Getting on track for the future

Local businesses, training center, safety program found success in 2011

December 28, 2011
  • Greensburg Farm Market owner Mary Stagner is shown recently working out of a new facility. The former location of the market was gutted by a fire in March.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

Editor's note: With 2011 drawing to a close, The Herald-Mail took a look back at some of the stories the newspaper published  during the year. We will follow up on some of those stories each day through Saturday to provide a glimpse of what happened next.

Market bounces back from fire

The story: Greensburg Farm Market on Virginia Avenue in Hagerstown was gutted by a fire in March, just as the planting season was starting.

The update: The market is operating out of a new facility.

On the night of March 8, the Greensburg Farm Market went up in flames, frightening neighbors as embers blew toward their homes.

Today, shop owner Mary Stagner is working out of a new facility that includes a roomy side porch where customers can sit down to take a break.

After only working about three months out of the year because of the blaze, Stagner was happy to be back in a new shop as she arranged oranges in a display inside on a recent day.

"It's been a tough year. I don't like it. I can't work. That just doesn't pay the bills," Stagner said.

The shop at 17835 Virginia Ave. burned just as the spring planting season was about to get under way. Stagner and her husband erected a canopy at the site, where they could sell vegetable plants and flowers.

But Stagner had to close her business in July — the middle of her business season — so work could begin on construction of a new building.

"Our insurance was fantastic. They got the contractor, had him clean it up, then had him rebuild it," Stagner said.

The former shop consisted of an old service station building which had an aluminum canopy attached to the front of it.

Stagner's new shop is a single-story, tan-colored building that has two garage doors on either side which Stagner can open to give customers easy access to the inside as they pull carts full of plants and flowers to the cash register.

Honey and various types of jelly were lined along shelves inside on the first day of operations in the building on Nov. 29. Other displays offered tomatoes, pears, apples and lemons. Boxes of hard candy were stacked behind the register, and outside, Stagner was ready for the holiday season with 1,000 Christmas trees.

Stagner said the building was completed during Thanksgiving week. She took possession of it on Nov. 25 and started moving in merchandise on Nov. 29.

Nearly 50 firefighters battled the March 8 fire, which caused $100,000 in damages to the building and $50,000 in damages to the contents.

Stagner, who has had the shop for about 18 years, leases the property from Geraldine Fuller.


— Dave McMillion

Aeronautics school takes off

The story: The Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics opened an aircraft aviation maintenance technology school at Hagerstown Regional Airport in April.

The update: The school has about 50 students and, despite some obstacles, is doing fine.

James Mader, director of the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, said the local aircraft aviation maintenance technology school teaches students to repair everything from a hot-air balloons to the Space Shuttle.

Since opening in Hagerstown on April 29, the school has had three classes with 50 students, Mader said. It's capable of accommodating 85 students with a fourth class.

"Like any new endeavor, we've hit our speedbumps, but overall we're doing pretty well," Mader said. "Things are going well. They're progressing as expected. We're pretty pleased."

Mader said there's a growing demand for aviation mechanics.

That will continue as "all these Vietnam vets who overwhelm the industry are going to be leaving in droves," he said.

Mader said graduates can earn $12 to $15 an hour as a mechanic at a local airport, or up to $40 an hour if they specialize in a certain discipline.

Students graduate when they successfully complete four semesters, Mader said. Tuition costs about $23,900 and doesn't include the $1,800 for books, tools and supplies.

Gov. Martin O'Malley attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the school in April, touting the facility as a building block that will give people the skills to compete in today's job market.

"We don't have a job shortage, we have a skills' shortage," O'Malley said at the time. "It's not what the other guys are doing to us, it's sometimes what we're not doing to give ourselves the skills to compete."

— Dan Dearth


Wine law boosts Knob Hall

 The story: The Maryland General Assembly earlier this year agreed to grant wineries permits to ship wine directly to buyers.

 The update: Washington County's only winery has begun shipping its products to Maryland locations, but faces regulations elsewhere.

Knob Hall in Clear Spring, Washington County's only winery, is now shipping its products, thanks to a change in Maryland's law.

The General Assembly agreed earlier this year to grant wineries permits to ship wine directly to buyers.

As of Dec. 18, there were 25 Maryland wineries with permits, including Knob Hall and some in neighboring Frederick County, such as Black Ankle, Elk Run, Orchid Cellar and Sugarloaf Mountain, according to the state comptroller's office.

Another 500 out-of-state wineries were approved, with 42 more permits pending.

Knob Hall owner Dick Seibert, who got his permit in July, said his winery started shipping orders within Maryland this month, including several six-bottle purchases.

Wine clubs — which Seibert said can make up as much as 40 percent of some wineries' business — are starting to buy.

But now comes a thicket of regulations to navigate.

Seibert said that to ship wine out of state, he needs to learn the requirements for each state, and they don't all match.

Some states grant a general license for a winery. Some give a license for each brand. Some insist on an out-of-state company having a resident agent in the state.

Seibert said he has hired a consultant to help.

He is trying to get a permit in Ohio first. Next, will be Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia and New York.

Pennsylvania decided in November to start allowing wine shipping to home and business addresses, according to The Associated Press.

Seibert said Knob Hall also has had to work with carriers — UPS, FedEx and FedEx Ground are permitted in Maryland — on the requirements for shipping.

All in all, though, the new stream of commerce has been a plus.

"For the future, it will be an important part of the business," Seibert said.

— Andrew Schotz

Jail safety measures working

The story: Safety measures were put in place at the Washington County Detention Center after an inmate committed suicide in May.

The update: The safety measures seem to be working so far.

Washington County Detention Center officials stepped up safety measures at the facility following the May 24 death of Brayan Alejandro Mora-Castro, Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said.

He said there have been no other attempted suicides at the jail on Western Maryland Parkway since then.

"We've taken actions to replace some of the old sprinkler heads so they don't protrude," Mullendore said earlier this month. "It's definitely improved the safety of the facility."

Mullendore said officials also no longer allow inmates to stay unattended in their cells when meals are served. Officials said that it was during dinner at the jail on May 23 that Mora-Castro, 22, hanged himself with a bed sheet from a sprinkler head. He died the next day at Meritus Medical Center east of Hagerstown.

Mullendore said Mora-Castro was left alone for about 30 minutes because he chose to stay in his cell when the rest of the inmates went to dinner.

Mora-Castro, formerly of 351 S. Burhans Blvd. in Hagerstown, was in the detention center awaiting trial on charges of false imprisonment and second-degree assault.

Mora-Castro also was being held on a detainer on behalf of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, the sheriff's office said.

— Dan Dearth

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