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A hearty welcome: Jefferson County CVB opens new location in Shepherdstown

By Tabitha Johnston - Chronicle Staff | Jun 4, 2021

A sign points out the location of the Shepherdstown Welcome Center, directly off of German Street. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Shepherd University Junior Abby Bowman greeted visitors to the Jefferson County CVB’s second location on Saturday afternoon, as they streamed in and out of 102 South King Street.

Working as an ambassador at the Shepherdstown Welcome Center, Bowman said, was a job duty she was already enjoying–even though the location had only opened the day before.

“It’s really fun helping people and giving them the information they need! It’s really the best feeling,” Bowman said, mentioning she is one of four employees who will switch between staffing the business’ locations.

Founded in 1988, the Jefferson County CVB’s sole location has long been at 37 Washington Court in Harpers Ferry. But, according to Jefferson County CVB CEO Annette Bates, expanding into have welcome center in each of Jefferson County’s municipalities has been a long-held dream.

“I think it’s important for the visitor experience to have somewhere they can go to collect information, to help them plan their stay while they’re here,” Bates said. “And providing them with information to come back again!”

The Shepherdstown Welcome Center is located at 102 South King Street. Tabitha Johnston

According to Bates, the Jefferson County CVB annually produces updated pamphlets listing and mapping out the businesses and sights in each of Jefferson County’s municipalities, along with composite magazines, featuring similar information. These publications, along with pamphlets from local businesses, are available at each welcome center location.

“It’s important to be that anchor to help people navigate their day and plan their experience while they’re here,” Bates said. “[Our welcome centers] show visitors that this is a great place to come and play!”

During the first year of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Jefferson County CVB was forced to let go of many of its employees, as it was unable to continue paying paychecks when its funding from the Hotel/Motel Occupancy Tax was temporarily slowed down. As the vice president of the West Virginia Association of CVBs and the Eastern Panhandle representative for the West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association, Bates said she has seen how many other West Virginia businesses, similar to her own in the tourism industry, have been negatively impacted by the loss of funding through the tax.

“My heart was broken for all of our friends across the county and state, to see what everyone had to go through,” Bates said. “We can now all move forward and help each other. If [the pandemic’s] done anything, I think it’s brought us closer together as a community — I really do!”

Thankfully, the Jefferson County CVB was able to make it through those lean months, and has been financially able to expand and rededicate itself to marketing regarding Jefferson County’s municipalities and businesses.

Shepherd University Junior and Jefferson County CVB Ambassador Abby Bowman, left, talks with Shepherdstown resident Jeff Gunther in the Shepherdstown Welcome Center on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

“We spend a quarter-of-a-million dollars every year in marketing,” Bates said, mentioning her organization also helps lobby for state bills that would benefit tourism efforts. “Our organization spends more of a percentage on marketing than anything else — that includes operating and people.”

Bates was careful to clarify the distinction between the Shepherdstown Welcome Center and the Shepherdstown Visitor’s Center, which was physically closed at the beginning of the pandemic.

“The similarities between our former visitor’s center and current welcome center are that they are places where people could come in and grab information about places in the county to get out and do something,” Bates said, mentioning that her organization had a working relationship with the SVC for many years. “We were constantly calling them back and forth, as they and us would sometimes get ahold of different brochures to hand out, and would want to share them.”

According to Bates, the SVC will now be operating under a new name, Experience Shepherdstown, using local volunteers to plan town events. Deciding to relinquish the reigns of having a physical location for welcoming visitors was a mutual decision made by the two organizations.

“Our CVB wants to thank the SVC and the board and all of their team,” Bates said. “We worked really hard with this collaboration — we both have. We both have done a good job of showing how two organizations can make great decisions in the wake of a pandemic.”

To learn more, visit https://discoveritallwv.com/.