Exciting things are happening in Ligonier! From new businesses to the beautification of the town in general, great changes are taking place. Check back often for the latest on what is happening in Ligonier, Indiana!
The City of Ligonier is now Accepting Debit and Credit Card
LIGONIER — The City has entered into an agreement with PayGOV, LLC. This agreement provides the City with the ability to accept credit card payments from American Express®, MasterCard®, Discover®, and VISA® as well as debit cards carrying a MasterCard® or VISA® logo.
PayGOV charges the following nominal fees to the consumer for their service:
Point of Sale – In person at City Hall; Service Fee to PayGOV – 3.00% of the total transaction amount with a minimum fee of $3.00
Online – Link to PayGOV on City website www.ligonier-in.org (Visit the Online Services Page) Service Fee to PayGOV – 3.00% of the total transaction amount with a minimum fee of $3.00
Over the Phone – Direct to PayGOV at 1-866-480-8552; Service fee to PayGOV – 4.95% of the total transaction amount with a minimum fee of $4.95
Ligonier recaptures town's history through 29 murals
Published by: The Associated Press
LIGONIER — The northeastern Indiana town of Ligonier has added another downtown mural to its collection of more than two dozen recapturing its history.
Members of the community gathered Wednesday to dedicate a mural on the back side of the police station showing what an Indiana State Police post there looked like in the 1940s. The artwork also shows a Classic Cord 8-10 automobile.
WPTA-TV reports Ligonier's collection of 29 downtown murals is the largest in northeastern Indiana. Three have recently been added in the community midway between Fort Wayne and South Bend, and two more are due to join them by the end of the year.
Company helping boost local tourism
LIGONIER — An effort to transform a plain piece of property at the north
door to the city of Ligonier has been started by Renee and Chuck Gabet, owners
of the Annie Oakley Perfumery in Ligonier.
Their project is another in a long line of steps to boost tourism traffic in Noble County’s second-biggest city.
“We are dedicated to growing cultural tourism in our community,” Renee Gabet said Tuesday as she looked over her company’s latest purchase: a 1.7-acre triangle of land on S.R. 5 at the north edge of Ligonier.
The land recently came up for auction, and the Gabets were able to purchase it. They want to develop the lot into a “piece of art” that will serve multiple purposes.
It will be an area to welcome people to Ligonier and will have signage pointing the way to the Annie Oakley Perfumery on Johnson Street. That factory, considered the only active perfumery in the United States, already draws many tourists, and their dollars, to Ligonier.
Gabet has secured the services of Fort Wayne’s Rich Hersha, an award-winning architect who enjoys a national reputation for his work. He specializes in working with natural settings.
She expressed full confidence that Hersha “will create a breathtaking scenic area, where artists from all around will want to paint, and photographers will want to use. Rich said this is a very exciting project, the kind of thing he loves doing. It will be his canvas as he creates a natural piece of art. We are very blessed to have his talent.”
The land is between S.R. 5 and North Street.
Ligonier Mayor Patty Fisel said the city was interested in possibly buying the land as a welcome-sign area. But when she heard of Gabet’s plans, the city stepped away from buying it.
Fisel said Gabet’s plans are a “win-win for everyone. The property stays on the tax rolls and will be a nice addition to the city. I think it’s a great deal for Renee, I’m happy for her and wish her the best.”
The Gabets and Hersha toured the site Tuesday, and Hersha already had ideas for what could be done with the 1.7 acre property, which is partly cleared but also has some trees.
“Just walking through the wooded area, it was amazing listening to him, I could see his vision,” she said about Hersha. “He will be taking this piece of land and preserving it.”
Gabet may be looking for volunteers to help clear some of the trees. An initial look at the trees showed some have value and could be sold for revenue to further enhance the project.
The Annie Oakley Perfumery opened a salon last year, and several bus-tour companies now make regular stops in Ligonier to visit the plant.
Gabet has been working with city and county officials to promote tourism in the entire county, and it seems to be working. Gabet said her perfumery has added thousands of dollars to the local economy from tourism.
Last week, Anicia Richardson, director the for Indiana Office of Tourism Development, visited the perfumery as part of a visit to Noble County.
