Shenandoah County Library Archives

Shenandoah County Library Digital Archives

Mary Beth Price Oral History Interview

Files

Dublin Core

Title

Mary Beth Price Oral History Interview

Subject

Price, Mary Beth Taylor
Shenandoah County (Va)
Government employees - Virginia - Shenandoah County
Government officials - United States - Virginia - Shenandoah County
Brewing industry - Virginia - Shenandoah County
Strasburg (Va)

Description

Oral history interview featuring Mary Beth Price conducted on June 17 2021 at the Box Office Brewery in Strasburg Virginia.

The interview focuses on her life growing up in Strasburg Virginia, her career as a local government employee and Shenandoah County Administrator, and her involvement with the founding of the Box Officer Brewery in Strasburg Virginia.

Creator

Ryan Bachman

Source

Shenandoah Voices Oral History Project

Publisher

Shenandoah County Library

Date

June 17, 2021

Rights

Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial (CC-BY-NC)

Format

MP3 File

Language

English

Type

Sound Recording

Identifier

2021-0001

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Bachman, Ryan

Interviewee

Price, Mary Beth Taylor

Location

Strasburg Va.

Transcription

Interviewer: Ryan Backman.This is Ryan Backman recording the first oral history of 2021 for the Shenandoah County Library. I am here with Mary Beth Price in Strasburg, Virginia.

Interviewee: Mary Beth Price
Strasburg, Virginia
Date: June 17 2021 10:07 AM

Ryan: Tell us where and when you were born.

Mary Beth: I was born September 12, 1960 in Winchester Memorial Hospital.

Ryan: Were your parents from the Shenandoah Valley area?

Mary Beth: They were from Shenandoah County. My dad lived here in Strasburg, what they referred to as Strasburg Junction. It is out on what used to be A Street now Ash Street. And my mother is from the Columbia Furnace area, Edinburg, farm family. My grandfather and I guess her only brother and sister they all worked on the farm and had milk cattle there.

Ryan: What kind of work did your parents do growing up?

Mary Beth: My mother was a stay-at-home mom until my younger my sister, she was the youngest a year below me , went to school, and at that time she started working for Shenandoah County Public School as a secretary, what they call an administrative assistant today. She started at the school on High Street which burned in the sixties. They built a middle school at Sandy Hook across the river and that is Signal Knob Middle School and she continued to work there until she retired. My dad started here in town with the power company at that time, Potomac Edison, then it was Allegheny Power-it changed names quite a few times. They actually had a store here where you could actually buy appliances. It moved to Winchester and it now Shenandoah Valley Electric Corporation. He worked for them all his life and retired. Early as a kid he worked at the local Johnson's grocery store here in town and also at the Lucky Strike Bowliing Lanes. He set up the pins for the bowling and that was in the 30's and 40's. I am not sure if they were open in the 50's. He also handed out movie announcements for this theater which we sit in now and brewery. He also handed out playbooks that are out here on the wall. That is what he did as a youngster.

Ryan. Very cool. Comes full circle. Could you describe the neighborhood or area where you grew up?

Mary Beth: So initially we lived on A Street which now is Ash Street. There were five of us children, a Catholic family. At that time there was a small Catholic church in Woodstock and we traveled there. My mother passed away last year. My dad is still living. But anyway, Ash Street was rather rural and at that point it was out of the corporate limits. And has since then annexed out to the railroad tracks Strasburg Junction in that area. We later moved to what is Orchard Street a street over because it was dead end. I guess my parents thought it was a little more safe with 5 kids running around. Then we pretty much outgrew that and we moved to Holiday Street and there is still a sign on that house, called the Taylor House which is my maiden name--Taylor. I believe the reason we probably moved there was because it was close to the schools. My mother when I mentioned she was a secretary at the school even when we lived on Orchard Street she was able to walk to work. When we moved to Holliday Street that continued all she had to do was walk up onto High Street where the other school was. So basically just small town. You know there was a good quality of life and a good place to raise children. It was my Dad's hometown so we were close to grandparents and that was very important in life as well. I delivered newspapers,that was another thing that I did. That was my first job. I did that right here in town.

Ryan: Cool. Well I guess that is a good segway to get into more questions about work. Could you describe your current job?

