traffic areas. But parking lots can be kind of hard to get in and out of, and this is kind of an eclectic activity, so downtown kind of made sense… People that come down here come for a purpose, and it’s growing here — you’ve got The Melba, several stores, 109 that’s about to be opened back up, The Pinto, Big’s… It fits with the vibe.”

The space is currently being built out with lanes, each one 10 feet wide and built according to regulation for the leagues associated with the sport:  World Axe Throwing League, International Axe Throwing Federation, and National Axe Throwing Federation. The center will offer about 5 lanes, plus a seating area and a snack bar. Patrons will pay for an hour of play, with the second hour discounted. Admission to the center will be limited to ages 14 and up, with all participants required to sign a waiver.

“You’ll go through a 10-minute safety orientation with one of our staff. They’ll show you how to do it, how not to do it, and make sure you have all the proper attire like closed-toed shoes and no loose jewelry,” Moss explained. “The axes weight between 1.8 and 2.4 pounds each, so it’s a little bit of a workout. You’ll use both hands most of the time, but we’ll have some little axes you can throw with one hand.”

Tomahawk Chop Company is detailing their progress on their Facebook page which has already garnered over 1,000 followers prior to even opening. 

Moss says he gets frequent calls from people anticipating their first visit.

Homes selected for 2019 Preservation Awards

Each year the Batesville Preservation Association (BPA) selects a small number of property owners to honor for their part in preserving unique architectural assets in the city.

At a ceremony held at The Royal on Main, a new luxury hotel downtown and the recipient of one if its 2019 preservation awards, the board of the BPA announced the full list of honorees for the year.

They are as follows:

MERIT AWARD

(Recognizing long-term preservation of significant buildings)

Sleep Star Lite Building
147 South Broad Street

Built in 1929

Mission Style, reminiscent of Spanish Colonial buildings in the American southwest, with prominent feature of terra cotta tile

“We took him (the state expert) by and he said ‘that is the ultimate in Mission Style’,” Dr. Terrell Tebbetts said of the award committee’s review of the property. “They have maintained the terra cotta tile at the top, and they still have the paneled wood below the show windows.”

Owner Rodney Hall commented that the building was owned by the notable Hale family prior to his purchase of the property in 1974.


MERIT AWARD

Stanley Wood Chevrolet Dealership Building
290 S. Central Avenue

Built in 1930

Mission style, reminiscent of the Spanish Colonial buildings with brickwork in a basket-weave pattern

“A couple of years ago a church approached us, and they’re using the building now,” owner Scott Wood updated. “They’ve done a lot of work to make the building better than it was and keep it going, and we hope they’re going to be there a long time. It seems to be working well for them, and they enjoy having a location that is downtown.”

“The building has been in the Wood family since 1939, so 80 years,” Myra Wood added.


MERIT AWARD

The Stalker House
1580 E. Main Street

Batesville’s fullest example in Batesville of the Mid-Century International Style

“This one is a house I’d long, long admired… Scott and Stephen Stalker and sister Suzanne Magouyrk all grew up in the house, and Scott and his wife live there today,” Dr. Tebbetts said, adding that the home was a Freeman Mobley house.

“We haven’t done a lot to the outside. We remodeled the inside after we bought it after Dad passed in 2009,” Scott Stalker said, adding that his family plans to complete some exterior upkeep projects in the coming year. “We’re not going to do anything really different, but we’re going to update the paint and roof,” he described, recalling, “Suzanne was 3 and I was 2 when we moved into the house.”


MERIT AWARD

The Musgrave House, owned by Karl and Terry Kemp
733 Vine Street

Ranch Style home with sleek, International style influence

“We were driving around the residential neighborhood when the state expert, Paul, noticed the Musgrave house on Vine Street. The Kemps own that and they had just put a new coat of paint on it,” Dr. Tebbetts said. “He said it’s a ranch style house, but that clean stucco surface makes it a very different type of ranch house than you normally see — more International Style. So it’s a Ranch Style with International influence. The Kemps have it now and they’ve done a wonderful job with it.”

“When we first bought the house and moved in, there was carpet all through it, and of course I knew Terry was just dying to see underneath the carpet,” Dan Kemp said. “We knew there were wood floors, but she really wanted to know what they looked like, so I guess really it was the first day, we pulled every stitch of carpet out of the house. The floors were in great shape…Mrs. Musgrave, we had been told, wanted to be able to take up the carpet if she didn’t like it. So we didn’t even have to re-finish them.”


MERIT AWARD

Lyon College’s Highland House
2030 Bearette (the corner of Gwyn and Bearette)

Remodeled in the Georgian style by the Hathcock family in the 1960s


HONOR AWARD

(Recognizing extensive restoration and renovation of historic buildings)

The Carly Dahl and Dustyn Bork Residence
1141 E. College

An interior renovation of the Craftsman-style McMahan Bungalow. The couple recently rebuilt the kitchen, remodeled and added baths, and installed drywall throughout the house, all while respecting and preserving the original elements of the house.