Richardson was “very impressed” with what she saw in the county, Gabet said. Gabet and her daughter, Laura Gabet Howard, gave the state official a tour that included stops at the Solomon Mier Manor Bed and Breakfast, the Ligonier Historical Museum and the Ligonier Visitors Center and Heritage Station Museum. They also visited the Kimmell Inn and Luckey Hospital Museum in Wolf Lake.
“She said she looks forward to working with us to develop tour packages to offer to Indiana visitors,” Gabet said.
Malerie Cohen, a national travel writer, visited Ligonier earlier this summer and included Ligonier and the Annie Oakley experience on her website, “Stay on Route 6.”
Gabet developed a fragrance especially for Cohen, “Malerie No. 6.”
“She (Cohen) later emailed me, saying her visit to the Annie Oakley Perfumery and Noble County was one of her most memorable stops in Indiana,” Gabet said.
More information on Annie Oakley’s efforts to promote tourism is available on its website, annieoakley.com, and Facebook page. The Noble County Convention and Visitors Bureau website, visitnoblecounty.com, also has information on tourism opportunities in the county.
Elkhart River Cleaned up
LIGONIER — On Saturday, as part of the Operation Foundation effort, two
groups of volunteers set out to clean parts of the Elkhart River, from
Rochester Road all the way through Ligonier to River Road to the northwest. 40
people of all agescompleted the project as it has been done for the last five
The project was also supported by the Elkhart River Restoration Association and the Merry Lea Environmental Center.
The crews pulled hundreds if not thousands of pounds of debris from the river.
More than 50 tires were hauled out of the river along with an entire dump truck full of metal, all of which will be recycled.
“It is the goal of these groups to keep the river clean and improve the water quality and the watershed area,” said Ken Schuman, one of the volunteers and a Ligonier City Council member.
Some other finds included a washer, two bicycles, two tv sets, at least car batteries, and many, many plastic bottles.
“Cleaning the river helps improve the recreational activities that families are encouraged to do, including fishing, canoeing, and hiking the trails,” said Schuman. “Please help keep our river clean.”
Studio loaded wth ammunition for nose
LIGONIER — In the first light of day, the scent of a dew-drenched garden is earthy, floral, airy.
Renée Gabet captures this essence as she blends oils into a perfume that will be named Morning Garden.
Roses grow at its heart, musk covers the ground and delicate hints of water add a decorative touch, she explains, as she carefully mixes the oils, considering several rose-scented blends from the dozens of small bottles that line the shelves at Annie Oakley Perfumery Studio in Ligonier.
Should she add one that's warm or cool, green or musky, with a hint of geranium or without?
"It's just a lost art," she says. "Creating a fragrance is like painting."
Gabet's canvas is a round plastic tray with wells. One at a time, she'll add a drop of this, a dab of that, building layers, which are called notes, until she's happy with the fresh fragrance.
Her nose just knows.
Gabet, who still remembers her first visit to the Wolf & Dessauer fragrance counter as a girl growing up in Fort Wayne, is the CEO and perfume maker of the perfumery, which she started in 1980.
In March, she opened the studio to the public for the first time. Group tours are available and customers can buy the company's products there.
A visit to the perfumery takes aromatherapy to a new level.
Gabet believes the company – named for the real Annie Oakley, who was an Ohio native – is the only one of its kind in the country, in that it creates, blends, bottles, packages and ships its own perfumes.
For the past three decades, the business has grown from her kitchen to a larger facility a few blocks away and from one signature perfume to a national brand. Gabet has traveled the world, sourcing ingredients and learning the tricks of the trade with various perfume makers.
Locally, Annie Oakley products are available at the Country Shops in Grabill, Country Charm/Peeker's Secrets in Auburn and Kerlin Western World in Warsaw, according to www.annieoakley.com.
The first fragrance she created, Annie, has blossomed into a full line of six floral perfumes, including Honeysuckle, White Lily and Sunset, which are sold under the Annie Oakley brand.
That brand's new, stirrup-shaped bottle was designed by Pierre Dinand, who also created bottles for Opium and Fendi, Gabet says. A flower etching, inspired by one of Oakley's saddles, graces the bottle's box.
"The packaging is just as important as the fragrance itself," she says, adding that the AO boxes soon will be redesigned again, this time with fresh colors.
Those florals are still the best sellers, she says, but her Nature's Harvest line – with Evening Lavender, Verbena Blossom and Citrus & Honey – is gaining momentum.