Mary Beth: Currently I am retired. I retired April of 2019 from Shenandoah County government as County Administrator. I was immediately contacted by Clarke County Board Chairman, their Board of Supervisors. They indicated that their County Administrator was going to retire the end of December and they ask me how I would go about the process and what they should do because they had not had to hire a County Administrator for over 30 years. So I went through all that and the Board Chairman asked if I would help them. I told them sure I would meet with their Board in closed session. And we did. They selected me and helped with that process. I did that until the position was filled about September 2019. Then in January 2020 the City Manager for Winchester contacted me. She was leaving to take a position as Deputy City Manager in Greenville, South Carolina. She asked if I would put my name in the hat for Council to consider as their interim City Manager. I was selected for that. I started pretty much the first day of COVID. It was rather a odd interim gig I would say because I don't know what normal would have been. I finished that up in September of 2020, still COVID and since then I was contacted by Frederick County ADministrator, Chris______. He indicated he was retiring and asked if I would put my name in the hat and I did. I met with that board and they selected me and I will start there in July just in a couple of weeks. My husband owns Box Office Brewery which I mentioned was an old 1920s theater in Strasburg. I basically just helped with the bookkeeping and do the payroll. And take care of grandkids. I do that well.

Ryan: i think that can really be fun thinking of my grandmother. It seems like a fulltime job I'm sure.

Mary Beth: I enjoy doing that as well.

Ryan: Just kind of talk a little bit about being a public official duing COVID 19. What were some of the challenges of taking over as city manager right as the lockdown and preventative measures for COVID 19 were just starting.

Mary Beth: One of the first things I did were we had to close the city buildings. So in itself was rather strange because you are used to being open to the public in face to face meetings and all of that just came to a halt. So more phone time and that introduced virtual meetings. You suddenly handled your meetings by Zoom or Webex. Is one that we used at the City. We had to come up with innovative measures on how to conduct our meetings yet still tried to allow for public comments from the public. But the IT department was very good. Another big challenge this was also about the time of the George Floyd incident when they had all that trial and so there was also a march for the Black Lives Matter and that occurred in Winchester City. I want to say there were maybe a little over a thousand that participated from all over not just Winchester. So that was what you would call an emergency where we opened up our Emergency Operations Center and I participated in that. And it all went well. There were no real incidents. Along with that a lot of people were considering changing names of whether it was schools or road names. We have a Jubal Early Drive that runs through, a big___ that runs through the city of Winchester. They did not change it at the time so that it could be reviewed in the future primarily because there were of number of businesses that had to change their addresses and they were concerned about businesses were already suffering enough thru COVID, let's not throw them another hard fall and make it even tougher on them. Then strangely enough, I don't know is you are familiar with it,but there is something called the Spotted Lantern Fly. It is prevalent in the Frederick County, Winchester city area.

Ryan: My wife is a insect_______.

Mary Beth: OK, then you know what it is. That was sort of near the end of my interim term. I have never really experienced anything like that until the cicadas. We have had a year. We don't have to deal with that for another seventeen years. But they were-- when you went to step on them they would jump is what they would do about five feet in the air. They sensed or knew I am not sure how. That was also a challenge because believe it or not things like that people do not know how to handle and they call the City for help on that. I think other than that some of the challenges especially wiht the City of Winchester, Apple Blossom. It is not just a day, it a week long festival. This particular year they were able to bring it back and they moved it into Frederick County at their fairground so they can do more social distancing. Because that was even before the Governor lifted any of the bans and we were back to 100 per cent capacity. So that was another challenge. A lot of non-profit have lost funds as a result of not being able to do some their activities or Little Theater plays. Having a University in the city they were also faced with many challenges with their student body, how to handle that. The President there was very good. She worked closely with Valley Health. I also serve on Valley Health's Board. Cudos to them. They handled this like professionals all through COVID. Along with Dr.Colin Greene who is the head of the Health Department. Those folks were very helpful all through COVID. Every week we had a 12:30 conference call. He kept all of the government officials in the area informed. That was another thing they set up, testing locations and that sort of thing. The city had to be prepared to assist the hospital like how do we address homeless and what if we ran into a situation, as morbid as it sounds, what if the death increased to where funeral homes could not handle the bodies. Those were the things that Emergency Management had to consider and think about and you know again the City departments handled it real well. Everyone was very proactive rather than being reactive. It kind of like the _________even if it doesn't happen I know the Weather Channel botches things up but they are trying to get everyone prepared and then it's like nothing happens. But at least they are being proactive rather than being reactive. That's the worst thing that you can be is reactive. Other than that I think I kind of touched on most of it. But you know the Cares Act money that came did help with many things. There was a push you had to spend it by the end of December so as easy as that sounds __________until you go spend by the end of December. Just not being able to find hand sanitizer and masks and things of that nature. Everyone pitched in and made masks. So that was good.

