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Friday, April 9, 2021

Spotz Gelato is open at 130 E. Main St. in Midway

Spotz Gelato (Photos by Lauren McCally)
By Lauren McCally

University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

A new place for satisfying that sweet tooth has opened in Midway.

Spotz Gelato is located at 130 E. Main St., joining locations in Versailles, Georgetown and Shelbyville.

Beth Richardson, the owner of Spotz Gelato, lives about five miles from Midway on a Scott County farm where she and her husband, Phillip, make the product in a commercial kitchen.

“We love Midway because it’s really close to where our farm is,” she said, adding that they pass right through the city every time they go to the other locations. “I just love the town, it’s got a great vibe.”

Gelato differs from American ice cream in that it has less milkfat, is served warmer, and is thicker and denser because less air is churned into the mix during freezing.

Beth Richardson
Richardson said the idea for Spotz came about eight years ago, when she and her husband bought a food truck. “My husband wanted to redo a vintage trailer and I wanted to do some sort of food truck out of it, so we came to a compromise,” she said.

They found a vintage trailer that needed to be redone and Richardson said she convinced her husband to paint it pink and put spots all over it. That’s where the name Spotz came from.

“We still have eight mobile units,” she said. “They’re all pink and covered in spots and that same design carries to our store.”

Spotz workers took orders and served gelato.
Richardson said they were able to do some construction in the Midway location and “put back some of the historical charm” into the building. “We love historic buildings and we love when we can put back some of that old charm” she said.

Tuesday night, the store had what Richardson called a preview night for members of the news media, bloggers, neighboring stores, and local politicians, which she said went really well.

On Thursday nights the week a store is opening, Richardson said they usually choose a local charity to partner with for a “soft opening,” with all of the proceeds going to the charity. For the Midway shop, the chosen charity was the Woodford Humane Society. In an email, Richardson said that the event “went great” and they were “able to raise a large amount” for the humane society.

The actual grand opening is today from 3 to 9 p.m. After that, the shop will be open Tuesday through Friday from 3 to 9 and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 9 and will be closed on Mondays. Once summer comes, the hours will expand from noon to 9, Tuesday through Sunday.

Richardson said her favorite part of the opening was being able to welcome people into the store and allow them to see how the space is transformed. “All of our shops are very similar, but each one has its own character,” she said. “So, it’s always kind of fun to do your debut to everybody because nobody has seen it till then.”

Interior of the store, looking toward the front
The Midway store’s launch had a few new additions to the Spotz menu, including dipped and rolled cones. Richardson said that those menu items will eventually be “launching in all stores, but Midway was the first to have them.”

The Midway menu also featured vegan gelato, another new menu item. “Our strawberry flavor was what we had on hand,” Richardson said. “It’s always great when you make up new flavors and then people actually get to try them. That’s one of the best parts about what we do.”

She said that everyone seemed to be really happy with their choices and that the vegan option went over well. “We dipped a zillion cones,” she said, “so the dipped and rolled cones were a big hit too.”

Richardson said the most popular flavors for the night were cookies and cream, peanut butter and banana pudding, which she says is based on her mother’s recipe.

Richardson said she and her husband make everything themselves, and most of the recipes are hers. “I may think it tastes great,” she said, “but if I see somebody else taste it and enjoy it, that’s the best part about what I do.”

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Council hears first reading of annexation, re-establishes Tree Board, plans to have next meeting in person

By Lauren McCally
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council gave first reading Monday night to an ordinance of intent annex the property between Midway Grocery and Northridge Estates, the site of a planned housing development.

The council also approved two event permits, named members to the revived Tree Board, de-annexed 27 acres along Georgetown Road and heard their next meeting would be in person at City Hall, rather than by Zoom.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift explained the process and reasons for annexing the seven and a half acres owned by Northside Homes, a company owned by Mike and Scott Bradley that plans to build about 60 townhouses in groups of three that would be attached by breezeways. The property is surrounded by the city limits and has never been inside them.

“I want to make very clear to everyone that there are two main reasons to annex the property owned by Northside Homes,” the mayor said. The main reason, he said, is so the council can be the legislative body that eventually decides the rezoning that the Bradleys’ plan needs in order to proceed.

Map of city limits shows the "island," most of which is to be annexed.
The other reason, the mayor said, is that the property is “something that’s been a thorn in the city’s side for a long time, you know, having this island you can’t control when the grass gets up above 12 inches.” 

He said that when the plans for the property became known, a former council member told him to “make sure you use this opportunity to finally annex that land.” 

Kentucky cities can’t annex land without approval of 55 percent of the residents, and the property to be annexed has had only two residents, who sold it to the Bradleys and moved.

