Archive for: October 2010
Most people have driven down Monroe Avenue and seen the old building on the south side of the street called “The Old Store.” What most people might not know is that building is the oldest commercial brick structure in Piedmont.
Dennis and Janice Mills acquired the building from Wiedemann and Son in 1999. Their daughters, Heather Giggers and Janice Leach, are now in charge of the day-to-day operations of The Old Store, which has become one of Piedmont’s most well known establishments.
What makes this building so special?
The building was originally opened in 1907 by Mulvey Mercantile. It was then sold to Wiedemann and Son in 1926. The building housed the Wiedemann and Son store until the 1970s and was owned by Wiedemann and Son until 1999. “It was being used as family storage and even a gun range,” Leach said. “This whole block has been a number of things; including a post office, a morgue, and the basement used to host a lot of parties.” Visitors can still see the original signs for both Mulvey Mercantile and Wiedemann and Son in the store today.
What happened when your mom and dad took over the building in 1999?
“Our dad’s, Dennis, automotive business had been in seven different locations and he really wanted a permanent place,” Leach said. “He moved into the garage in the back, and our mom set up her embroidery shop.”
Now, The Old Store houses a large antique and consignment store and Embroidery by Janice. The embroidery shop has grown from two machines to seven commercial machines. “We have a lot of pre-made items, but we can do custom embroidery for just about anything,” Leach said. Urban Illusion Salon, which is owned by Mandy Wilson, has been located next door for about a year.
What does The Old Store bring to the Piedmont community?
Just walking around The Old Store will give visitors a glimpse of times long gone. “We really try to keep it original in the store. During the summer we bring out the old giant fans to keep the place cool and in the winter we turn on the big heater. We think it really adds to the atmosphere of the store,” Leach said.
“The store is a great place to just browse, listen to the stories some of the customers tell, and find some really good deals on antique furniture,” Leach said.
“If you have never been inside The Old Store, you should come check it out,” Giggers added.
The Old Store is located at 100 Monroe Avenue NW in Piedmont. They are open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Earlier this year the city council voted to reduce the total price of a new police station, but revising the original plans will cost at least $81,000 according to recently released architectural and engineer fees.
The price for a new police station in Piedmont was reduced from $1.8 million to $1.3 million. A federal grant will pay for $1 million of the cost but the city was required to fund the remaining amount. In an effort to reduce borrowed money the city decreased the price of the station by $600,000 but that required revising current plans to reduce the size of the station. The city had already paid $77,513 to TAP Architecture but the revisions will cost an additional $81,000.
During last month’s city council meeting the council was asked to approve the additional funds but concern was raised over paying TAP more money. The council requested more time to review the added expenses but city manager Clark Williams said approval is needed before he can submit a final estimate by the Dec. 31 deadline in order to be eligible for the grant.
“I needed this information so I can fill out the budget requirements for the HUD grant,” Williams said. “Even though we have already been approved for the grant we have to submit this information.”
Williams said the city may call a special meeting this month in order to approve the expenses but he said he remains confident that everything will be in order by the end of the year deadline.
Design expenses can be refunded
According to the specifications of the HUD grant, up to 20 percent of the grant can be used to refund the city for design and engineering expenses. That means Piedmont will be eligible to request a refund of up to $200,000 from the grant for design fees. If the latest amount of expenses is approved that will bring Piedmont’s total amount spent on engineering and architecture plans close to $160,000. However, that total is likely to rise as there is still more planning needed before construction can begin on the new police station.
“We still need to hire a civil engineer for the site work to design the parking lots and approaches as well as utilities,” Williams said. “Right now we don’t know how much it will all cost but we will work to get it under our $1.2 million budget.”
Dana Baker has found her dream home.
Its a three-bedroom ranch-style house in a young subdivision on Piedmont’s south side. It has granite counter tops, the vaulted living-room ceilings she has always wanted and is in a great school district. The problem is Baker doesn’t have the money to buy the house and with her hours recently reduced at work she isn’t expecting to qualify for a loan anytime soon.
“I want to be in Piedmont, I have for a long time,” Baker said while attending an open house. “This house and neighborhood would be perfect for my kids but I’m not sure we can make it work right now.”
A few years ago Baker might have been in a different situation. She was working a good job at a retail distribution center and mortgages were still fairly easy to come by. Today, two years since the housing bubble popped and America entered the Great Recession, the flow of people moving to growing suburbs has slowed considerably.