Ryan:Thank you for that excellent explanation. Could you talk a little bit about what made you want to get involved in local and county government?

Mary Beth: So both my parents served on Strasburg's Town Council 1972 to 1976 I think. There used to be a Safeway store here, a block away. And Saturday morning that is what you did you went and got groceries on a Saturday morning. My mother would take me along occasionally or we would just be riding around town and then along with her or my dad and she would take me to the wastewater plant or the sewer plant. If someone was complaining about whether it be a pothole or something she would take me along and I guess that kind of sparked my interest and you know I was a bike riding kid. It was the 70's that was what you did. I rode my bike around town. I guess you could say I really became interested. The Fire alarm still goes off historically.Any time there is an incident. And running from Hollliday Street while riding a bike I would see how quickly I could get here just to watch everyone get on the firetruck. I thinkg that is probably what it was from my parents at a young age. Their service to community,

Ryan: You mentioned a little bit earlier about working a newspaper route. And building off of that what type of jobs did you have before joining the public sector and how did your experience in those jobs prepare you for working in local and county government.

Mary Beth: I actually was a Junior and Senior in high school and even that seems like you want to be driving a car by then, with five kids we didn't do that. You did not have a car. We were able just to walk over the hill to the high school. Like I said that was probably one of the reasons my parents probably moved went to Holliday Street and the Taylor. I delivered newspapers. You know you get up at 4 AM. I was here at the local news stand and sold magazines, knick-knack toys, newspapers. At that time that was where you got your news. And I still get that newspaper today delivered at my home. You know as I folded them, you know we folded them back then, I read the headlines, even then I had probably had an interest in community and government and so forth. But that was what I did I delivered the newspaper went back home. I tried to do it, make sure everyone had their newspaper between 5 and 6 AM and then I went off to school. That is what you did you carried a big sack of newspapers on your bike.

Ryan: Just out of curiosity how big of a route was there.

Mary Beth: I at most had about 115 newspapers that I carried in the sack.

Ryan: That is a lot of newspapers.

Mary Beth: Yes. And you had to fold them. You rolled them up. Put a rubber band around them and then that is what you delivered. And then I was a lifeguard at out local town pool right after I graduated from high school. Will probably get in to how I got into local government. I know you are probably going to ask that. That is where I went after the lifeguard at the pool.

Ryan: You are right. That is actually the very next question. How did you get your start in the public sector?