Her newest fragrance, Wild West, is the third she created for men, along with Sagebrush and Stampede. It was nearly eight years in the making, but it seems to have mass appeal and has become her fastest growing scent since it was launched in November 2010.
"Even grandmas buy it for their husbands. It wears well; it's like a saddle or an old pair of jeans," Gabet says.
That image of classic Americana is likely a key to her success. It's just a symbol of a simpler time, she says.
Gabet believes Annie was the first perfume marketed to the Western gear market. It is still sold in tack stores, as well as resorts, airport gift shops and small department stores. She also designs private-label perfumes for corporate clients, complete with labels and packaging.
She has at least two fragrances in development. One will include "raw materials from Indiana," she says, although she won't divulge any secrets.
She also plans to launch more spa products, such as body washes, lotions and shampoos, before Christmas. (The company even sells lavender products for horses).
And she plans to return to her jewelry-designing roots by creating a line of necklaces and companion fragrances, inspired by some Arizona jasper she bought.
Regardless of the source of inspiration – a color, name or photo – a new product always begins its journey to market with that first whiff of essential oil.
Gabet will spend months tweaking a commercial fragrance, putting it away for a while in between.
And during the 45-minute public tours, if she has time, she might create a custom fragrance for the group and let them name it. That's how Dames of LaGrange and Ditzy Divas were born.
Today, she runs the company with her husband, Charles. All of their five kids have been involved at some point. Someday, their 15 grandkids might have their hands in it, too.
Annie Oakley employs between six and 20 people, depending on the season and the launch of a new product.
But Gabet has no plans to retire, because she still loves her job.
"I'm coming in to play. It's a very happy place," she says.
Petunias form 'quilt' in Ligonier
LIGONIER — A colorful, flower-filled quilt garden is the newest addition to brighten the landscape of Ligonier.
And at the first glance, the large "L" at the center of the garden may seem like a reference to Ligonier, but it's not.
The project of the Future Ligonier Alliance is located at the northwest corner of Cavin Street and Lincolnway West in downtown Ligonier. It uses more than 250 petunias to form a pattern matching the logo of the Lincoln Highway Association. That group works to promote the historic highway which runs through Ligonier.
And the association logo features a prominent "L" in the center.
Elson Mast of Ligonier first approached the FLA with the idea of a quilt garden, and donated a lot of his time to the project, including being on hand for the planting the flowers last week.
Jason Becker of Countryscapes and Gardens donated his services to build the garden and supervised the planting of the flowers, using employees of his business. Irving Gravel Co. of Ligonier donated all of the topsoil.
Donations were received from several groups including the Ligonier Chamber of Commerce, Ligonier Lions Club, Ligonier Rotary Club and the Noble County Visitors Bureau.
The garden is about 20 feet high and 10 feet across. Additional landscaping was done by volunteers to accent the garden.
Ligonier library seeks grant for expansion
LIGONIER — The Ligonier Public Library, now in its 103rd year of operation, is looking to expand and needs the public's help in securing a grant to help pay for a possible new addition, or renovation project.
"We have ran out of space to grow in," library director Jerry Nesbitt said this week. "Our shelves are full to bursting, our computer rooms are full, and we have a lack of space for meetings and programs.
"The Ligonier Public Library needs to build on, to meet the needs of our community and we need the public's help to do so."
The library is asking for letters of support from the community, to accompany its request for a Community Focus Grant on the possibility of an expansion or renovation.
"The more letters of encouragement we receive, the better the chance for us to get the grant," Nesbitt said.
This grant would allow us to begin the planning stages for a possible expansion."
Letters should be concise about why patrons believe the library needs to expand or renovate, and should also include the writers' positive feelings about the library, Nesbitt said.
The letters can be sent by email or by U.S. mail. If mailing out a physical copy, residents should use their actual signature to sign it with their printed name below.
The library is using a consultant, Robert Murphy, to apply for the grant.
Letters can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Or they can be mailed or dropped off to the Ligonier Public Library, 300 S. Main St., Ligonier, IN 46767.
Heritage Station Museum Opens for the Season
LIGONIER — The Heritage Station Museum of Ligonier is preparing to open for the season with an Open House this Friday and Saturday, May 6 and 7. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days.