“This was the MacMahan House, and she moved to be with her daughter, and Carly and Dustyn Bork bought the house,” Dr. Tebbetts said of the recent project. “They have done a paint job on the outside, but what they’ve done on the inside is a total (rehabilitation).”

“We refinished the floors — they were beautiful, hardwood floors — and we updated (the layout) so that it went from a 4-bedroom/1-bath to a 3-bedroom/2.5-bath,” Dustyn Bork described. “We tried to keep as much of that 1921 Bungalow Arts & Crafts style because we’re big fans. There’s a lot of interesting trim, even on the ceiling, so a lot of nice architectural detail that we wanted to bring back to life.”


HONOR AWARD

The Ned Metcalf Residence
679 E. Boswell Street

Remodeled at one point in the past in the Craftsman Style, owner Ned Metcalf recently completed a total restoration of the interior


SPECIAL RECOGNITION

The Royal on Main
187 E. Main Street

A Nineteenth-Century commercial building with a façade remodel in the Midcentury Modern style in the 1950s, the building has housed the Sterling Store and a furniture store in recent years. This year, owners Stan and Shanna Fretwell completed an adaptive reuse remodel for mixed use, with commercial space on the lower floor facing Main and suite rentals at the rear and on the second floor. The building has already received both Merit and Honor awards in the past, but was given the Special Recognition Award in honor of the hotel reuse adaptation.

“The Maxfield Building has already received Honor Award and Merit Award in the past, so we’ve run out of awards to give it!” Dr. Tebbetts explained. “But now, Stan and Shanna have done such an amazing job with this building, so occasionally the Awards Committee will give out a Special Recognition Award and this year voted to give one to the Maxfield Building, now The Royal on Main.”

“We kept everything original that we could, and re-used as much material as could, but also inside of that, we have modern amenities as well,” Stan Fretwell said. “It was a lot of late night working for a year and a half — Danny Dozier and I were working buddies, him working in the park and me working in here and we’d meet out back.”

“And a lot of the rooms are named after people who historically were connected to the building,” Shanna explained.

An unexpected life prepared director for new position at Alpha Center

“If I was applying for the job right now I don’t think I would get it — there were such great applicants!” Amanda Steel said of the search for a new director of the Alpha Pregnancy Center/My Choice Clinic nonprofit.

“So that was reassuring. I thought, ‘Okay, they’ve got this’.”

Steel will officially end her time as director of the nonprofit following the organization’s annual fundraiser, the Cherish Life Gala, set for November 14.

New director Danielle Adams has already begun familiarizing with her new role at the helm.

“This position is really close to home for me,” Adams explained of her desire to work in this field. “I was a teen mom. January of my senior year of high school I got a surprise I was never expecting, and it took a lot of community and a lot of encouragement and a lot of support to do what I did: I chose to parent.”

Adams went on to graduate high school and complete college, all while being a mom. She says it was not easy, and that has made her want to help others who face challenges due to parenthood.

“I got my degree, but there were times when I was exhausted and at my wits end,” she recalls. “He (her son) turned 16 last month, and he’s been my greatest blessing, but it was not without hardships along the way — many hardships that I needed my ‘people’, my ‘village’, to look to. So I was thankful for my community — when I went through that, it was my parents — and I’ve had so many people (provide support) along the way.”

Adams served as a Spanish teacher at Batesville High School for 8 years until an illness of her newborn daughter sent her home for several months during the recovery.

She said when the position came along, it was an answered prayer, but also something that fit so well into her own experiences.

“What drew me to the Alpha Center was: not everyone has the family that I had, or they don’t have it around them close by. And so the Alpha Center has many, many women making up the village it takes to raise a baby. They’re a support system, amazing women, strong in their faith, that can pray you through, and be there for you with practical help and advice.”

“My goal coming into the Alpha Center is to help provide that community for others that are in my situation. An unplanned pregnancy can happen at 17, it can happen at 30, and anything in between and beyond,” Adams said.

Adams said there is already great work happening at both the My Choice Clinic and at the Alpha Parenting Center — she wants her main focus to be making sure the word gets out.

The My Choice Clinic is a certified Pregnancy Response Clinic, offering counseling, information on options, free ultrasounds, and more. The Alpha Parenting Center offers resources after a birth, including parenting classes, baby supplies, formula, etc. All services are free.

Adams emphasized the services are for anyone, regardless of situation.

Danielle Adams holds daughter Shiloh while talking about the life experiences that led to become the new director of the Alpha Center.

