Why we’re excited about 2018, part V: Returning businesses, evolving education, more dining options, changes in politics and Rocket Wheeler back in the dugout.

Why we’re excited about 2018, part V: Returning businesses, evolving education, more dining options, changes in politics and Rocket Wheeler back in the dugout.

It didn’t take Joe Murray long to find a new home for the Blue Ribbon Shoe Shop in downtown Rome.


This is the fifth and concluding chapter of “Why We’re Excited About in 2018.” Today, a series of updates on some key topics.

The Gravy Boat returns in January.

In comebacks:

Blue Ribbon Shoe Shop and The Gravy Boat: We received word of the closings of the Blue Ribbon Shoe Shop and The Gravy Boat within minutes of one another as we returned from summer vacation. For years, Joe Murray has nursed our well-worn shoes back to health and kept them looking new, let alone baseball glove repairs and such. Likewise, Debbie White and staff built an East Rome landmark with The Gravy Boat next to Pick-o-Deli. Hometown Headlines’ readers reacted quite strongly when both closings were posted. But in one of our favorite stories of 2017, both announced returns with Joe back in business at 7 W. Fourth Ave. almost around the corner from his old spot and Debbie will have those biscuits and streak o’ lean sizzling very soon in January.  Now if we can just get the folks behind Ristorante Mabianni to reconsider their relocation from Adairsville to South Florida …


Middle Eastern Cafe and Sweets is moving to Broad Street next month with a new name: Middle Eastern Grill. Earlier photo by Missy Alford.

In dining:

We got kind of a kick out of hearing about the Middle Eastern Grill moving to the former Peach Palace on Broad Street in coming weeks. With Jerusalem Grill’s new Express opening at the former Partridge plus Yummy Thai, downtown Rome continues to become a dining destination — and one dominated by independents at that. There’s nothing wrong with the “chains” (Mellow Mushroom, Johnny’s New York Style Pizza, Moe’s barbecue) but we like to see the locals group as well. We’re expecting word on another formal dining experience coming to Broad Street soon, joining Seasons and La Scala. Local foodies have fewer reasons to take their dollars on the road — and that excites us.

In education:

One of the quiet successes in education, especially locally, has been the “move on when ready” program that lets high school students earn college credit. We’ve already seen cases where students have earned the associate’s degree days before their high school diplomas. And that’s just one of the changes we’re excited about in education. More technology is flooding into our classrooms, mostly Chromebooks which probably are the best computers on the market anyway. Educators are using digital resources to expand networking and ideas, including the latest edition of Ed Camp on March 10 at Pepperell High. Student enterprises continue to grow, from the magic at Elm Street to Caps & Grounds at Pepperell High to some wonderful “iPeriods” at Darlington. Our high schools would do well to spend some time with the folks behind Berry College Student Enterprises, one of the most successful programs in the nation. Whether it is STEM, STEAM or just good ideas shared in a Twitter Chat, our educators are expanding options for our public and private school students.

In Sports:

The return of Rocket Wheeler as manager of the Rome Braves. “18 Wheeler” was the field boss during the team’s first years in Rome, including the Francouer-McCann group that won the South Atlantic League title in 2003. Rocket made a slew of friends in town and has been back numerous times, especially for fund-raisers such as the annual golf match with the Floyd County Police Department. We’re looking forward to Rocket 2.0 at State Mutual Stadium.

More Rome Braves: We’re likewise watching Jim Bishop, the club’s new general manager, as longtime boss Mike Dunn moves to Florida to help build the organization’s new spring training complex between Sarasota and Port Charlotte. Bishop brings a lot of ideas and a zest for making a night at the ballpark as entertaining as possible — including between innings. Bishop’s changes, Rocket Wheeler’s return and the infusion of both upcoming SPLOST and Atlanta Braves’ dollars into the 16-year-old stadium has us excited about 2018 — and beyond.

In politics:

Maybe the December runoff for the U.S. Senate seat in Alabama has taught voters a lesson. The letter “R” next to a candidate’s name isn’t as important as the integrity of the person running for office. If 2016 was the year the angry white male voter was awakened, perhaps 2017 ended with others realizing the collective power of their votes as well. Democrat or Republican, it’s time to embrace the overall power of who bothers to vote. With a busy slate of state and local races in 2018, we hope that message is heard here as well. Just under 11,000 of Rome/Cave Spring/Floyd County’s 48,691 eligible voters decided the fate of more than $140 million in special taxes — and the Rome voters, three city commission seats and seven school board seats. As a community, we must do better than a 22.6 percent turnout in 2018.

In media:

We’ll sum it up this way: “Change” won’t be a buzzword for 2018; for many of us, it is a mandate and we’re probably a little late to the party. Stay tuned.

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