Mary Beth: So while I went to Strasburg High School, I also attended Triplett Business & Technical Institute. That basically is a technical school located in Mount Jackson but it served countytwide. So the bus would leave Strasburg,stop at Central High School in Woodstock, pick up students and then it would end up at Mount Jackson. And it was a half day program. You know I guess I didn't know at that time, I would have been a sophomore, I guess I liked math but not that algebra-calculas math and it kind of peaked my interest. The data processing part was actually computer language I don't remember today. The size of the computer was a monster, back then that was the _______it was. They were hugh.They would take up this room and you used the little punch cards. It was called COBAL (?) RPG computer language and accounting. And so I did a 2 year program there and when I graduated, having 5 children in the family again you could not just say all five of us are going to college. My sister one year younger than me and my brother two years older than me, far better grades than me. They were the ones bound for college. Plus they were four yearsa apart. My brother, he was in college when I graduated so I decided I was going to go to Lord Fairfax Community College. While looking at the school because of that accounting that I had at Triplett Technical Institute, the Town of Strasburg right next door here where the tire company is, that is where the town office and they were advertising for a bookkeeper and so I applied. I got the job. It was August 1978 and I was a lifeguard at the pool. Mr. Vince Polilng was the town manager and he called me. You probably could have heard me scream from there. I was so excited. I remember filling out the application for the job. Roger "Buck" Ramey was the Chief of Police and he came by and said "You really want to work here?" Well yes I think so. This guy is like a giant, like a Teddy bear giant. I got that job and started. And again the computer was huge. It took up the majority of the room. It wasn't like your PC like it is today, your laptop or Ipad. And then, segregation of duties, separation of duties really wasn't as big a deal then, I pretty much did nuts to bolts. It was nuts to bolts to the end. All the bookkeeping, the water billing, general ledger, balance sheet, front counter, all the reconciliation of bank statements. We even dispatched, from 9 to 5 all the police, fire and rescue. Because there was no 911. If you needed to call for a rescue or a fire truck for a fire or police you had to dial a 465 number. You had a duty roster that was plastered on the wall, local Mowery Oil Company if we didn't have a driver on our roster we could always call Doug Mowery Sr.down at Mowery Oil Company and he would come up and drive. You can imagine how long it took to get an ambulance out the door. So that is what we did, we dispatched 9 to 5, we processed water bills. You did everything. Payroll. My first son was born on my birthday in 1984. We lived across the street in an apartment, my husband and I and my first son. I mean he was one week old, I picked him up in the carrier, brought him across the street, put him on the table and did payroll because no one else knew how to do it. There was only two people in the office. That just goes to show you how things were at that date and time and how things change.

Ryan: Oh yes.

Mary Beth: So do you want me to continue from there?

Ryan: I was going to get into asking about when you appointed County Administrator.

Mary Beth: Okay will let me back up because I was right out of high school. I mentioned about Lord Fairfax Community College. Because I started right out of high school, I completed all of my education while working fulltime. I completed Lord Fairfax and then finished at Eastern Mennonite University. Completeing all of that in a virtual or traveling at night, raising two boys. I worked my way up with the Town of Strasburg. If you look across the street, in 1991 we built the new City Hall using Rural Development funds. I worked on that project and actually added to the Fire Department for another phase so they could have a ladder truck. And so that where the Town Office is across the street. I was with Strasburg until February of 1997. Mr. Poling took a job with the County as a Planner. I believe it was 1985 and he became the County Administrator and advertised for an assistant. I applied for that job and he hired me once again in February pf 1997 as the Assistant County Administrator. I held that position until I became the County Administrator in 2013 and then I retired in 2019.

Ryan: How does working for a local government lilke Strasburg compare with workin with working at the County level.

Mary Beth: There is a difference. I wouldn't say a big difference. You know everyone wants to put everyone in the same basket. But it is different. Shenandoah County has 6 incorporated towns. In local town government you have your town government your police department, water, waste water, street maintenance, water billing, water lines,sewer lines, street lights, sidewalks. When I went to the county one of the biggest challenges was learning the constitutional officers which consists of Clerk of Court, Circuit Court, Sheriff, Commissioner of Revenue, a Treasurer and a Commonwealth Attorney. I don't really work with those, when you work with them at the County level. At a Town level you may talk to the Commissioner of Revenue about assessment because the Commissioner of Revenue handles the assesments countywide for all the towns. Treasurer same thing, they handle collections even though the towns collect their own taxes. You still have communication with the County Treasurer as well . THe Sheriff then handles, at that time it would have been a local jail. Now it is a Regional Jail. They handle the court Bailiff.So there was a_______ there. And because they are elected officials so many people think the Treasurer works for you. But that is not the case, they are elected. They are their own entity. But they do have a county budget in addition they receive state funds. All compensation_____________? ________. The other difference is County Court. There are no courts in the Town. It is all County. You have a Social Services. You also have a school division. The towns do not have schools. Cities do. You have that in the City of Winchester. But in the County it is county public schools. That was another big difference. So those are the major big diffences.

Ryan: It is correct that you were the first female county administrator of Shenandoah County?

Mary Beth: Yes I was. John Cutlip would have been the first County Administrator. Then it was Mr. Poling. Then it was Douglas Walker. Then it was myself. I would have been the fourth.

Ryan: Do you think being a female county administrator impacted the work environment of the office at all and if so how?