Piedmont is one of the fastest growing cities in the state but as a town trying to make a name for itself as Oklahoma City’s next great suburb, it has the challenge of growing during one of the worst economic times since the Great Depression. Construction crews are still at work in different parts of town, but Piedmont is facing an economy that other suburbs like Yukon and Edmond never had to when they were in their infancy as suburban communities.
Piedmont is still considered a growing suburb but one clear sign that the recession has caught up with the town is the recent slump in new home construction. Piedmont’s new home construction boom peaked in 2005 but has declined every year since.
Since the first of the year only 26 new housing permits have been applied for in Piedmont, four less than this time last year. If that pace continues it will mean a fifth consecutive year of decline in local new home construction. Over the past 14 years the month of August has been the busiest for new home permits but last August only five permits were issued. That made August the 27 consecutive month in which permits failed to reach double-digits.
Local developer Phil Boevers has been building homes in Piedmont since 1979 and said the past few years have been the toughest he has seen.
“I’m not looking for a lot of good in the development market for at least the next two to three years,” Boevers said. “There is a huge problem getting people financed for houses right now and that means less homes being built and less people moving to Piedmont.”
Boevers acknowledges that its not just a problem for Piedmont but for most communities looking to attract new home buyers. Boevers said buyers are finding it harder to get credit because banks are more timid about loaning money for mortgages and housing developments.
“Banks are scared right now,” Boevers said. “It takes a lot of collateral to do these residential deals.”
Eric Anderson is vice president of F&M Bank in Piedmont and he admits that these have been tough years for banks.
“Before 2008 we saw the best 15 years in banking history,” Anderson said. “I grew up in the 1990s, so I’ve never seen bad times.”
Anderson moved to Piedmont when he was in junior high and has called the town home ever since. He knows that the growth over the past few years has slowed in Piedmont but he is quick to add that the town is still growing.
“We are not doing 120 homes every year but we will probably do somewhere around 40 this year,” Anderson said. “That’s still pretty good compared to other communities. Piedmont is still growing.”
Anderson said banks are a little more careful about loaning money than they might have been in the past but he said there is still money to loan and interest rates are at historic lows. However, there are less people looking to buy a new home right now as the recession continues to linger and Anderson said he has seen a change in mind-set by many people over the past few years.
“It seems like since the end of 2008 our loan totals have kind of gone down and our deposit totals have gone up,” Anderson said. “People are saving more and spending less. It’s a great time to borrow money, the incentive is there, but everyone seems like they are holding back a little bit.”
Consumer confidence is still relatively low but Anderson believes that is starting to change. When people begin to purchase new homes again he sees Piedmont as one of the most attractive communities in the region, but besides residential growth he believes more retail development is also a key to Piedmont’s future success.
“Over the past five years we have seen a kind of retail growing boom so to speak,” Anderson said. “Infrastructure is kind of a big thing for our commercial growth and the city is working on that. I think this grocery store is going to be the first domino to fall to spur more retail.”
Anderson, as well as most Piedmont residents, are hopeful that the new Williams Food grocery store will spur more retail and business growth, but city officials are banking on it. A year-long struggle resulted in a new store breaking ground in August and with a projected opening date of March 2011 the city believes Williams Food will be the start of even more development.
No one can deny that Piedmont has faced its share of economic challenges but for mayor Mike Fina that’s just the scenario that every municipality has to face.
“There is one universal problem that every community faces,” Fina said. “That is funding and whether a city’s tax dollars can fund city services.”
Raising Piedmont’s tax revenue has been the goal for city hall and is the reason Fina said he was so aggressive in bringing a grocery store to town. City officials have not been shy about the fact that they believe the new grocery store will be the ignition that will finally light a fire of retail business in Piedmont. Piedmont residents have been vocal about their desire for more retail and businesses but for that to happen Fina said it has required an aggressive approach.
“We have always taken a conservative approach to our projects and budget so its natural that citizens take a conservative approach to new ideas,” Fina said. “When it comes to moving forward its really about a mindset. Right now there is a national mindset that is timid but I think we have an energy and culture in Piedmont that wants to move forward and is ready for growth.”
Fina is hoping that an energetic citizen base and forward-thinking leaders will lead Piedmont out of the recession, but he understands that the process for doing that is different than it was in the past.