Vandegrift showed the council a map of the city’s zoning and city limits, saying “I think our boundaries look like an eagle, like a Midway University eagle.” Referring to the tract not in the city, he said “The poor eagle has a hole right in its heart.”

He said that he spoke with the owners of both homes that are in the “island” but not in the Bradleys’ tract. One couple “sounded interested in being brought in as well,” but “that would be a separate ordinance.” The other homeowners do not wish to be annexed, he said.

The annexation will require four readings, the first two for the intent to annex and the second to accomplish the actual annexation of the property.

The mayor said the county Planning Department told him Monday that the first hearing on the rezoning would be held in Midway in June, with Covid-19 protocols in place. “We are currently trying to secure the location.” he said. “We have tentative approval but it does require a final approval that would come on April 20 from the session of the church we have reached out to.” 

The second reading and passage of the intent to annex is scheduled for April 19, at the next council meeting. Vandegrift said twice that annexation does not mean that the council will rezone the tract.

The Bradleys say their homes would sell for $130,000, which would add greatly to the city’s stock of affordable housing. Council Member Stacy Thurman, who chairs the Affordable Housing Task Force, said she would like to see $5,000 included in the next budget for a housing needs assessment.        

De-annexation: The council passed the ordinance de-annexing about 30 acres at 1132 Georgetown Road, owed by Mike Freeny, so a warehouse being built there will not have to be on the sewer system, which would require an expensive pump station.

In return for the de-annexation, Freeny has agreed to donate 16 acres of his property, bordering the east end of Midway Station, so the city can create a public access point for South Elkhorn Creek.

Tree Board: In proposing appointees for the Tree Board up to the council. “We have had a tree board on the books in Midway for quite some time but it sorta fallen quiet and we’re trying to revamp it.” 

The Tree Board is charged with doing an inventory of trees in the city, creating a plan for planting and not planting, applying to become an official tree city and settle disputes among property owners about trees that on boundary lines.

The appointments have specific criteria. One must be a landscape architect, who can come from outside the city if one is not available. That will be Josh DeSpain, a senior landscaper at RossTarrant Architects in Lexington, where Midway resident Debra Shockley works.

The other appointees approved were arborist/forester Ross Raterman, owner of Dave Leonard Tree Specialists;, Rich Schein, a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission and a board member the last time it was active; horticulturalist county extension agent Faye Kousman;, Council Member Sara Hicks;, a member at large, Hank Pinkerman; and a member of the Midway Woman’s Club, Bethany Langdon.

Events: The first event permit approved was for RaceRise LLC and a race sponsored by Ambrose Wilson and Bob Barney. The funds raised will help provide dolls to children in need, an effort Wilson started after the passing of his wife, Karen.

“That was a big passion of Karen Wilson’s,” Vandegrift said. “She thought that every kid who wants one should have a doll, especially Christmas time.”

The race will start in Walter Bradley Park at 8 a.m. May 22.

The other permit was for a Love Real Wellness race in Northridge Estates and uses sidewalks. A portion of the proceeds are donated to Celebrate Recovery. Council Member Stacy Thurman, who manages the library, told the event coordinator, Adam Reid, that the library would be open at 9 a.m. Saturday and participants could use its restrooms there if they needed.

The race will be held at 9 a.m. June 12 with sign-up starting at 8 a.m.

Pandemic: The mayor also mentioned that those who are 18 and older could now get the Johnson and Johnson vaccine at Railroad Drug. In an email to the Messenger, Ken Glass, the co-owner of Railroad Drug, said the pharmacy is giving vaccinations as they receive vaccine doses. “We still have about 50 left as of right now,” he said. “We typically ask people to call us and let us know what time of day they can come in the same day they want to receive it.” He added that they give the vaccines from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 5 p.m.

After confirming that all members of the council are “double vaccinated,” Vandegrift said the next council meeting will be in person at City Hall. It will be the first in-person meeting since last March. The mayor said the public may attend but will have to wear a mask the entire time, and council members will wear masks except when they are speaking, and chairs will be socially distanced. He concluded, “That’s another little milestone of getting closer to normal.”

UPDATE: Vandegrift said Wednesday that the council's second budget workshop would be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 13 via Zoom. He said in an email, "We’ll have two items to discuss at this workshop: a specified request for funds from the Parks Board (I put the amount of $7,500 in previously, in lieu of their official request, but they have that prepared now, so they will present that.) We'll also have a presentation from Mosquito Mate. Line item action may be taken." The company wants to use the city as a pilot project for its biological control of the insects.

Railroad Drug has coronavirus vaccine by appointment

Railroad Drug is offering the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine for the novel coronavirus, by appointment. Call 846-4146 to schedule an appointment.