Free coffee and homemade treats will be on hand for visitors. The museum is located at 800 Lincolnway South, at the corner with West Union St., about a mile north of U.S. 6.
It is located in the back of the city’s historic Ligonier Visitor Center building.
The museum has 16 displays of Ligonier memorabilia. It replaces the former Indiana Historical Radio Museum which occupied the building from 1995-2009. Some radios belonging to the Indiana Historical Radio Society are still on display.
Several residents of Ligonier have generously loaned all the articles on display in the museum, along with a beautifully restored carriage manufactured by the Solomon Mier Carriage and Auto Company of Ligonier.
Solomon Mier organized one of the earliest automobile companies in Indiana in Ligonier, and the carriage is a testimony to the quality of the product produced in the community at the time, at the start of the 20th century.
The carriage on display in the museum was located in Washington, Pa., and purchased by a group of concerned Ligonier citizens. With support from the Noble County Community Foundation, the carriage was then refurbished by the Hoosier Buggy Shop and is now aglow with charm. The carriage has also been used in past Marshmallow Festival Parades to transport the parade marshals.
Another highlight of the museum are several Wilkinson quilts. These items are whole cloth quilts made of silks and satins by the Wilkinson Sister Quilt Company that was based in Ligonier in the first half of the 1900s. The quilts were of high quality, and were in high demand throughout the United States. The museum is in possession of a few of these rare historic quilts, along with a vintage catalog in which the purchaser could choose the quilt design of their choosing. The Wilkinson Sister Quilt Company thrived in Ligonier until a fire destroyed the factory in the 1920s.
In addition, a variety of Army, Navy, and Marine uniforms from World War I and World War II, worn by Ligonier veterans, are on display. They have been assembled by Dr. Floyd Warren, former mayor Ligonier.
A large picture, trophy, game ball and banner from the 1962 Championship Basketball Tournament, won by the Ligonier High School, are also on display.
Miniatures made by Marcia Hicks, as well as dolls, music boxes, and paintings are a part of the many more items in the museum.
The center and museum are housed in a historic 1920’s filling station, on lease from the family of Ed Tyler, who operated a station there. The building was remodeled in 1995 and the parking lot is paved in bricks saved from various Ligonier streets.
The Museum and Visitors Center will be making its opening debut as part of the Spring Fling Open House Weekend hosted by the Noble County Visitors Bureau in which visitors can explore all of the unique places and offerings Noble County has to offer as part of Hometown Tourism.
“Ligonier is a fascinating community. The community is a fantastic blend of culture, murals, spectacular historic architecture and interesting stories. It is a joy in which to work through the efforts of the Visitors Bureau”, said John Bry executived director of the Noble County Visitors Bureau (CVB).
Regular hours for the Ligonier Visitors Center are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Groups tours of 10 or more can also be offered of Ligonier, which is Noble County’s second largest community.
For more information call 894-9000, or the Noble County CVB at 877-202-5761, or visit www.visitnoblecounty.com.
Ligonier police dog nabs burglary suspect
A Ligonier police dog is being credited for stopping a fleeing burglary suspect Sunday.
The Noble County Sheriff’s Department got a tip that two men were breaking into a storage facility on County Road 450 North.
A sheriff’s deputy, his canine partner and Ligonier officers responded to the scene with another police dog, Zaden.
Ligonier officers arrived and reported that the men took off running, dropping bags as they went. One of the suspects climbed the fence and tried to flee the area, but Zaden caught him.
James L. Charters, 41, of Pierceton, was charged with felony burglary and misdemeanor resisting law enforcement, according to a written statement from the sheriff’s department.
The second suspect escaped, but the sheriff’s department said the investigation into his identity continues.
The Noble County EMS also assisted at the scene.
City of Ligonier website gets new design, features
The City of Ligonier recently unveiled a new look and navigational structure for the official municipal website. You can visit the site at www.ligonier-in.org.
The new site was designed to be easier to navigate and has many new features encouraging citizen involvement with local government. Among these new features are a community calendar, news and updates center, online code of ordinances, and contact information for each city department.
The website showcases local attractions such as the city's two dozen murals, bronze statues, parks, and local historic sites. All residents are encouraged to visit the site and provide input on features and content they would like to see incorporated into the site. Some possible enhancements for the future are an online payment system for utility bills, documents and forms download center, and an interactive map showing the locations of local tourist attractions.