“For many years all these cities were growing and all passing bond issues and the first answer was always yes,” Fina said. “Now its always no.”
A voting public that is beginning to become more concerned about spending by its city, state and federal leaders means government officials are challenged with the dilemma of how to cut costs while increasing services. Fina said the city is looking to expand its services but has also maintained a level of fiscal responsibility while other suburban cities are facing major budget cuts.
“We have been fortunate that although we have been in an economic slowdown we haven’t fallen too behind in our tax dollars,” Fina said. “We haven’t had some of the natural problem that other communities have had like furloughed employees.”
Attracting new business to Piedmont will mean more sales-tax revenue but it will also help create a higher quality of life for residents that want more shops and restaurants in their community. However, the real driving force behind Piedmont’s growth has been its school district and while a recession has stunted economic growth, a well performing school district will always attract new families that are looking to raise their kids in a perceived better school district.
“The silver lining to me in Piedmont is the school district,” Boevers said.
“Our anchor right now is the school system,” Anderson said.
“We will continue to grow because parents want to put their kids in our schools,” Fina said.
Nearly every city leader agrees that despite the challenges Piedmont has faced over the past few years the one advantage it has over many other communities is a high performing school district. The Piedmont Public School district has continued to see solid growth every year and while the district has not been immune to budget tightening ,it has remained aggressive in building for the future with the construction of a new elementary school and plans for more facilities in the near future.
The challenges are real for Piedmont but so is the potential. These are tough days for any community and as Piedmont attempts to grow it will face hurdles that other communities didn’t have to in their early days as a growing suburb. Views differ on how long it will take Piedmont to rebound from the recession but most city leaders and residents say there is a bright future for Piedmont, no matter how long it might take.
“I think everyone is willing to take a leap to help Piedmont grow,” Anderson said. “Where there is a will a lot of times we will find a way.”
After placing second in Class 5A at the Western Heights regional, expectations for the Piedmont cheer squad were running high. “We felt we performed better than we scored, but as long as the girls happy with their performance, that’s what matters,” coach Ashley Dodson said.
Piedmont beat rival Deer Creek by one point at the contest in Western Heights, but Deer Creek took fourth at state.
“It’s always weird when you score higher than another team at one contest, and then you flip-flop later,” Dodson said. “You never really know why the judges score things the way they do.”
Cheerleaders are scored in 15 different categories; including sportsmanship, spirit, voice control and stunts.
“Our girls really excelled in their stunts this year,” Dodson added. One of their more complicated stunts from state was a heel stretch arabesque double down. This complex stunt involves the cheerleader grabbing her ankle and holding it near her head, similar to a high kick, then swing it down into a arabesque stretch, the stunt is then finished with a twist dismount. “It is a really complex stunt.”
This year’s squad was made up of 16 girls, including six seniors. “We were mostly seniors and sophomores this year,” Dodson said. “We’re really going to miss the seniors after they graduation, but there are a lot of great girls on the squad.”
The team has been practicing everyday for about two hours. With the help of their choreographer, David Owens, they have gotten their challenging routine to the level it is now. “Having David around to help prepare the girls has been great,” Dodson said.
The competitive cheer season isn’t over yet for Piedmont. The squad will be travelling to Dennison, Texas on January 8-9 for the National Cheer Association Nationals Competition. “The judging style is largely the same at NCA Nationals,” Dodson explained. “The girls get to have a bit more fun at NCA competitions, though. They get to do a dance and a cheer with music.”
This Saturday, Oct. 9, the Piedmont cheer squad is hosting a Kiddie Clinic for girls from Pre-Kindergarten to sixth grade. The clinic will start at 9 a.m. and last until 1 p.m. and it will take place at the high school cafeteria. For the $35 clinic, the girls get a t-shirt, a picture with the mascot, and they get to learn a dance that will be performed at halftime of the Oct. 21 Piedmont – Bishop McGuinness game. Interested parents and students can pick up permission slips at their school office or in the high school office. There will also be a clinic during basketball season.
All four of the seniors on this year’s Wildcat basketball team have their eyes on something gold this season. They’ve all been playing together since seventh-grade and feel like this is the year of Piedmont basketball.
Coach Ryan Wagner made shirts for the players that say “Team Us” on the front and “Play like a Wildcat 212 degrees” on the back. “212 degrees is when water boils,” senior John Stephens said. “At 211.9 degrees, nothing happens. You can be close to the best, but close isn’t good enough this season. That’s what 212 degrees means to everyone on the team.”