The drug store passes along information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: It is NOT recommended you take over-the-counter medicine – such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen – before vaccination for the purpose of trying to prevent vaccine-related side effects. It is not known how these medications might affect how well the vaccine works. However, if you take these medications regularly for other reasons, you should keep taking them before you get vaccinated. It is also not recommended to take antihistamines before getting a vaccine to try to prevent allergic reactions. If you have questions about medications that you are taking, talk to your doctor or your vaccination provider. More information is at https://www.cdc.gov/.../different-vaccines/janssen.html.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Council to hear ordinance annexing 'island' planned for housing development that would require rezoning

Zoning map shows most of property isn't in city limits, marked by red line.
Lots at the enclave's northwest and southeast corners wouldn't be annexed. 
By Lauren McCally
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council will hear an ordinance Monday night to annex the land between the Midway Grocery and Northridge Estates, so it can control zoning for a planned housing development.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said the current zoning for detached, single-family homes doesn’t fit the plan of Mike and Scott Bradley, which is for “townhouses” in groups of three that would be attached by breezeways.

Vandegrift said he wasn’t sure what sort of zoning would fit, but he said the council needs to annex the land so it can decide the zoning.

Some residents may be surprised that the area isn't already in the city. “Having that island in the middle of the city that isn’t actually in the city limits has caused some issues in the past,” Vandegrift said, “so having a more contiguous city boundary is a benefit to the city and our residents.”

More contiguous, but not completely contiguous. The annexation would create two small non-city islands, or enclaves. Vandegrift said owners of a tract in the northwest corner of the current enclave oppose annexation, and any annexation of a smaller tract in the southeast corner would be separate. (This paragraph has been corrected to distinguish between the two tracts.)

In June of last year, the tract to be developed was bought by Mike and Scott Bradley, sons of Chuck and Shirley Bradley of Georgetown, who had sold the grocery a few months earlier.

Mike Bradley said Friday that the plan isn’t complete, because engineers are still working on drainage, but it will have small, two-story homes. “Our biggest goal is to make sure that not only do we not make the water problem in that area worse as far as storm drainage goes, but we actually improve it overall, so that’s kinda the priority,” he said. Once that is done, he said, they can figure out what space is left to be developed.

Woodford County’s townhouse regulations call for lot sizes of not less than 1,900 square feet and housing units of at least 890 square feet. Vandegrift said the Bradleys’ current plan is for 1,200-square-foot townhouses, with off-street parking (including garage space, not to be counted as housing space) for at least two cars each.

In an R-3 zone, which appears to be the one that fits the tentative plan, no more than 11 units per acre are allowed. The property plat shows it covers 7.48 acres, so the limit would be 82 units, but that does not include space for drainage retention, which will be needed, Vandegrift said.

The mayor said the latest number he has heard the Bradleys are planning is 60, which could mean 20 groups of three. He said the planned sale price of each unit is $130,000.

The residential development would be one of the largest in the city since the mid-1990, when the development of Northridge Estates was completed. The city has a shortage of affordable housing, so much that the City Council has created a committee to address the issue.

Vandegrift said the county Planning Commission would hold public hearings on the plan “somewhere in Midway in the May-June time frame.”

He explained, “If Planning and Zoning, after hearing public comment, eventually decides to recommend the seven-plus acres be rezoned to the appropriate residential distinction, then a legislative body will be the ones to decide that rezoning.” If the council doesn’t annex the property, then the body would be the county Fiscal Court.

“I think that everyone would agree that this is a decision that should be made by the Midway City Council,” he said. “Annexing this would ensure that.”

Bradley said he didn’t think the council would look Monday at what might be going on the property, only hearing first reading of the annexation ordinance. Two readings are required before passage.

Bradley said he has had some conversations with people who live near the property, but he couldn’t “get into depth” because there aren’t a lot of specifics yet.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of questions,” he said, “but until we have a plan that we can all look at together and go over, it’s kind of hard to known what those questions would be.”

When the Bradleys announced their purchase and general plan last June, Mike Bradley said, “We will work hard to come up with a design befitting Midway, and one that will remain as attractive in future years as it will be new. Affordable housing designed for individual owners, attractive smaller homes with very nice finishes.”

His wife, Missy Bright Bradley, said in the press release, “Whatever the final design of the neighborhood is, I want to make it truly a part of Midway, something my mother would be proud of, something young families could afford so they could enjoy growing up in Midway as much as I did.”

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Ouita Michel talks about her new cookbook, changes at Holly Hill and her restaurants surviving the pandemic

By Lauren McCally

University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Chef Ouita Michel’s new cookbook, Just a Few Miles South, is coming out April 27 and will feature many of the recipes used at her restaurants. Michel talked with the Messenger about the book, the pandemic and changes at the Holly Hill Inn, the first restaurant she and her husband Chris opened.

