The current mill owners are retiring.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR PENNSYLVANIA BUREAU
VOLANT, Pa. -- Sometimes taking a step back into the past is the way to the future.
That's what some Volant residents and business owners are hoping.
The Volant Community Development Corporation is buying Volant Mills and has plans to return it to a working mill as well as a small gift shop.
Current Volant Mills owners, Barbara and Sam Miller, are selling off their stock this month before the building sale is final.
The Millers have owned the store for about 20 years and are retiring, Sam Miller said.
"It's time for somebody else to do this for a while," he said.
The mill, built in 1812, is the focal point of the small community, which has specialty shops and restaurants lining its main street on Pa. Route 208 in northern Lawrence County. It ceased being a working mill in the 1960s and remained closed until the 1980s when it was opened as a country gift shop and antique store.
Karen Rockenstein, treasurer of the Volant CDC, said plans are to stock it with locally made Amish products and other things that reflect rural life. That should happen within a few weeks of the CDC's taking possession of the building later this month or in October, she said.
By next year the CDC hopes to have the gristmill working and plans to sell products such as flour and pancake mix made from the mill, she said.
Buying other properties
In addition to the mill, the CDC is buying two adjacent properties. She said it plans to move a house that sits above the mill and use that space to expand a community park.
Additional plans call for turning another house into an art gallery and studio space. The group hopes to convert a nearby barn into a performing arts center, she said.
"These things are all on our wish list. It's a several-year time frame," she said.
Rockenstein said the CDC is using money it received from grants from private foundations for the first phase.
Additional money has been promised by the state to help pay for improvements in the borough including new sidewalks, streetlights and other things. She said the CDC is now applying for the release of those funds from the state.
And efforts to help fund this project locally are also ongoing.
Friends and Family Day
Amanda Stanek, owner of The Kitchen Shoppe, has organized a Friends and Family Day for Saturday with proceeds going to the CDC.
Activities for children from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. will include a duck pond, carnival games, inflatable bouncer, giant slide and a rock wall.
There will also be fly-fishing demonstrations at the Orvis shop and grape stomping at Volant Mill Winery.
Stanek said she will also have a variety of other events including pictures on the Volant firetrucks and a Chinese auction as well as food. The Volant Volunteer Fire Department is participating.
The shops will be open throughout the day.
Rockenstein said the CDC plan is to make shopping in Volant a unique experience with the working mill as its centerpiece.
"We want to offer people an alternative to shopping malls and big box stores," she said.