Second Time Around
Small town business owners find happiness in career changes
Meet the expatriates of Davis, WV
Boy meets girl
Perspectives on a second time around
Photo gallery of the expatriates
The Town of Davis
Davis, known as the highest incorporated town in the state of West Virginia, has an elevation of 3,200 feet.
This provides the area with a cool climate year-round. The average temperature during the summer months is 75 degrees. Davis enjoys a colorful fall foliage and an average snowfall of 160 inches per year. During the spring, you will find the wild rhododendron and mountain laurel in bloom.
Visit the the town of Davis, WV online by clicking here.
By Tricia Fulks and Steve Butera
DAVIS – Nine-month old Gretchen naps in the back room of her parents’ coffee shop as Chloe, 13, makes conversation with customers. When Charlie, 3, isn’t running through the little space left in the busy shop, he is either watching or impersonating He-Man.
This mix of business and family life is a normal Saturday morning in Davis, W.Va. for the Williams family.
Tony and Summer Williams opened Hypno Coffee just over a year ago after moving to the area from Pensacola, Fla. After living a more urban lifestyle for years, the family looked for something new.
“I wanted to get back to something more natural,” Summer said. “And I felt like I wasn’t close to anybody. I didn’t really have any real friends.”
Davis, a town in Tucker County with just over 600 people, suits the family much better. And Tony and Summer’s story is not unique in Davis. Several local business owners have found contentment after transplanting themselves from other areas to this town.
Before the move to West Virginia, the Williamses worked in a Florida hospital, Summer as a phlebotomist and Tony as a biomedical engineer. Florida was fast-paced and commercialized in their eyes.
“(We) ultimately decided that we hated it there,” she said.
When the family was en route to New England for a wedding, they stopped in Fairmont to stay the night. West Virginia wasn’t a place they had considered for their move, but they liked what they saw.
“It’s just kind of a state that would never occur to us to go to, and maybe that’s a good thing to get away from people, to get away from civilization,” Summer said.
They toured the state, focusing on small mountain towns. Their final stop was Davis.
Another transplant, Melissa Borowitz, owns and operates Hellbenders Burritos with her husband, Rob. Before taking orders and building burritos, Melissa earned her degree in chemistry from West Virginia University. After working jobs at Mylan Pharmaceuticals and the National Science Foundation, Melissa too was looking for a change of pace.
“I was finding it hard to figure out what I could possibly do with the degree that I got,” she said.
During the 1990s, Melissa and Rob traveled out west for a while. The terrain, climate and even the cuisine differed from what they were used to back east.
“We traveled across country … and we went to a lot of different restaurants,” Melissa said. “Out west, especially, we always stopped in at burrito places, and they had these big, giant burritos.”
The Borowitzes weren’t used to burritos stuffed with anything other than taco sauce and meat. Then they started dreaming.
In August 2004 the couple vacationed at Blackwater Falls in Tucker County. They came across an old restaurant – just what they needed to make their dream become a reality.
“We decided to go ahead and do the burrito thing,” Melissa said. “It was something that the town didn’t have already, and we’d always been thinking about it for those 10 years (since being out west).”
During the next three years, Melissa and Rob laid out their business plan. They used their savings to open Hellbenders.
“We definitely like to be a part of this community,” Melissa said. “We’re all kind of in this together. In this kind of town, this kind of seasonal resort-type town, everyone kind of has to work together.”
Hypno Coffee’s Tony Williams agrees.
“Here you know your neighbors, they know you,” Tony said. “You don’t lock your doors. There’s a certain small-town safety net here that doesn’t exist in a larger area.”
And the closeness of the community is something even the customers noticed. Matt Lambert, a second-home owner in the area, said something was missing before many of the family-owned businesses were in town.
“Between Hellbenders and Hypno, they’ve really enriched the local sense of community,” he said. “
Running a restaurant has also been in the Sirianni family for decades.
Sirianni’s Café has been in operation for over 20 years. Saundra Sirianni Goss is co-owner and her son Mike is the general manager. Long-time friend Walt Ranalli owns and operates the business with Saundra.
With their restaurant serving as a familiar fixture in Davis, Saundra and Walt have learned to keep the business going their own way over the years.
“I think the thing that’s kept us going all these years is we appreciate the good traits of the other person and try not to focus on the bad traits of each other,” Saundra said.
This attitude has kept them going over the years. Though they aren’t transplants like many others in the area, they serve as a sort of model for the businesses in their infancy.
“I think the advice today is as it was five years ago,” Saundra said. “If you have a new business, you better be prepared to work that business and to oversee it and to invest in it.”
Dedication is also the key for Walt.
“If you don’t have a complete commitment, if you think it’s a way for you to solely make money, then maybe you should go get a job, because you’re not going to like the hours,” he said.
The hours don’t matter to these expatriates. Sometimes they just want to get back to where they once were, as did Jeremy Golston.
Jeremy co-owns Highland Prospects, an outdoor gear retail store, with his friend Ben Clark. After going to college at Davis and Elkins College, just miles away from Davis, Jeremy worked for a Fortune 500 marketing firm.
“Don’t want to work for the man, don’t want to be in the cubicle situation,” he said. “(My and Ben’s) creativity was just really being stifled working in places like that.”
Starting in February 2006, the two came up with a plan and opened in June. It allowed the two to work with their passion: the outdoors.
“I felt like if I was going to devote my life to working really hard and things like that at the end I wanted to have made an impact on people, for the most part, and also created a really cool product,” Jeremy said.
He likes working with locals and tourists, and he loves the feel of working and living in a tourist area.
It comes down to the community feeling for many of these transplants. They enjoy the people who come in and out of their restaurants and shops.
And customers have accepted the new businesses with open arms.
Brian Menzies, a chiropractor who has a weekend home in Tucker County, gets his coffee from Hypno Coffee whenever he’s in the area.
“It’s more of a living room than a business, which is nice,” he said. “Tony and Summer are lovely people, always working hard.”
Bill Smith, executive director of the Tucker County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said no other place in the state offers what Davis and surrounding areas can offer.
“We’re busy most of the time,” Smith said. “The product here is so unique.”