The cookbook is co-written and edited by Sara Gibbs and Genie Graf, who work for the Ouita Michel Family of Restaurants, and is the top new release in professional cooking on Amazon. It was also mentioned in a Food & Wine magazine story, "23 Spring Cookbooks We’re Adding to Our Shelves."

“It took six years to write the book,” Michel said. “We wanted to make sure the recipes were right, so it took a while to write the table of contents and figure out what [was] going to be in the book,” and to reduce some recipes to household-size. It's being published by the University Press of Kentucky.

So, why did she want to write a book in the first place? “Once you get to a certain point in your career, I think you really want to document some of the things you’ve done,” said Michel, 56. She added that people have been asking for a book, and that as she gets older, she wants to write more.

The book’s intriguing title is a story in itself. “One of the first businesses that Chris and I worked in, after chefs’ school, was a little deli in East Hampton, Long Island, New York, and it was called Plain & Fancy Deli, and it was sort of the inspiration for Wallace Station,” their deli south of Midway.

Ouita Michel (Image from Zoom interview)
“I said that we often felt like Wallace Station was like the sister of Plain & Fancy Deli, just a few miles south. And so that was what gave rise to the title, ‘cause we’re not necessarily real Southern in Kentucky, but we are miles south of a lot of people, so it felt like it could communicate place without --- the press did not want the name Kentucky to be in the title, because they wanted to appeal to a broad audience, so we had to come up with something that communicated Kentucky, but wasn’t Kentucky.”

For Michel, the thing that makes Kentucky cuisine stand out is its deep agricultural tradition. She said that tradition has been refreshed by money from the lawsuit settlement that states made with cigarette manufacturers, because Kentucky put half of its share into agriculture as the federal tobacco program of quotas and price supports was ending.

“We were able to use a lot of that money to help farmers diversify their crops and grow a lot of varieties of things,” many of which find their way into Michel’s recipes. She is known nationally as a supporter of local food, and she said a farmer on her staff makes sure all the restaurants have local produce.

“What we need to do is celebrate all those things that are uniquely Kentucky, sorghum, blackberries, hickory nuts, all those things that pepper our food that make it really special.”

Asked for a favorite recipe, she thought a moment and picked one that might be surprising: “I’m a big pimento cheese fan, so the pimento cheese recipe might be my favorite.”

She added that she loves soup beans and cornbread, so those were also included, and “There will be a lot of people really happy to see our lemon bar recipe in there, because it’s been a secret recipe for so long.”

Ray Papka
Michel described some renovations at Holly Hill Inn, including an art gallery displaying the work of her father, Ray Papka, which will have a grand opening on June 5.

“My father was a scientist for years and retired early into art,” Michel said. The art is encaustic paintings, also known as hot wax painting, which uses found objects and heated beeswax with pigments added to it. “They’re really cool pieces,” she said, adding that it is “quite something to see” and “a kind of father-daughter project.”

Holly Hill is also building a new deck and launching a new menu concept that emphasizes the links between food and art. “We have a lot of new tricks up our sleeves, so it’s going to be exciting to see what Chef Tyler [McNabb] comes up with,” she said.

The reopening will come after a year in which Holly Hill was open only for takeout and outdoor dining and saw its revenues sink to 30 to 40 percent of normal due to the pandemic. Her other restaurants also suffered, and without two rounds of forgivable loans from pandemic relief funds, “We would have gone under.”

The big exception was Midway Bakery, which “did better in the pandemic than they did the year before, and a lot of that was from their mail-in order cookie project,” she said.

“Our business is already increasing quite a bit in the last couple of weeks, since we’ve gotten to Daylight Savings Time,” she said, “and the problem for us now is getting staffed and getting people back to work.”

Now, with the weather improving and more people being vaccinated, they are ready eat out, she said. “Everyone’s like ‘Oh, sunshine, let’s go, let’s go and have a burger out at Wallace and sit at the picnic tables.”

She told Business Lexington that one outcome of the pandemic was a monthly Zoom meeting of women business owners in the hospitality industry. She told the Messenger, “We all have the same kinds of concerns, we all raise families. I don’t feel particularly discriminated against, but . . . the pandemic made it pretty clear who bore the brunt of educating the kids, making the household work and all, that kind of thing.”Michel closed the interview by thanking her neighbors.

“I feel like our community has really, really supported us and we’re eternally grateful to them, for everybody in Midway who’s gotten out at Wallace and at the bakery and at Holly Hill. It’s been really tremendous and of course we had the Midway Bucks, so the City Council really came out and supported all the restaurants and local shops . . . I thought that was innovative and I’m just proud, I’m proud to live here. I love living here and I love our town, and really can’t imagine living anywhere else. So, hopefully, I’ll be a really old lady sitting on the front porch of Holly Hill Inn.”