GASTON — For what it's worth, the people of Gaston know they live in a small town. They don't need any reminders of that fact. They're happy with the small town life they live.
Yes, the townspeople are well aware of the businesses, the restaurants and the adventures to be found found just a few miles away in Muncie, or even in Yorktown. They've been there, done that and had a good time — don't you worry.
Recently, though, the town's been doing its "own thing." Sure, people from around here still go to "the city" to do things, but perhaps not as much.
The small, northwestern Delaware County town has been hard at work finding its own answers to those attractions; Gaston's opening its own restaurants and businesses, making its own adventures. It's making its own way.
Take the intersection of Elm and Sycamore streets; since June, at least two businesses have moved in to buildings that just seven years ago were on the verge of demolition. With apartments being put in on the upper level of the two-story buildings, potentially a few families will move in soon, too.
10 years to save
Cary Malchow owns these buildings, as well as The Barking Cow restaurant downstairs. He's one of many here who have big dreams, and big plans, for this town.
You see, there's an ongoing push in Gaston to reach a population goal — 2,500 people — in the next 10 years. Malchow is one of the many involved with the push, and he's well aware that it sounds like a pipe dream to outsiders.
"It's not something that we're saying is going to be easy," he said. "There are a lot of things (in play) right now that we think will help us get to our goal of 2,500 by 2025. I'm confident that we can do it ... if we do what needs to be done."
The starting point, according to Malchow, was to add something unique to the downtown area. The Barking Cow was his idea, and it's been a huge success so far. But it's not all one man's doings. Shutterbug, a specialty print shop recently opened next door.
Both businesses helped add foot traffic to the area, Malchow said.
"It's all about identifying what exactly people need and want here in Gaston," he said. "We're going to find out what those things are, and that's going to set the tone for the future. It's all a team effort"
Gaston leaders are bringing in county and state-level officials to help out; they'll be involved in a town-wide survey on Nov. 12 to find out what the residents of the area want in their community.