“Babies are expensive. I’ve waited 16 years to have another one, and even being super-planned and at age 34, it is a lot. So I’m still thankful for my community… It’s tough being a mom, no matter how you become a mom or what that looks like.”

Adams and Steel are currently working together on the upcoming gala, after which Steel will be moving on to what she describes as her next “season”.

“I don’t have a ‘next’ yet and I’m really excited about that,” Steel said, adding that she and husband Chris have dreamed of taking on some sort of project, or non-profit work, jointly.

“I felt like I was supposed to be there for that season and that season is complete,” Steel said.

During Steel’s tenure the organization saw several areas of progress: updated parenting class curriculum; addition of a men’s curriculum named “Practical Fatherhood”; introduction of a sexual risk avoidance curriculum for high schools (currently offered at Cave City, with hopes of adding additional schools); and a new website, www.mychoiceclinicbatesville.com.

“I’m grateful for a chance to be part of that ministry, and to learn about a non-profit that is important to me,” Steel said. “And I’m super grateful we’re getting someone like Danielle to pass the baton to.”

Independence County needs foster homes ASAP

An average day in Independence County sees 58 to 70 children in the foster care program, while the average number of available foster homes here is only 13.

There is good news in the foster care world: Statewide, the foster care system has improved, according to a recent address by Governor Asa Hutchinson. 

Unfortunately though, in Independence County the situation is still urgent. 

An average day in Independence County sees 58 to 70 children in the foster care program, while the average number of available foster homes here is only 13.

“When I took office in 2015, our child-welfare and foster-care system was in urgent need of improvement,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson wrote in an October report. At that time a review of the child-welfare and foster-care system was ordered, with dire findings. “It was a heart-rending judgment on our shortcomings,” the governor recalled of that initial starting point.

“I was especially alarmed to learn that caseworkers sometimes had to choose between taking children to their own homes, leaving the children at a division office, or pleading with foster parents to make room for one more child,” Hutchinson said.

After three years of work, the foster care emergency has drastically improved, according to the governor who noted one example of a caseworker whose average case load decreased from 85 to 15 under the leadership of Mischa Martin at the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS). He called the progress a restoration of hope, extending a special thanks to the private sector faith-based organizations that have played a huge role by partnering with DCFS to recruit more foster and adoptive families.

The CALL is one such faith-based organization, and perhaps the most impactful.

It has created a streamlined system of recruiting and approving foster/adoptive families so the process is both quicker and easier. By signing up through The CALL, families are able to condense the lengthy training modules from 6+ months, down to two intensive weekends.

The CALL opened 214 new foster homes in Arkansas in 2018 and 82 new adoptive homes, according to its annual report. Families recruited by The CALL adopted 184 children out of foster care statewide last year.

And it is the Independence County chapter of The CALL that hopes it can change the situation in Independence County.

“The CALL started in Independence County in 2014, and for a couple of years it was going really strong,” explained Rodney Stroud, new director of the local chapter, attributing the initial progress to then-director Summer Sudol. “There were about 17 to 20 families at one time.”

After the loss of the director though, Stroud says the chapter basically went dormant. A renewed effort last October succeeded in bringing on a new 7-person leadership team, including Stroud. During the year that followed, the tide has shifted.

“There were 3 CALL families when we started and now we have 7 foster families, 6 (more) in the process of becoming approved homes, and 2 more with paperwork out,” Stroud said. “We think we need about 35 families (average of 2 per home), so we’re almost halfway there.”

Stroud said that although a good handful of people stepped up to lead, a few key leadership and volunteer positions still need to be filled. Aside from that, the main needs are “fundraising and families”.

There are currently about 70 kids in foster care from Independence County, and many of them have nowhere to go.

The extreme shortage of foster homes means Independence County children are often sent to other counties for temporary placement, leaving behind their schools, friends, teachers, in addition to their parents with whom they are allowed visits. The periodic court dates involved in the foster process are also held in the case’s originating county.

When the children are placed in homes outside the county, the distance and frequent trips can create a hardship on everyone involved.

As the director of The CALL, Stroud hears many reasons not to foster. The most common: The fear of a painful goodbye when children leave their care.

“It absolutely does hurt,” Stroud said, “but when you think about it, that’s selfish. That’s making our comfort more important than these children’s needs.”

For more information on donating, volunteering, or signing up as a foster/adoptive family through The CALL, text or call 870-612-4904 or visit https://thecallinarkansas.org/independence/.

The state’s Division of Children and Family Services, which oversees all foster care, recently released this infographic to help put the agency’s shortages in perspective.

At Cushman, school = community

CUSHMAN — It’s a cold and drizzly Saturday morning, yet nearly a dozen residents have gathered in the small and cozy library watching Becky Wood bounce around, voice rising and falling, as she animatedly reads a book to the children who have come for storytime.

