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Caldwell: People channel local passions with GoFundMe

I remember it was a breezy Wednesday evening in late October, probably around 7:30 or so, as I packed up to leave The Winchester Sun after a long day of immersing myself in the newspaper I had joined about a week prior.

Although the Hampton Inn here provides a great dinner, I wanted something different and didn’t want to drive very far to get it.

That’s when I discovered the Engine House Deli + Pub.

Walking through the doors of the Lexington Avenue eatery, I was immediately interested in the decor that paid homage to the building’s roots as a fire station. The energy in the room was electric as two dozen people enjoyed dinner, drinks and good times centered around trivia.

That was the first of many good dining experiences at the locally owned restaurant that certainly gets some extra points on my favorites list for being a block from my office and being a great downtown destination point.

But the restaurant’s future is in jeopardy because of two things that impact us all: age and time.

Owner Steve Atkins announced that the eatery will close June 11 — at least temporarily —pending the results of a GoFundMe campaign to raise the money needed to make significant structural repairs to the historic building that was built in 1885 and has served as a firehouse, city hall and a public library.

GoFundMe campaigns are a phenomenon that have popped up in recent years and can be interesting unto themselves. While it may seem unusual to provide donations to a for-profit business this has become the norm in many cases.

The entertainment industry has made great use of GoFundMe to allow fans to finance movie and video game sequels that likely wouldn’t get made otherwise. It allows people put their money where their mouths are and show support.

It becomes not a matter of whether businesses are nonprofit or private, but whether or not individuals want to make an investment in something they care about.

Through that lens, I hope Atkins generates the $30,000 he is seeking to reboot the Engine House into a pizza pub, which will allow him to move forward with plans to convert the building he purchased on the high side of Main Street into a fine dining destination.

It really comes down to a simple question: Do you want to keep the Engine House downtown and invest in something that will very arguably continue to inject life into the community?

If the answer is no, that is OK. But it also means you relinquish some of the rights to complain there is nowhere to eat in Winchester.

If the answer is yes, then the opportunity is there.

For me, I feel that keeping the Engine House in downtown and preserving a historic building is important, so I will make a personal contribution to this effort. Maybe that means I forego a night out to dinner or some non-essential purchase, but that is a decision each individual must make.

I hope people patronize all of Clark County’s locally owned restaurants, which each offer their own unique niche.

Supporting our local businesses is how we can build a community in which we can all be proud to live, work and play.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Winchester Sun and Winchester Living magazine. He can be reached at 759-0095 or by email at mike.caldwell@winchestersun.com.