"We wanted to tailor this website specifically for the citizens of Ligonier to make them aware of committee meetings and other things that are happening in their city government" said Barb Hawn, Clerk-Treasurer.
"In addition to the ease of navigation and quality content, we also wanted to make the site attractive for potential businesses and residents looking in from the outside," said Chris Fought, owner of c.fought.design, the agency responsible for the new design. "Often times, the website of a company or organization is the first impression potential businesses or visitors are exposed to. As such, it is important to maintain an attractive site with fresh, quality content and useful information."
Fought will work collaboratively with the City Clerk's office to maintain the website and ensure it is kept up to date.
The new web design also features a user friendly Content Management System which allows for effortless content editing and easy to use SEO tools for maximizing search engine results, allowing potential visitors to better find the new website.
Owned by local resident Chris Fought, this web design business was started in 2007. Fought has since provided web design and social networking services for local businesses and non-profit organizations. He has donated nearly $10,000 in graphic design services to date for organizations such as the Future Ligonier Alliance, Discovery Express, Operation Foundation, and other Ligonier causes. The new website design for the City of Ligonier is the latest in a series of local projects completed by c.fought.design and was developed in collaboration with his brother, Andy Fought of Fort Wayne. For more information call 1-260-894-2839 or visit their website at www.cfoughtdesign.com.
Ligonier Company Looking to Expand by Adding CNC Equipment
Advanced Metal Etching (AME), which specializes in photochemical etching, is branching out with a new company arm called AME Swiss Machining.
The Ligonier City Council has approved a 10-year tax abatement for the company on two Citizen CNC Swiss Turning Machines, valued at $362,000. The equipment will allow AME to manufacture parts from metal rod with high precision, said AME Swiss Machining Director of Operations Bob Kroll. It's a different process from AME's photochemical etching process, which works with flat stock.
The parent company, AME, operates out of a 30,000 square foot facility at 801 Gerber Street. Its specialty, photochemical etching, is a high-quality, fast and low-cost process that offers precision and accuracy that's not available in any other milling process. The company serves the electronics, computer, medical, aerospace, defense, communications and automotive industries, among others. The new parts created by the Swiss Turning Machines can be custom made to be used by many of the same industries.
Advanced Metal Etching has been a great asset to our Industrial Park," said Ligonier Mayor Patty Fisel. "It's a pleasure to partner with them as they develop AME Swiss Machining, LLC."
Nearly 25 people are employed at the parent company, while AME Swiss Machining has just one employee. The addition of the Swiss Turning Machines will create one job right away, but the company has a larger goal in mind. Within 48 months, Kroll said the company hopes to expand into a new location, which will house 16 Swiss Turning Machines and ten additional employees.
Rick Sherck, Executive Director of the Noble County Economic Development Corporation stated, "The Noble County EDC is excited about the growth opportunity for Advanced Metal Etching, the City of Ligonier and Noble County. We are pleased that they have chosen to grow in Ligonier and we look forward to offering service that will help them not only today, but into the future."
About Advanced Metal Etching
Advanced Metal Etching produces precision metal piece parts using the photochemical machining process. The company serves original equipment manufacturers in industries such as electronics, stamping, medical, aerospace, military, and nearly any industry that uses thin flat metal parts. For more information about Advanced Metal Etching, visit www.metaletching.com.
Jeld-Wen installs new coil, potential for increased employment in the future
The installation of a new coil line could lead to a bright future for Jeld Wen.
Monday night, the Ligonier City Council approved a 10 year tax abatement for Jeld Wen on a new $2.5 million coil line. According to Jeld Wen General Manager Tom Griewank, the new line replaces an older and less efficient line that has kept production from increasing.
"The new line has the effect of doubling our door skin stamping capacity," said Griewank. "In effect, it increases the capacity of the whole plant and makes us better positioned to accommodate an upswing in the economy."
Ligonier Mayor Patty Fisel added, "The addition of new equipment will not only retain employees, but will provide opportunity for growth. We are happy to partner with them."
Jeld Wen is a worldwide company that has been manufacturing windows, interior and exterior doors, patio doors and garage doors since 1960. The Ligonier plant, located in a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district at 200 Gerber Street, employees 82 people. That number could grow, with the new coil line and an improving economy.
