Ervin – So, I would have one question right now. A plan? Did you have this concept and these ideas established long ago? Or has everything evolved slowly over 20 years?
Dave – Well I think — I don’t know that others would agree with this — but I think that what we’ve done is pretty simple. I mean, there’s not a lot of variety that you can bring to that, and if you look at other towns who have funded these things, they do similar things, and the only difference that I would point out is that in most all the towns that I have observed, it’s done more from an engineering standpoint than an artistic standpoint. And that’s the difference that our family has tried to bring to this project. Is that we’re all dedicated to form and color. But, the engineering people have to make the sewers work and the lights work and all that, but they’re much more structured. And what you’ll see is that everything is pretty much the same. If you go to Warsaw, it’s all petunias. If you go to Elkhart, the same kind of seating, the same kind of everything exists corner to corner. And that’s fine. But that’s not our approach.
Ervin – You talked about your family, and of course that means you, and Faye Peterson, and Jeremy and Maija Stutzman. Is that right?
Dave – Right.
Ervin – Okay. And you’re saying that this was a more creative and locally determined design than a packaged one or one that is strictly logical from an engineer’s point of view.
Dave – Right. I mean all towns are struggling with this problem. How do you take a historic district and bring it back to life? And I will say this, as I’ve said to so many people, what we do here is the easy part.
Ervin – The easy part?
Dave – Very much so. Buy a building; go back and see what historic details are still alive in it; bring them back; choose paint colors; do the things that have a feeling of turn-of-the-century, if you will, without being very, very particular — because if you’re going to do that, you’re going to spend a fortune. You can’t afford to do that, so you do it in a way where you get the visual effect, and the comfort from it, but don’t become involved in the historic detail to the effect — that’s one thing that you can’t do, in my opinion.
Ervin – You said it’s simple. The alternative would be what, demolition and rebuilding?
Dave – No. The tenants.
Ervin – Pardon me?
Dave – The tenants. Who comes here day in and day out and runs their business successfully. And that’s the key if you want to go right back to the beginning. Know your community. That is absolutely essential. Faye and I have talked about it many times. We would never do this in another town around here.
Ervin – Really?
Dave – No.
Ervin – For instance, have you ever been to Kendallville, downtown?
Dave – Where?
Ervin – Have you ever seen Kendallville?
Dave – Sure. Mm hmm.
Ervin – Is there any hope for that?
Dave – Oh, they have some wonderful elements. They have some wonderful historic buildings that are still there and alive. A wonderful old post office that has been — um, yes. But then we’re going to get into the uniqueness of why we were able to do this and it has — there is a unique nature of our family and our experience and what we were in a position to do. But once we did that, then it’s up to all of these people — the restaurant owners, everybody — to infill this, and spend their life — every morning, unlocking the door — to make it work.
We could have done this, and if nobody came… I mean that’s the — that’s my point.
Ervin – So you feel you have good support from —
Dave – Oh, absolutely.
Ervin – — from the downtown community and the larger community?
Dave – Right. And I blame that a lot on the Mennonite community, because they’re very community oriented. Uh, the college. We have elements the size of our community — you can’t do this effectively in a small town, and it’s much more difficult to do it in something much larger. Goshen is a neat size. It has a community that responds to this kind of thing. But, make no mistake, restoring the buildings is the simple part of it. You’ve got to have the community of entrepreneurs to come in and infill it with activity that they are not going to run to the mall for.
I mean, that’s the whole key in this. The malls are what destroyed us. So how do we take back from them what the community will support? And that means there’s a lot of people who have to step up and say I’m willing to put in a pretzel shop, and our sign a contract for 3 years with this guy, and I’m going to go in every day to and make it work. And so on.
Ervin – Would you also characterize this community as a rather educated community? Or isn’t that relevant here?
Dave – Well —
Ervin – I mean with the college and a lot of people sticking around, especially young people — is that — how important is that?
Dave – I think it’s very important. Um, it’s so easy to say that I hear it so much, and usually that means 3 people (laughs). Whether it’s a good thing or bad thing. But, I do here a lot about the young people who went to the college experience, or whatever, and couldn’t wait to get out of Goshen a few years ago. And now, they’re coming back. And there’s a reason for that. The one at the top of my list is safety. Goshen in general is a very, very safe place to live and bring up your kids and so on. We have a reasonably good school system. We have elements here, and it’s the right size so that a lot of people know each other. And when a lot of people know each other, you eliminate — you enhance the safety of the community and the workability of it.
Ervin – and you have a prosperous community, and varied industries and business, is that important?
Dave – Yes, but the RV industry, as we all know, is cyclical. And we’ll have 10 years of wonderful support, and then for a year or 2 it goes south. It’ll happen again, I’m sure. That doesn’t affect so much of w hat we were doing, I don’t think. We’re not just — we’re not just Enhancing a commercial area. In addition to that, we are trying to make it a place where you and Phyllis will come down and have a cup of coffee and sit and talk to your neighbors. It’ll be your backyard. And that’s a sort of a — that something you can’t put numbers on. But when people say — I know, I’ve a lot of friends who say Yeah, I’ll meet you downtown. I’ll meet you at the brew. It’s a — sort of a general draw. So there are a lot of elements to it, but for me the most important one is the — are the people who — the business owners, and how they run their business, and how interesting it is.