'Harbor of Hospitality' more than slogan in EC


By Doug Gardner

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The guy ahead of me in line at Dunkin' Donuts paid my tab.

Touched by his spontaneous generosity, I passed it along to the harried mother of three behind me.

Small kindnesses like this occur all the time in the Harbor of Hospitality.

Our favorite auto mechanic came by the house to check on our car when he suspected an employee had failed to properly tighten the drain on our oil pan.

The hardware store owner on Water Street fixed some gizmo I brought to his establishment, then walked down Main Street to my office to deliver it.

Enchanted by a sporty sedan at a popular car dealership one Friday, I told the owner I couldn't take it for a test drive until the following week when I would return from Raleigh. "Take it for the weekend," he said. "We know where you live."

I was explaining this to Christian Lockamy, director of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Economic Development Commission, over lunch recently. He's noticed this phenomenon, too, since relocating from Greenville. We agreed that it is difficult to quantify kindness and trust, but these surely weigh in our favor when businesses and retirees look for places to establish themselves.

We can catalog building sites, average out the cost of housing, commit tax rates and economic incentives to a spreadsheet or note the availability of higher education providers in the community. But how do you explain to a potential new resident that Elizabeth City is the kind of place where the neighbors will keep an eye on your house (even turning off an outside shower when the water pipe bursts), or that you can leave trusted craftsmen alone in your home if you must step out?

The answer, I think, is to get prospects to spend a few days here actually meeting some of their future neighbors.

Former Mayor Joe Peel and wife, Carolyn, opened their home to a doctor being courted by Sentara Albemarle Medical Center. The doctor and his wife quickly met others in the medical community, civic leaders and those in the arts. They’ve settled here, and become volunteers around town.

The late Fred Fearing was my mentor when I was a new reporter here more than 40 years ago. Fred walked me up and down Main Street, to the courthouse and to the old Oxena coffee shop, introducing me to judges and elected officials who I would need to know, in order to do my job.

Fred and his friend, Joe Kramer, became the Rose Buddies, unofficial ambassadors for our community to the boating public. You can still read about them (and Elizabeth City) in “Cruisers Net” 35 years after their first wine and cheese party.

Tom Campbell, a former agricultural Extension agent in Pasquotank, once said that “neighborliness is a competitive sport in these parts.”

If it is, we’re Big League.

Doug Gardner is a resident of the Weeksville section of Pasquotank County.