We will have the capability to build more product, which will require hiring more employees," said Griewank.
Rick Sherck Executive Director of the Noble County EDC shared, "We are excited about Jeld Wen's decision to invest in new equipment for their facility in Ligonier and realize they could have installed it elsewhere. We believe that this signifies their satisfaction with the local workforce, business climate and the community as a whole. We look forward to helping them grow and prosper right here in Noble County."
Installation of the new coil line is expected to be complete by the beginning of May.
About Jeld Wen
JELD-WEN creates windows and doors to meet nearly every performance requirement, residential or commercial, and come in a wide variety of design options, from Art Deco to Victorian. For more information about Jeld Wen, visit www.jeld-wen.com.
New building, new jobs for BRC Rubber and Plastics
BRC Rubber and Plastics' smallest and oldest facility is about to get a boost, in part, to a 2-year tax abatement granted by the Ligonier City Council.
The company is looking to move from its current facility at One Wall Street in Ligonier to a larger building at 1497 Gerber Street. The cost of the building is $430,000. The larger facility will ensure that the company is ready when opportunities arise for growth.
"We recently hired an Industrial Sales Account Manager in order to expand our industrial customer sales base," said BRC Executive Vice President Mike Meyer. "In addition, BRC has a history of making acquisitions and insourcing the new business into existing facilities; however the timing is not always predictable. We must be ready when opportunities become available."
BRC has operated out of the Wall Street building since 1989. Currently, the Ligonier plant produces 85% of the industrial molding jobs for BRC, which is headquartered in Churubusco with facilities in Ligonier, Harford City, Bluffton and Montpelier, Indiana, as well as Auburn Hills, Michigan.
After making the decision to move from the existing facility in Ligonier, BRC investigated available properties in Ohio, as well as Huntington County, Indiana. But management realized that Ligonier was right where the company needed to remain.
"We decided to stay in Ligonier because our existing trained workforce resides in the area," said Meyer. "People are BRC's most important asset, and we did not want to lose our trained employees in Ligonier."
It's a decision that the Noble County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is excited about.
"BRC Rubber was started in Noble County many years ago" said Noble County EDC Executive Director Rick Sherck. "The Noble County EDC worked cooperatively with Mayor Fisel of Ligonier to encourage BRC Rubber to stay and grow here. We are pleased and excited about this growth opportunity that we believe will be good for BRC Rubber, the City of Ligonier and Noble County as a whole."
Currently 57 people are employed at BRC's Ligonier plant. That workforce is expected to grow, Meyer said, by around 77%, or 40 employees, over a three year period. The additional jobs will bring about $1.1 million in salaries to area workers.
Ligonier Mayor Patty Fisel is thrilled about BRC's role in the community.
"Being a local family-owned business, we are celebrating the retention and expansion of BRC Rubber and Plastics, Inc.," said Fisel. "The benefit of retaining jobs and the addition of new jobs is a priceless investment."
About BRC Rubber and Plastics, Inc.
BRC Rubber & Plastics was founded in 1973. Today, it offers one of the broadest ranges of rubber & thermoplastic molding capabilities in the industry, allowing clients the option of single sourcing all the molding requirements of their program/project. Through its unique combination of capabilities, BRC provides customer design and engineering support from concept and prototype into final production. For more information about BRC Rubber and Plastics, Inc., visit www.brcrp.com.
A City in Transition
LIGONIER — Here in this small, northwestern Noble County city, the minority is now the majority.
The 2010 census figures released last month show that Ligonier’s population is 52 percent Hispanic, making it the second majority-Hispanic city in the state (East Chicago is the other).
This is nothing new at either the local or national level. Statewide, the number of Hispanics nearly doubled in the last decade to 389,707. Hispanics now make up 6 percent of the state’s population. But in a town of approximately 4,400 people, the cultural shift is much more noticeable.
So when did the shift begin? According to Ligonier Mayor Patty Fisel, the Hispanic population began increasing as far back as 1992, back when the large industrial area had a thriving economy and jobs were plentiful.
"It was mostly young, single men looking for jobs at that time," Fisel said.
That pattern of young people looking for jobs continued steadily throughout the decade and into the new millennium, as well as Hispanic families moving into the area as well. This meant schools also saw an increase of diversity. Ligonier Elementary Principal Brian Shepherd — whose school population is 53 percent Hispanic — considers that a blessing.
