Loving Wilmington’s welcoming downtown


Randy Riley - Contributing Columnist



Debbie and I were enjoying a really good lunch and a glass of wine at the General Denver this past week. We overheard a couple setting near us ask the waitress about how many students attended Wilmington College. She didn’t know, but she told them, “I’ll bet they might know,” and, she motioned toward us. I turned and we started chatting with them.

We started talking about the college, but the conversation took us all around town.

This couple came to Wilmington because they had read a review in the food section of a Cincinnati newspaper. It described a hamburger that is featured on the menu of the General Denver — the Energize Clinton County Jalapeno Cheddar Burger. They drove all the way from Cincinnati to enjoy a hamburger at the General Denver Hotel.

I told them how much I enjoyed the ‘Jalapeno Burger’ and we continued to discuss other menu items that Debbie and I love. By the time they left (after enjoying a really great burger) they were convinced that they needed to return to Wilmington for their Sunday brunch.

As we sat there waiting for our food, the four of us talked about the college, summer theatre, The Murphy Theatre, our other excellent Wilmington restaurants and many wonderful things about our city. We talked about the great ziti with Parma Rosa sauce that is my personal favorite at The Mediterranean; not to mention their Sangria. The view from the front window of Austin’s is unforgettable and Debbie always gets their mac ‘n cheese bites. We can’t stop at Austin’s without getting the mac ‘n cheese bites.

There was no way of talking about downtown Wilmington without bragging about Jen’s Deli and all their homemade sandwiches, soups and potato salad. One year they had a triple-grilled-cheese listed as their special for the day. It was called the Fromage a trois; three kinds of cheese, with jalapenos and hot sauce, grilled to perfection. I could never remember the name, but I could always describe it.

Finally, one day, they let me know they had renamed it. It’s now known as the Hot Mayor. You know that’s got to be good. When you order the Hot Mayor, be sure to ask Rocky to add bacon and to grill it on whole wheat bread. Unbelievable.

Having the opportunity to tell someone about Wilmington when they only knew what they had read, was an absolute delight. It was a reminder to us of how lucky we are to live in a quality community where people care for each other, talk with each other and help each other.

It seems to be in the Wilmington DNA that we care for one another. It’s appears to be in our nature.

Almost every year you hear of a farmer who gets injured or sick and can’t bring in their crop. Neighbors come to the rescue. Without fanfare or fuss, they harvest their neighbor’s crops and return to their own homes; asking for nothing and expecting nothing in return.

Yet, they know that if the situation were reversed, their neighbors would be there for them. Maybe it’s our agricultural roots, or maybe it’s the Quaker heritage the community is known for, but we do care for one another. It’s in our nature.

Some people will always find something to complain about. Even the perfect triple-grilled-cheese won’t satisfy everyone. I have found that some people can’t be happy unless they’re complaining about something.

We all know people like that, but it also seems that our good friends and all the good people here in Wilmington outnumber the complainers by a large margin.

The next time you get the opportunity to talk with a stranger, a visitor in Wilmington, please take the opportunity. Tell them about the community. Describe what you do for entertainment — cookouts, picnics, restaurants, local plays and musicals. Tell them stories about your church, your job, your neighbors.

You never know. You might be talking to someone who is looking for a new place to call home.

Make them feel special. Make them feel welcome.

Randy Riley is Mayor of Wilmington.

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Randy Riley

Contributing Columnist