Follow along, Shadowers, with today’s story: ‘Project Sparkle,’ an ambitious Covington city project aimed at revitalizing the old “Gordman’s” building on 410 Main St. In 2022, The City of Covington’s website stated: “Our revitalization efforts have developed an option agreement with a well-known and successful business developer. This developer will be assessing Project Sparkle (a former downtown department store) for some of the following items such as housing, retail, attractions, hospitality services, and light manufacturing. The developer states that “DNA Investments, [DNA Holdings LLC] and Cross Creek Hospitality are both excited about the opportunity to participate in the downtown revitalization efforts in Covington.”
According to the WV Secretary of State, DNA Investments, aka DNA Holdings LLC, is co-owned by David Bostic and a well-respected contractor/developer in White Sulphur Springs, WV. Cross Creek Hospitality is owned by Bostic and two others. These two companies played a major role in developing a section of downtown White Sulphur, called The Big Draft Brewery, including the brewery, restaurant, coffee shop, and social gathering place. Bostic also co-owned the Road Hogs Diner right next door.
City Manager Krystal Onaitis championed Project Sparkle from the beginning. The City of Covington, it appeared, had struck a perfect partnership, a celestial alignment with a hospitality group that brought not just visions, but the robust skills of construction to the table.
Then the unexpected happened.
On August 31, 2022, Krystal Onaitis resigned as Covington City Manager. Then, five and a half months later, on February 15, 2023, a transaction for the building at 410 Main Street showed that ownership had been transferred to “Mountain Hospitality LLC.”
Wait a minute, hit the rewind button. Who?
First, there is no officially registered active entity “Mountain Hospitality LLC” in WV or VA, however, there is a WV company called “Mountain Hospitality Services LLC” owned solely by David Bostic. Mountain Hospitality Services has a NAICS business purpose as “Serving private households which employ workers who serve on or about the premises…” This sounds like a service for the residents located in the Greenbrier Sporting Club, but with no mention of a developer or licensed contractor services. However, looking back at the precise words used by the City, Bostic was labeled as a “Business Developer” and not a contractor/developer.
Secondly, what happened to DNA Holdings and Cross Creek Hospitality LLC who, according to the city’s original statement, had a contract with an “option agreement?” Furthermore, there’s no mention of the transaction price in the records. The Virginian Review reached out to the other co-owner of DNA Holdings who had no knowledge of a “Project Sparkle.” Dear reader, do you feel like you’re staring into the abyss of a mystery, wondering if the sparkle might just be a classic whodunnit distraction?
Project Sparkle then continued under Allen Dressler’s tenure as City Manager. On April 21, 2023, Bostic was introduced at a special event in the old Gordman’s building as the new owner. Bostic was also the caterer for the event.
But then another unexpected turn happened.
In September 2023, Bostic’s businesses, Road Hogs Diner and Big Draft Brewery in White Sulphur mysteriously and abruptly went out of business, and the brewing equipment was allegedly sold off. All the Shadow can find at the moment is a bunch of angry folks, and a noticeable decline in visitor traffic now that the brewery is gone.
Oddly, at a December 13, 2023 Covington City Council Meeting, the Council appointed Thomas Gray Lane, “owner of 410 on Main,” as a private sector member to the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. According to his LinkedIn profile, Lane is currently the Director of Finance for the Homestead since January 2023.
Uhh… Now there’s another owner that’s not part of DNA Holdings or Cross Creek? What happened to Bostic and the wonderful Big Draft Brewery in White Sulphur? And while the official documents don’t reflect any recent owner changes to the property, there’s a new VA corporation called “410 on Main St” that was started in September 2023, with owners listed as David Bostic and Thomas G Lane.
So the big question is, how did a building with a value of $577,400, which Alleghany Foundation purchased from the Sizemore Family for $250,000 in Nov 2020, then transferred it to the Covington-Alleghany Industrial Development Authority (a subdivision of the City of Covington) in August 2021 for $271,500, along with a $100,000 maintenance grant, get “Gifted” to Bostic and or to Lane? How are they all connected, and what exactly transpired in between Onaitis’s resignation and today?
Currently, there is one subtle link that seems to unite the Mayor of Covington, David Bostic, and Gray Lane: they all attend The Good News Church on Main Street.
So in light of all the outstanding questions about Project Sparkle, The Virginian Review has requested 7 public records from the City of Covington under the Freedom of Information Act to give us all clarity on what happened. Stay Tuned.
Speaking of revitalization, this week’s poll asked, “What kind of new businesses would benefit the area the most?” 460 people voted, with 25% saying more general retail shops; 17% saying more manufacturing; 13% saying go-karts, roller skating, bowling alleys, and arcades; 12% more restaurants, and the remaining included professional services (doctors, attorneys, health care) and tourism. The Facebook Shadow group is now full throttle on all of these ideas and it’s wonderful to see such intelligent and thoughtful discourse on these matters. One reoccurring theme is, that there seems to be a demand, but then when the shop or service is established, the local folk don’t patronize them. Walmart and McDonald’s still win the bulk of customers.
One shadower noted, that while we all complain about needing more “mom & pop” restaurants, we’re not putting our money into the existing ones. “They’re too expensive.” Or go to Twink’s Diner on Saturday and it’s plum empty. Others say they went for Sunday lunch at Twink’s and it was busy, the food was fantastic and reasonably priced. Hopefully, due to last week’s Shadow article, our wonderful “mom and pop” shops saw an uptick in their business. Valentine’s is right around the corner, so make sure you take your loved one out for a special dinner at one of our fine local establishments.
Looks like the City of Covington may be getting into the Putt-Putt golf business. They’ve got a Request for Proposal out for “a cost for the potential purchase of an 18-hole outdoor portable mini putt-putt golf course.” Are they buying the Elwood Cadd course? I personally am fascinated by how a “portable” 18-hole mini golf course works.
Can’t confirm just yet, but there’s speculation that Covington Farm and Fuel has allegedly been sold or is closing. Shadowers noticed the shop was being emptied.
Lastly, it breaks our hearts to let you know that our dear friend and colleague Linda Bogar at the Virginian Review passed away on Sunday, February 4, 2023. She was a driving force for the paper, and she touched the lives of many good folks in the area. We will all miss her dearly.
I’m out of time, and out of coffee, but never but never out of determination to uncover the truth and keep the lights sparkling on our community’s most intricate stories.
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