Mary Beth: No. I do not. You know so often people would ask doing what I do and being a woman and never in all my career even at Strasburg and being an assistant county administrator I never felt any different or disrespected. If I walked in to a room there were 10 people now or then it just didn't matter they treated me with the same respect. I never felt any different.

Ryan: Could you walk me thru some of the duties of the County Administrator? We talked a little bit about it but describe some of the duties and how you go about doing that.

Mary Beth: You know a lot of people when you tell them that you are the County Adminstrator they do not understand what that means. You could be like an administrative assistant. But it is like a CEO of a company. There are numerous departments. So at the County level in Shenandoah County you have overisight of the 911 communications center. There are sanitary districts that provide water and sewer to the Toms Brook and Maurertown area and the Basye- Bryce Mountain area so you do have to dapple in that a bit. The county Board of Supervisors they are over those authorities as well. Building Inspection that is also not a town function but that is also county so when you see growth in and around the town even though the town may benefit somewaht from that growth the county is responsible for that inspection. We also had Zoning and Planning which is also a county function. Animal Shelter, Solid Waste Landfill Recyling operation. There is also tire shredding department program. So that is another County deparment. I am sure I am forgetting someone. Fire and Rescue that is another large one which grew. It started off with a Fire Prevention Officer that also served as a Fire Marshall and a Fire Chief. We had what we called 2 Chase Units throughout the county. Still volunteer in our volunteer stations but it later grew to where there are now over 50 firefighters and EMT professional that are in Shenandoah County that operate out of volunteer stations. So Fire and Rescue is also a big part of that.

Ryan: Where the any aspects of the job as County Administrator that you enjoyed especially?

Mary Beth: You know I have to say I just enjoyed working with people and helping citizens. There could be a very upset, irate citizen who was right outside my office and you know just raising their voice to whoever that point of contact was, the administrative assistant, right outside my door. I would just simply get up and go out and say just come into my office and talk. You know you try to bring them down. You use the right tone to speak with them to bring them down. They may like the answer. The answer may not be what they want to hear but it is the answer and you try to get them to understand why.When they leave there they may not be my best friend. They are an acquaintence that when I see them again you know they make a comment, oh it is good to see you again or this lady helped me so and so years ago. That really means a lot to me. I felt like I did a good job with that and met a lot of folks along the way. The employees, everybody works hard in County Government. They all wear many hats. Everyone thinks taxes are so high and everything is plush but it not always that way. Everyone we all wore may hats. There wasn't a Human Resource Director up until this July1 they finallly had it approved in this year's budget. So you had to put on a human resource hat. And there is a lot of challenges at the Federal government level whether it is Standards Act, Leave Act, Minimum Wage, keeping up with all the Federal regulations. Definitely long overdue. I really think the employees work very hard.

Ryan: We talked a bit about COVID earlier on in the interview. But I was wondering what are some of the biggest challenges you faced in your career as a County Administrator.

Mary Beth: Well I was at the city and I covered some of those, but at the County level I would say very similar. I would talk on occasion with the current County Administrator and we discuss some of those challenges. What is the Cares Act money and how they were approaching it since it is for business and trying get them____ ?. Because remember we were shut down. The Governor shut down. Businesses were closed for a while and some were open at lower capacity. And so those were some of the challenges. And just the same challenge. This has nothing to do with COVID. Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield was a major provider of local government health insurance plans. They were in negotiations redoing the contract with Valley Health as participating in network payer. It was not looking good. They were asking for a lot and everyone was afraid the deal was not going to go thru. Shenandoah County actually switched to Aetna. When I was with the City they actually switched as well. Some waited and they saved with Anthem. So that was another challenge on top of COVID that you were faced with on top of everything else. And then challenge with Shenandoah County was the volunteer personnel. It is a nationwide issue. They added during COVID fourteen firefighter EMTs. Other than that I am not sure what other challenges Shenandoah County might have been facing. I am sure there were plenty.

Ryan: You touched on this a little bit--you might want to talk about what you found most rewarding working as an administrator for Shenandoah County.