"Diversity is a great thing," Shepherd said. "Having so much culture shows that we can all learn from each other’s differences."
Margarita White’s family moved to the area in 1976 from Texas because her grandparents, Celia and Domingo Pena, were migrant farm workers. She said the reason her family, and others like hers, moved to Ligonier was because it was seen as a land of opportunity.
"Migrant farm workers don’t make much," White said. "It was considered more seasonal work. But there was a lot of industry around back then to help bring in income, too."
White works for the Noble County Community Foundation providing grants that promote cultural awareness for local residents. She also helps translate for non-profit organizations. Jobs like those require an outgoing personality — which White has, as evidenced by her recent run for mayor — but is a rare quality in Hispanics, White indicated.
"Hispanic people generally keep to themselves," she said, adding that the younger generations do tend to try and branch out more socially.
Vicki Vargas, who owns Leti’s Tacos Restaurant in downtown Ligonier, echoed those sentiments.
"Hispanics are a very close-knit group," Vargas said. "Their family is their social network."
Vargas’ restaurant is one of the few successful businesses in a sea of vacant buildings downtown. It hasn’t been for a lack of effort that businesses have not panned out. It’s a matter of finding the right niche that keeps people from driving to a nearby department store.
"Hispanics put up signs in their window to advertise their business, so they are there," Vargas said. "But if they go out of business, the buildings would be empty and it would be a ghost town."
Fisel said that due to the generally private nature of the Hispanic culture, cultural tension has been virtually nonexistent.
"We expect them to respect our culture," Fisel said, "so we should respect theirs."
Fisel said that while much has changed since the 2000 census, that doesn’t make the figures any less accurate. Since then, several jobs have crumbled due to the recession, only to blossom bigger and better than before. Also there is a comfort in knowing that as long as Hispanics have proper documentation when they enter the country, they have nothing to worry about.
"There were quite a few Spanish-speaking workers collecting census information last year, which shows that they are not living in hiding," Fisel said. "The cultural change really is not a big deal anymore."
Ligonier part of three year study that focused on Latinos
The historic transformation of Ligonier from an all-white community to one with a Hispanic majority can be found in the pages of a newly-released study.
In "Latinos in North Central Indiana," Ligonier is one of four local cities that came under the microscopes of researchers from Goshen College and the University of Notre Dame, who created the study over a three-year period.
What the researchers found in Ligonier was a Hispanic population that, like other residents in Michiana, is struggling to cope with the economic downturn. The Hispanics in Ligonier also have the added pressure of a growing movement in Indiana to adopt laws targeting them.
"The toll of the crisis on the Latino community in Ligonier is compounded by rising anti-immigrant sentiment. According to respondents, the 2006 change to state law that requires a Social Security number or proof of legal status in order to obtain a motor vehicle license has made day-to-day life extremely difficult for undocumented migrants and contributes to a climate of fear in which Latinos increasingly feel as if they are suspects, even if they have not broken the law," the study states.
Noble County was almost exclusively white for most of its history, and outside of the Ligonier area it still is, according to the study. Outside the city Hispanics make up less than 5 percent of the population. Inside Ligonier, Hispanics are the majority ethnicity.
Most of the Hispanics in Noble County did not come from somewhere else — they were born in the United States. The study found that 52 percent of the Hispanics in Noble County were born in the United States. Forty-percent of the Hispanics are non-citizens and 7 percent are citizens through naturalization.
Those Hispanics who came from Mexico came mostly from one area, the state of Aguascalientes.
Hispanics in Noble County earned more money in 1990, 2000 and 2009 than Hispanics in Elkhart and St. Joseph counties, according to the study.
Noble County Hispanics had median earnings just above $35,000 back in 1990, but then experienced small jumps in wages. By 2000 Noble County Hispanics had median incomes in the high $30,000s. In 2009 their median incomes rose to about $45,000, according to the study.
Hispanic students in the West Noble School system appear to be fairing better than students in other local communities with Hispanic populations.