Keith Vick thinks that the days of people looking past Piedmont are about to be over.
“We used to have people say ‘Oh, it’s just Piedmont,’ ” Vicks said. “Well, we’re going to let our game talk for us this season, and let them know that it’s not just Piedmont anymore.”
“We were one game away last season,” Jimmy Guerra said, referring to last year’s loss to Vinita where they were just a game away from playing for a State tournament birth. “That was something to build off of. With the seniors having played together since seventh-grade, we really feel like this is our strongest point. We’re ready.”
Jacob Swigart summed up the Wildcats’ expectations. “We want to go harder than everyone else and be the best guys on the floor that night, no matter what. We’ll push harder and play better. We want to be the best.”
Last Friday’s practice marked the first day of official practices for state-wide basketball teams. “We still have ten or so guys who currently playing football that will suit up for us this season, and about seven of those guys will be wearing varsity jerseys,” coach Wagner said.
Piedmont will take part in five big scrimmages this year. Their preseason slate is highlighted by a trip to Tulsa to take part in the 10th Annual Tip-Off Classic. The Wildcats will be facing the likes of Bixby, Coewta, Verdigris, and Metro Christian Academy in what should be a great tune-up for Piedmont.
The Wildcat Ladies’ Cross Country team finished 4th at the tough Tahlequah Cross Country Meet last week with several runners posting personal best times.
“I really feel like if we would have had Jordan Hendren in our lineup, who is out with an injury, we could have finished as high as 2nd,” coach Roger White said.
Ashley Garver lead the way with a personal best time of 13 minutes 7.4 seconds, and Kasey Rein was close behind with a time of 13:12.3 in the two mile run. They finished 11th and 13th respectfully. Haleigh McAnally continues to improve with a time of 13:34.5 which was good for 24th. Paige Anderson (40th) and Lexi Bingham (51st) both ran their personal best with times of 13:55.3 and 14:13.8. Allison Smola and McKenzie Davis crossed the finish line in 14:58 and 16:01.
“You can’t be disappointed in a 6th place finish when all your boys ran their personal best and without our freshman leader Jonathan Halko,” White said. “It was a really tough meet.”
Tanner Larson continued his strong season on Saturday by shaving a full minute and a half off his 5K time. He finished 16th with a time of 18:23.1. David Snelgrove (18:55.9) and Logan Davis (19:03.3) finished 31st and 33rd. Daniel Smola shaved off 26 seconds by finishing in 19:25.2, which was good for 40th. Brandon Gaines ran almost three minutes faster than last week with a 21:07.1. Carsen Young and Collin Murphy both improved with times of 21:44 and 21:47.1. J.V. runner Logan Lambert ran his personal best in 21:33.
“Our middle school boys finished in 1st place and outscored the 2nd place team, Ft. Gibson, by 26 points,” coach White said.
The Jr. Wildcats were without starters Ian Dooley, Dallin Windsor, Dakota Cope and Jared Rein. All the MS boys ran their personal best times in the two mile run. Colton Watters lead the team with a 7th placed medal in a time of 12:03. Ryan Lang and Tyler Wade were 10th and 11th with times of 12:22 and 12:27. Ethan Taylor and Justin Rein, who finished 13th and 14th, improved with times of 12:31.2 and 12:31.7, both shaved over 30 seconds from their best times. Hunter Clemmons and Quint Wheeler continue to improve by finishing 24th and 25th with times of 13:19.4 and 13:19.9.
The middle school girls team finished in 4th place. They were without starters Bianca Cardenas, Breanne Grothe, and Madison Lybarger. “With those three in our lineup we would have had a shot for the title,” coach White added.
Keli Patterson and Caitlin Lewis continue to shave off time by finishing the mile run in 5:50.1 and 6:00.6 which were good for 2nd and 4th place medals. Lindsey Hagen and Sagely McAdoo finished 32nd and 44th with times of 6:37 and 6:46.3. Regan McColl (49th) and Katherine Bethel (57th) both set new personel records with times of 6:51.1 and 6:56.1. Emily Knight also ran her personal best time of 7:36.5
The high school teams will run again Friday at Mitch Park in Edmond for the Pre-State meet at 2 p.m. The middle school and high school will be at the Suburban Conference Championships on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. which has been moved to Deer Creek.