Mary Beth: You know I look back at what I accomplished even in Strasburg, my home town. You got the Town Hall that was built in 1981. That is something nice to be proud of. It is still serves the functions of the town. The new waste water plant was built in the early 80s but since then they have built another one with capacity and meeting departmental and environmental qualities and meeting EPA regulations. At the County I can honestly say, and again this tells age, there was no County website. As antiquated as that may sound, I worked with the Building Code official at the time, he not there anymore. I worked with him to start the webpage for Shenandoah County and email account. It was in 1996, in that era that email became a thing. I remember writing everyone a memo after we contracted with Litten and Sipe as our County attorney to please use email to contact the attorney and not so much a telephone. And I bet now everyone is thinking wow I wish I didn't get so much email. But then it just wasn't so much a thing. So that is something else that was very instrumental I guess at the time was starting the website. We also were hit with a very bad flood in 1996. Even though I was with the Town of Strasburg at the time, it flooded the water plant and so we were all on "boil water notice". And then it was in February 1997 I worked for the County and the County had received a community development lot? grant to rescue those folks who had lost their homes. There is an area called Deer Rapids that is on the river, and it absolutely ripped those houses off their foundations and it pretty much ruined quite a few homes. And also in Leisure Point area which is outside of Woodstock. And then a little small area in Columbia Furnace. I don't remember how many homes there were. With that grant we were able to give those homeowners a value for their home. They could close their well and septic. They were able to go and purchase a home elsewhere. You can't use those properties anymore, but it allowed them to have a new start. So that was a very good program. The 911 had already started around 1993 is when that came to Shenandoah County. I was with the Town at the time. That was another big project. You had to rename roads and streets. Everything around here was a route and a number. So you would live on like Route 2, Box 123. And so you suddenly had to rename. That was a big project for the county. Then in town we had to rename, remember we mentioned "A" earlier. There was an A, B, C, D, E street. When you are on the radio, when you are communicating to a fire, police or rescue, you probably know yourself, when you say "B" you sounds like C and D and E. So they had to rename those street and a few others. So that was another big project that we handled. Recycling is something else we started in Shenandoah County. It is very questionable to folks because today they are just not sure. They used to have curb pickup. Now it has been eliminated. The demand is not there for some of us. That is a nationwide issue. Hopefully it will come back. But cardboard, tin, glass, aluminum, plastic, all of that is still recyclable.That is another program that we started at the County level and it grew. So that was another big program. And then I believe, maybe not popular to some, but we combined our contractor sites which also collects not only garbage but recycles for residents . We combined two in the Woodstock area into one and also in the Strasburg area. And one was the result of, well actually two wers the result of the homeowners we had leased the property off of, the county did, they simply said we are not going to do this anymore. Fortunately we were able to secure some land. They are much larger and double the capacity. So that was also a very good program as well. Another project I worked on, not that it is all about building but because of my experience with Rural Development and securing the loan for the Town of Strasburg for the town hall and fire department. I also worked to get the loan for the Government Center. Then we also later built a Historical Courthouse? It was around 2011. It was right after the 2008 economic crash. So the amount of that debt service was around 14 million and change. Along with that we were moving some offices out of that county government building that we had moved into in 2000. We had purchased an old Safeway building and it was vacated and in bad ill repair. We moved our Human Services over there, your community services, your social and health department. We were able to renovate that building and build a new district and juvenile and domestic relaltions court, the building behind the government center. Land that was already owned by the County way under budget. So as a result of that, you had to use the funds because you were already obligated to do that. They were like you need to spend the money. We were able to renovate tha historic 1700-1800 Courthouse. It was a very good project. We put concrete in the base to support the foundation where some of it had sunk over the years. Put in HVAC, heating, ventilation and AC. And then we were also able to renovate a 1930's Edinburg school and it also serves now as a Charter House School for the Area Agency on Aging. They also share a space for community programs and _______. So that was also a very good project that we were able to use those dollars to help on two important community projects that we could preserve history.