The library has only been open for a week. It is somewhat of an experiment in a community whose close-knit threads unraveled ten years ago.

“I was librarian here at the school for 35 years,” Wood explains after storytime. “And some of these mommas heard me read when they were kids, and they wanted their kids to hear, too.”

Indeed, there they were, a handful of former Cushman students, now moms, attempting to carry on the traditions of their youth and community with their own kids. But Wood admits that efforts at carrying on community are just that — efforts.

Community doesn’t just happen naturally anymore, since the school was lost to consolidation in 2009.

The mood in the community afterwards: “Depressed,” Wood says.

“You know you go through all those grief emotions — being mad, being disappointed. It was overwhelming… Still. Still it’s hard.”

A 130-YEAR LEGACY LOST

Cushman had its own school since 1880, then first just a one-room log cabin. ​

At that time is was a mining town. One Detroit newspaper described it as “the town that thrives on war” because of its importance in shipping out the materials that fueled the military during WWI and WWII. Originally called Minersville, an explosion that killed a miner set off a chain of events that cause the whole town to shift about a mile south and change its name sometime between 1886 and 1889 to Cushman.

The train was called the Cushman Local; it had a turntable that it stayed on overnight, and went out the next morning, hauling out both materials as well as residents on the passenger car. The town was complete with a depot, hotel, stores, churches, and Odd Fellows Hall, and more. ​

In 1900 an improved schoolhouse was built on “Germany Hill” in town, and was reportedly a nice structure of two stories with a bell tower. Eventually that location gave way to the “Little Red School House” built on the modern campus’s current location. Buildings were added, remodeled, and improved along the way, at least up until the 2000s. ​

ACT 60

In 2004, the Arkansas State Legislature passed Act 60, an aggressive and blanket move to close all schools under 350 enrollees, regardless of student test performance, community engagement, or other wellness metrics.

Around 120 school districts fell victim to the legislation. Cushman was one of them.

“Our campus was in such good shape. Our test scores were excellent. But we were down (that year) about 3 to 4 kids in numbers, so they closed it,” Wood remembers. “It was heartbreaking.”

Students and teachers scattered to Melbourne, Mount Pleasant, Cave City, Batesville, and Southside. Wood recalls few felt at home again after that. And she unfortunately had to go through the process twice: she went on to become the librarian at the Mount Pleasant Elementary School, which was merged into the Melbourne Elementary campus in 2016.

“The feeling of being a family, of being part of something, was not there… It was really really hard on our kids.”

A review of a decade of consolidation conducted by the University of Arkansas revealed that consolidation disproportionately targeted low-income communities, rural communities, and the Northeast Arkansas region as a whole (a total of 71 school closures, more than any other region).

The same review acknowledged the consolidation was guilty of closing some of Arkansas’s highest performing schools (again, often in Northeast Arkansas), noting:

“Five (currently at-risk) districts boasted better proficiency rates in all three subjects of the benchmark. The five districts are Calico Rock, Concord, Norfork, Weiner, and Viola.”

Cushman was a similar story, as was the neighboring Mount Pleasant School District: both high-performing schools, both close-knit central hubs to the rural communities they served.

HOPE RETURNS. SO DO THE SCHOOL GROUNDS.

Last year the Batesville School District, which inherited all of Cushman’s school assets during the consolidation, turned the school grounds back over to the community that built it.

With the return of the school, signs of life are popping up in the community once more. The city itself occupies part of a building as a town hall. Woods’s new little library is situated just down the hall, and so is a food pantry. On the site of the former ballfield is a new fire station under construction.

The local community center hosts Bingo and lunch for seniors on Tuesdays, and the Cushman Heritage Museum holds genealogy records for dozens of families, as well as other records spanning back to the 1800s.

The museum also recently bought back the old bell from the Germany Hill schoolhouse, and has plans to move from its current cramped space to a larger accomodation — within the returned school.

“I have a friend who is also a retired librarian and she’s been helping — she found us a catalog program that we were able to get,” Wood describes excitedly as the morning’s storytime visitors check out their books and catch up with neighbors they haven’t see in years.

“And as soon as the city gets Wi-Fi in this building the catalog will be able to be online,” Wood continues, adding that they’re expecting a donation of 3 computers soon.

“We’ve changed our hours around trying to find the best time. Tuesday we’re open 9 (a.m.) – 3 (p.m.) because that’s the day the food pantry is open, so people come in for that and can come to the library at the same time. And we changed our hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays so kids can come in after school.”

But as the locals visit and gradually disperse, one conversation between neighbors soon turns to how their young family has sold their house and will be moving to Batesville.

After all, it’s closer to the school where their children go.