By Pam Robinson
The Posey County Alcohol Board sent a clear message with its unanimous decision on Tuesday to deny a liquor license to the Nu Peerless Too tavern. After hearing opposition to the tavern from a number of prominent citizens in the standing room only crowd, the board’s vote signaled its investment in Mount Vernon pride and the continued beautification of the riverfront and downtown to make it a family-friendly place for everyone to enjoy.
Such pride prompted Johnna Benton Denning and her husband Jeff to purchase the old Bamberger Foreman Oswald and Hahn law office building at 306 Main Street in Mount Vernon. Denning said before she and Jeff purchased the old law offices, they had actually made offers on several properties downtown, but nothing had worked out. Then, they received a call about the building at 306 Main Street going up for sale, and everything fell into place.
“I have always wanted an old building,” Denning said, “but I wanted the community to see that we had a commitment to our community and wanted to do something to improve it, especially when I’m going out and asking others to help the community.” In May 2011, Denning became the new director of the Posey County Community Foundation, or PCCF, a nonprofit public charity created by and for the people of Posey County. Mount Vernon’s Old National Bank provides office space for PCCF on its second floor.
Denning said the couple has just completed remodeling the 3,000-square- foot of office space on the main level. The spacious building will be opened to professional office tenants, and the Dennings will be ready to show the place in another week. Interested professional tenants may inquire about office space by calling Johnna Denning at 812-483-2996.
The work on the main floor has been, Denning said, mostly cosmetic. Everything has been repainted, new floors have been laid, the ceiling has been replaced, and portions of the electrical wiring and lighting have been updated. In addition, the restrooms were given a complete facelift—the most time-consuming part of the work completed.
The upstairs is still unfinished, but the Dennings hope to remodel it in the future. A basement runs the length of the building as well.
To show their community pride even more, the Dennings commissioned Katelin Keene, the daughter of Mike and Kim Keene of Mount Vernon, to paint their storefront windows last Wednesday to enter into the Christmas on Main Street spirit. A May graduate of New York’s prestigious Pratt Institute, Keene started an internship under Johnna Denning’s direction at PCCF just yesterday. The talented young woman awaits the imminent release of the children’s book, “A Regular Joe,” which she illustrated for author Nancy Mure. The book will be offered through Barnes and Noble to Nook readers and through Amazon to Kindle readers before Christmas.
Denning credits the idea of decorating her storefront windows to Columbus, Ind., merchants, who compete each Christmas season to see whose windows are painted with the best scenes of the season. Denning is hoping neighboring merchants will join in the fun and commission Keene to paint Christmas designs on their windows also.
For the Dennings, Keene used glass markers to paint two cartoon-like scenes on adjoining windows: Merry Christmas appears above a snowman and Christmas tree in one window; the next window features Rudolph leading Santa in his sleigh. The glass markers allow the scenes to be whisked away with Windex.
“I thought, well, I’ll start it off, and we’ll just see where it goes from there,” Denning commented. “Maybe some others will want to do it. Or maybe next year, they’ll make it in addition to the lighted Christmas on Main Street parade—anything that signals there’s community pride in what’s happening with our downtown. They’re doing all of that work down there. I think we need to be proud of what we have and get others on board who haven’t done anything with their buildings.”
Later, she added that the Young Professionals of Posey County are especially interested in code enforcement downtown. She noted that most local property owners are taking care of their property. On the other hand, out-of-town business owners often fail to maintain their property, for example the Main Street building that once contained the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, since they have no investment in the community.
If anyone can claim an investment in the community, the Denning family can. Johnna and Jeff Denning make their home with their two children, Hank (9) and Lily (7), in a 100-year-old farmhouse located in Point Township. They are the fifth generation of Dennings to live there. Like his wife, Jeff works for a local business, Warehouse Services, Inc., or WSI, a good corporate citizen, dedicated to the improvement of Mount Vernon and Posey County.
This Christmas season, perhaps the best gift we can give our community is to take pride in our own property and in promoting Mount Vernon as a great place to live. Many will say Mount Vernon offers small town living at its best—and it’s getting better.
By Pam Robinson
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