Ryan: I guess to go off of discussing building and renovation, I am curious from the perspective of a local official, how has Strasburg and the larger county changed since you first became involved in public service.
"
Mary Beth: Coming from a small town, my parents pretty much knew everybody. My boys tell me that all the time. "You know everybody, I can't take you anywhere". But that is changing______, by any means. So I guess what I have seen, when I think back to when I started with the Town of Strasburg in 1978 when I mention shops like the Newstand. There were a couple of restaurants on Main Street, Riley's?. And you know you had local _____ like a sub shop. There used to be the old Tastee Freeze which was your burger joint. You know there were a lot of main street businesses, a clothing store. I had a U. S. history teacher, Don Fisher ,that offered his praises, it's a always the big ones eat the little ones. So what changed was when your Walmarts of the world came in, your bigger box stores, that changed that demographic of your Mom & Pop stores. We even had a local hardware store. You had an auto store that sold all kinds, more that just auto. And we have an auto store but it is a chain. The ones I am mentioning like the Newstand and all that. An appliance store. All those were right here in town. So then when you moved into the 80's and then the 90's, your Main Street became empty and it wasn't just Strasburg it was all towns, it changed them a lot. Now you see it sort of also another economic reversal, now you have got your Amazons of the world. And again I think about the big______ and now your box stores are concerned. That's why they went to organized delivery sort of the same business model as an Amazon. And then you are seeing your downtowns starting to come back to life. Different, it might be a specialty store or a brewery and another little restaurant might pop up. So you are seeing that a sort of come back to full circle. So those are the changes that I believe that I see.

Ryan: And just one final question on government and public service. What were some of the benefits or drawbacks of being from first a town and then the county where you worked in public service?

Mary Beth: Let's see. I don't know that I can think of any drawbacks as far as the town. I really did enjoy local government. A lot of folks will say it is difficult to live and you know, your hometown, because you do know everyone. But I don't know that I saw that as a bad thing. You know in local government, you always have those few citizens, you know who they are, that just come in and they just always want to complain about something or seem unhappy. You do your best to treat them all the same and hope that you can have them come around. There just weren't too many drawbacks as I recall. The only thing that I believe was a challenge at the County again was the running for a Constitutional officer. It a concept that is very difficult for people to understand. It is a question that I don't know that will ever change. I rather like paper back in the 80's on constitional officers. If you read it today it is still the change. You have to ask is it going to change. The State does not contribute to those offices like they used to. And with checks and balances in financing you know it just seems to make sense management. And they do a good job, the constitutional officers, but it is just odd and difficult for people to understand that they are elected. I may not have any experience in law enforcement but I could run for Sheriff _____________about it. And so that was very difficult for people to understand. And that was a challenge. I had to learn and understand the responsibilites of those elected officers and understand the separations and what we did to work together in terms of budget. Other than that I can't think of anything else. It was a good experience. I enjoyed it.

Ryan: Then shifting gears a little bit to talk about a little about Box Office in the time we have left. Could you describe the work you do here at Box Office?

Mary Beth: Mostly what I do, my husband is the owner, and I primarily just because of my background, I handle the bookkeeping, and all the bookwork and all the payroll function. I kind of do the back end. Inventory as far as ordeirng T shirts or something if he needs help on that. But that is about it. I really don't do to much. You might occasionally see me picking up glasses or something if I am here or run the dishwasher. I really don't do to much. We have a great staff here. My husband does a wonderful job.

Ryan; When did Box Office open?

Mary Beth: It opened in October 2018. My husband and his other partner______. They bought the buiding in 2016 and had to go thru all the special use permits for the town and make sure all the permits were in place. Probably started the renovation late 2016, 2017. Then opened up in October 2018.

Ryan: It does seem like breweries in the Shenandoah Valley have become really popular over the past decade. Why do they think they have become such a really kind of anchor to a lot of downtown communities?

