Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)


June 29, 2014

Tim Preston: Bright colors, lunch plans, vapor and peaches: 6/29/14

ASHLAND — Local photographer Terry Spears snapped a couple of images in downtown Ashland last week that practically caught fire as soon as they were posted online.

The first photo featured a paint crew applying a coat of UK-type blue to the exterior of the former Ashland News building, and generated genuine enthusiasm far and wide from people who remember this city’s days as a hustle-and-bustle kind of place where property owners took pride in their places. I drove by one recent morning and was admiring the longtime newsstand’s big-blue paint scheme (one of three highly visible renovations sponsored by downtown investor and developer Marshall Steen and his wife, Pat), and foolishly decided it wouldn’t be too tough to reproduce my own rendition of Spears’ photo. Timing can be everything, however, and I quickly discovered the sun was in the wrong place and I’d have to stand in the middle of Winchester Avenue to even get close to Terry’s level of photo artistry. So, I just snapped a few frames while trotting across the road between waves of oncoming cars and trucks.

Steen says he hopes to attract a restaurant or other business that would complement the Paramount Arts Center across the street. I got a peek inside the place and was astounded at the amount of room available — plenty of space for a nice place to have a good meal and a couple of drinks before or after a show. The Steens are also responsible for the new paint down the avenue at L-Style Salon and the Antiques Emporium, and they’ve made an immediate and incredible impact on the visual appeal of the downtown district.

Inspiring equal or greater awe than the blue-building photo, Spears also shared a few breathtaking shots from the interior of the Camayo Arcade building, also on Winchester Avenue, that really reflect the fine job done by owner and downtown developer Perry Madden and his wife, Susan, in that space. Somewhere below this note, there should be another note about the new business that is doing business in the renovated, saved-from-the-wrecking-ball building owned by Paul Castle, that now sports an attention-grabbing shade of pumpkin paint.

And, it would be criminal to not point out the ongoing efforts by Corbie Stull as his crews work to breathe new life into the former Parsons Furniture building at the corner of Winchester Avenue and 17th Street. That building, and Stull’s lifelong passion for legendary old-school department stores, should become a real jewel in the downtown crown in the months ahead.

Personally, I’m inspired by all these efforts and convinced it will take this sort of energy to attract people, and especially new small businesses and shops, back to downtown Ashland. For what it’s worth, I salute everyone involved and sincerely hope those efforts spark a fire of renewed enthusiasm for the downtown.

Less-toxic lunches

I appreciate the suggestions I’ve received, and encourage more, on the subject of healthy eating and options on menus at fast-food restaurants. On the latter part, I think we have to agree I’m just looking for “less unhealthy” choices than actual “good-for-you” options. And, let’s face it — my bacon-covered-cheeseburger-craving ways aren’t going to change overnight.

One theme in each response has been the wise suggestion to start packing my own lunches, reserving a couple of days each week for my ongoing cheeseburger and bacon research. I like the idea and plan to embrace it this week, but I still need some help. My definition of “healthy” really is limited to the concept of spinach leaves, berries and grilled chicken breast, and I could use a few ideas about things such as how to incorporate other things (like those packets of tuna I see at the store) for some variety and nutrition. I’m a big fan of fruits and berries, but tend to just eat those things raw, and I’m also open to suggestions about produce. Laugh if you will, but I’ve only discovered a love of things like avocados and fresh green beans (ask my dad how much I hated those as a kid) in the past year or so.

I will share a few of the better, or more unusual, suggestions such as this one, for an easy, economical lunch treat: “My personal favorite for hunting and fishing trips with my grandsons is crunchy, natural peanut butter, honey and spicy brown mustard on 100 percent whole-wheat bread. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it and my grandsons love it, too.”

That one may be better classified as “affordable” rather than “healthy,” but I can’t wait to give it a try.

I’m also going to investigate this suggestion: “I buy cold grilled chicken slices at Food Fair. They’re less than $4 for a really big container. Then we make sure to always have cheese and tortillas around. Some days it’s just chicken and cheese. Some days it’s a little ranch dressing. Sometimes I’ll buy a bag of cut-up lettuce to add. You can eat it cold or nuke it for about 20 to 30 seconds. Sometimes for a fast dinner I’ll stir-fry green peppers or broccoli and onions with the chicken. Sometimes I’ll throw some chicken in with a couple of hard-boiled eggs, onions and mayo for chicken salad. You can buy the Tyson brand in any store for $2.50 to $3.00, but it's only 4 to 6 ounces. Food Fair’s is a whole pound for less than $1 more and I personally like it better. They sell it over by the hamburger, whole chicken, etc.”

Peaches for me

Almost by accident, I ate something both delicious and nutritious as part of my intake last week, and I also learned something.

I made a last-minute stop by Artrip’s Market on 13th Street on my way home, remembering the pretty lady down the road had asked if I could pick up three pounds of white-half-runner beans and drop them off at her place. Ken Artrip was behind the counter, and reminded me nearly everyone around here refers to those green beans improperly.

“They’re just half-runners,” he said with a smile, noting the beans really are green and not white. I replied it is one of those things like “hot water heater” (it’s actually a cold water heater, or a hot water tank), or “8 a.m. in the morning,” (there is no 8 a.m. at night) that we repeat without thinking about it.

It was one of “those days” when I only had a small amount of cash in pocket (I generally call “those days” Monday through Sunday), but I had just enough to get a big bag of half-runner beans. Apparently Artrip reading my mind as I tried to pretend I wasn’t craving the daylights out of the peaches he recently received from South Carolina, and he slipped me an extra bag with a couple of those perfectly ripe beauties inside. I suspect he knew how good they were and that I would write about it, but I’m not one to question such a wonderful gift.

If there was any way to properly describe the way the juice slowly trickled down the knife blade as I cut each peach in half, or the almost-obscene sounds I made while eating those halves with the syrupy nectar literally running down my arm and chin, it would take a greater wordsmith than I’ll ever be. Each of the natural treats was better than the one that went before, and all were just too good for words. Better than any candy bar, in my humble opinion.

No Smoke

While running around downtown Ashland for paint-related stories, I had a chance to spend a few minutes with Chuck Riesbeck, the owner of the new No Smoke Vapor Shoppe in Paul Castle’s pumpkin-colored building directly across from the Paramount Arts Center.

A resident of Greenup County’s Lloyd community, Riesbeck has 43 different flavors of e-liquid by Mountain Oak Vapors, as well as a complete line of “vapes” or e-cigarettes from starter kits to elaborate modifications and “rebuildable atomizers.”

Riesbeck “started out bagging groceries” and has 35 years of retail experience as well as experience with multimillion-dollar corporations, and explained he did a ton of research on his products before deciding what to stock on his shelves. He also wanted a place that would be inviting and comfortable for local “vapers,” and incorporated a cozy lounge area at the front of the shop.

“I wanted to create an ... I don’t know if you’d call it a speakeasy, but a social environment for enthusiasts to talk and share information. Vapers love talking to each other, and I enjoy listening to their conversations from the other side of the counter. It helps me know what they want,” Riesbeck said.

A former 40-year smoker of two-packs per day who put his tobacco habit behind him with the help of a vape, Riesbeck said his motivation for opening No Smoke Vapor Shoppe is simple to explain: “I want to see people get off cigarettes.”

No Smoke Vapor Shoppe is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, find the shop’s page on Facebook or call (606) 920-9577.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

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