The graduation rate for Hispanics in the West Noble system was 80 percent in 2008 and 2009. That rate of graduation is much higher than the rate in Goshen (59 percent), Elkhart (58 percent), South Bend (63 percent) and Concord (75 percent). And the West Noble Hispanic graduation rate beats the graduation rate for whites in Elkhart (77 percent) and South Bend (77 percent).
The educational achievement of West Noble Hispanic students has been made despite the school district spending less per student ($10,900) than what the Goshen ($11,400), Elkhart ($12,500) and South Bend ($12,800) districts spend per student. Also, the student-to-teacher ration at West Noble is higher than the other districts. There are 18 students per teacher at West Noble and South Bend, Elkhart and Goshen each have 16 students per teacher ratios, according to the study.
The study contains a "Discussion and Policy Implications" section. There the researchers wrote, "The Latinos of Elkhart, Noble and St. Joseph counties do face many challenges. As a group they have low income, a high rate of poverty and a low high-school graduation rate."
The researchers reported that despite these challenges, the Latinos of Elkhart, Noble and St. Joseph counties have accomplished much.
"Over half of all Latino households own their own homes," according to the report. "Latinos have provided the labor that has powered Elkhart’s recreational vehicle industry. They have built the buildings that are enabling their communities to grow. They have started businesses that have created jobs. They have filled positions in the services industry that are necessary for the economy to function. They have offset the out-migration this area has experienced since the 1990s as young, educated whites seek better job prospects elsewhere. And they have contributed to the culture with their cuisine, music and art."
The three-volume study can be read at the Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning at Goshen College. Or, the study may be purchased for $40 from the center by calling 574-535-7840 or by going to the website at www.goshen.edu.
10,000 Square Feet and Counting: Nation's Only Perfumery Expands for Visitors
The nation's only perfumery has expanded by an additional 1,700 feet to take on a new frontier: tourism. Visitors can learn about the original Annie Oakley who inspired the perfumery's authentic and natural direction, view products being made on a factory tour, and even work with a perfumer to develop their own personal fragrance.
"Ligonier and Noble County, Indiana might not seem like typical tourist destinations," Gabet said. "But that's exactly the point. With the area's unique Amish settlements and the only perfume studio and factory in the United States, we're anything but typical. We are one of the most unique, authentic places to visit in the country."
Gabet has taken the same approach to the perfumery's expansion as she has to her product lines over the years. "Pure, quality, all-natural ingredients have always been our standard," she said. "Our customers trust us to be honest and authentic. In our new facility, we're able to show visitors our production process in a way never before possible."
In addition to viewing products being made on their factory tours, visitors to the Indiana facility will be able to work with a perfumer to develop their own personal fragrance. "Since most perfumes in the United States are actually made with artificial chemicals, the opportunity to craft a fragrance from all-natural ingredients is really one-of-a-kind," Gabet said.
The new perfume studio also features a new gallery highlighting the story of the historic Annie Oakley, who was born in western Ohio and had become one of the most famous women in the world by the late 1800s. "Her strong character and individualism are guiding hallmarks for Annie Oakley products," Gabet explained. "It's important for her history to be preserved and shared."
A perfume and beauty bar, gift shop and coffee bar complete the studio's expanded space. Gabet says she hopes that visitors will feel welcome to relax and explore the variety of unique Annie Oakley products, from western gifts for men to delicate lavender fragrance and honeysuckle perfume.
"Even though our products are sold at over 1,000 retailers nationally and abroad, we are always looking ahead to develop more original concepts," Gabet said. "Most recently, we've created a line of natural horse calming supplements that's been taking off. We also introduced two new brands: Wild West Cologne and our SPA Beauty collection of personal care products. "
The new facility is specially designed to show visitors the range of unconventional possibilities available with all-natural ingredients. A formal ribbon cutting ceremony is planned for Spring 2011. The perfume studio is presently taking reservations for large group and bus tours, which will begin in the Spring also. "We're honored and proud to bring an authentic American experience to our visitors," Gabet said. "We're showcasing not just our products, but the spirit of the real-life Annie Oakley."
About Annie Oakley Perfumery
In 1980, Annie Oakley Perfumery was a modest business based in owner Renee Gabet's Ligonier, Indiana kitchen. By 2009, it had grown to a 9,000 square-foot facility and has sold more than 2 million bottles of handcrafted Annie Oakley natural perfume. For more information about Annie Oakley, please visit their website at http://www.annieoakley.com.