Mary Beth: Well I must say that since my husband did open the brewery here in the town. The Town did the study. I wasn't with the Town then I was with the County.They had James Madison University students do the study and they listed the top 5 downtown businesses that they should attract. I understand that all 5 have been accomplished. One of them was a brewery and another one was an ice cream stand and a specialty store. Since my husband announced he was opening the Brewery it did life to town. THe ice cream stand came, another restaurant came, Clementine Vintage opened, a llittle novelty store. So it did life. In addition the Town offered additional incentives like a break on the business license and water. And they had a downtown facade grant thru community development block grant______. And my husband did participate in that. So the color of the building was dictated by that and also the building next door that he has since purchased. Specific to breweries he did put up a interstate 81 sign. We love to go and visit breweries and wineries out of the area and thought it would be a great idea for Strasburg. It would be a place where people could gather, have their anniversary, birthday, graduation whatever. You know this was a Theater back in the 1920s, it was the gathering place for the community so it came full circle. And it is a hub. It is well established, obtained a good reputation, I think that means a lot. It is not a beer joint. Breweries I believe are more of a tourist attraction. When I mentioned the 81 sign, folks do come from out of state and jump off 81 and take the path less traveled. My husband is talking to folks all the time from out of the area. And that is what you want. You want your local crowd. You want your locals to appreciate it. We have live music every Friday and Saturday night. People love it. We do get a lot of local but we do get, like I said, people who jump off 81 from Pennsylvania, Maine, Northern Virginia. They just love it. It is quite a sight with it's original ceiling. He did a lot of re-purposing. He put back the original stage using the stage boards. It is. Even the bowling lanes, that I mentioned my Dad set the pins up on ( He is 92 by the way) that is our bar downstairs. _____________bowling lane the contractor was pulling up the floor putting in the carpet there and he said " I think I have a bar for you". So my husband was able to use that as the bar. It is wildly popular, I think that it what it is, I think people want a place to meet their friends, their college friends or an old friend from years ago and think that is what it provides for the community, a place to meet and gather.

Ryan: I don't want to take up too much of your time. A few more questions. How was Box Office effective during COVID? What steps did the Brewery take to remain operationaL?

Mary Beth: Well again my husband is probably the better one to answer these questions. But he did apply for the payroll protection, the PPP. He did receive it. In addition, Shenandoah County with their Cares Act funds, with their Economic Development and the County Chamber were able to provide grants. I believe that was $15,000. He also received some funding thru the state. I think Delegate Gilbert was instrumental in assisting with that. And again those were like restart money, what they called that. So he did receive some of that. Completely shut down when the Governor told us we had to shut down. Then in the latter part of April he opened it up for simply curbside. So my husband had to redirect the model. We did not have curbside pick-up or online ordering so he
implemented. That also boosted the canned beer. The 16 ounce can. He had already had the can but this further boosted that because of COVID they were not filling growlers for anyone. If you wanted to get the growler you could do that but you could not bring in your growler because of COVID. So we sold a lot of canned beer and did a lot of online ordering. Sales did plummet. It was definitely a hit. And then the Governor gradually opened up 25% capacity.No bar seating yet. So he was moving chairs and tables. We had to social distance. Bar was masked. We followed all the requirements. We had hand sanitizer stations. Touchless menus. We did the bar code menus. We did that as well. Kind of changed the memu a little bit. Shrunk it a bit and then of course it grew back. You know what folks like. And then it went to 50% capacity. We still, even though we are at 100% capacity, been able to bring back the bar seating. He has not brought back all the tables and chairs in the Tap Room. But we also have go a___________? So you couldn't have any of that. Everything basically came to a halt. But the local community and folks did support us. We are still here. I know my husband is very pleased. It has been good for the community. So many people have come up to us and thanked him for what he brought to Strasburg and the fact that it was able to still be here. And it does survive.

Ryan: My final question is about that some places when they to adapt whether it was about adding outdoor seating if they had the space or making their menus touchless. Are there any pandemic implemented policies that you plan to keep even with things back to relative normal?

Mary Beth: Again I think the Tap Room we may not go back to the full capacity Tap Room. We kind of like the space the way it is. Our outdoor seating, we did have some outdoor seating. Because of ABC laws we were not able to expand it until he was able to get permission from the building next door, he was able to add outdoor seating there. Now we own that. My husband bought that so you may see some outdoor capacity grow that way. But other than that well the sanitizing. We have left the hand sanitizing stations. But other than that we may keep the QR? code menu, that might be something else we stay with as well hard bounds. Because right now we are still printing menus, they are still disposable that is what we are doing. That is probably about it. That is the oinly thing that comes to mind.

Ryan: Okay. Well thank you very much for sitting with me today. It is 11:16 am and I am signing off.

Mary Beth: Thank you, Ryan.

Ryan: Thank you very much.

Original Format

MP3 recording

Duration

69 minutes, 10 seconds

Citation

Ryan Bachman, “Mary Beth Price Oral History Interview,” Shenandoah County Library Archives, accessed August 7, 2022, http://archives.countylib.org/items/show/74741.

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