Mike Galinski of Galinski Enterprises shares his vision for Downtown McCaysville
By Maria Kidder, Sentinel Staff Writer
Fannin County has a low residential population, but is continuing to be the fastest growing county in the North Georgia Mountain region. With its remote terrain, steep mountain peaks, and unspoiled natural beauty, the mountains lure a large number of tourists for short visits.
McCaysville is bordered on the north by its twin city, Copperhill, Tenn. The main routes through the city are Georgia 60 (Toccoa Ave.) and Tenn. 68 (Ocoee Street). Visitors will notice the Blue Line marking the separation of the cities running diagonally from IGA Hometown Grocery.
The Toccoa River on the Georgia side changes into the Ocoee River on the Tennessee side at the steel bridge just north of the concrete bridge on Blue Ridge Drive. The red brick buildings on the south of the Toccoa River once housed three distinct mini malls (Riverside Mall, Woodland Express Mini Mall and Toccoa River Mall). These three mini malls are now being renovated to become Riverside Shops Mall.
Zachary Welch, Senior Vice President of United Community Bank, who spoke on behalf of the
McCaysville Revitalization Committee, met with realtors from the area for a meet-and-greet last week.
Welch stated he was thinking a few years ago, “There is something we can do to improve McCaysville.” After repeated trips to Naples, FL where he witnessed the town’s culture, especially the signs about town, he was thinking the same could be done in this quaint mountain town.
The opportunity arose when Welch met with (Mike) Galinksi and Matt Cole, (Business Development Management, Galinski Enterprises). The idea for McCaysville was going to be larger than just signs—and the McCaysville Revitalization Committee was put together about a year ago.
Welch told the group gathered at the Mall, there would be 27 park benches placed throughout the town, paid for by individuals or businesses in honor or memory of an individual, pet, or business. The $40,000 worth of benches will be dispersed at random locations throughout the town.
Welch stated it took four months to pressure wash the bridge because of EPA concerns. River water could not be used, nor could chemicals, so spring water had to be brought in. He further stated that everything done in McCaysville had environmental issues involving the Environmental Protection Department, Army Corp of Engineers and Georgia Department of Transportation, to name a few.
“It’s a process that takes time,” he added.
The Welcome Center is housed in one of the historical buildings in town. Galinski bought the propMcCAYSVILLE
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erty in May 2015 and wanted to keep the building as is on the outside with only slight renovations inside to reflect the Chamber’s appeal to tourists. The newly installed street lights will be part of the development which will include landscaping and placing copper mining artifacts along the way. People will be able to walk down the path and read the history of this area on new signs.
Two street lights have been placed along the way toward the Welcome Center. It houses the Chamber of Commerce McCaysville location at 53 East Market Street. Jan Hackett and Christie Arp were helpful in getting a Welcome Center located in McCaysville. Welch encouraged everyone to go to the Center and check it out because, “It is a very unique thing to see.”
Welch spoke of the upcoming 4-acre Park which will be located next to the existing City Park. The new Park will contain outdoor exercise equipment, walking paths, and “a lot of
Also on the short list, according to Welch, is a walking bridge from the Park to the other side of the river. He stated he would like to see the bridge painted copper in reference to the history of the area and lit up at night, “Where patrons of the restaurant can sit out on the deck taking in the ambiance.”
He mentioned the focus study recently held in McCaysville tfunded by the Lyndhurst Foundation. Thomas Cartter Lupton, a pioneer in the Coca Cola bottling business, began the philanthropic enterprise in 1938 as the Memorial Welfare Fund. After Lupton’s death in 1977, the name changed to the Lyndhurst Foundation, a “Reference to the family home in Chattanooga.” In 1992, the Foundation “centered on the enhancement and enrichment of the natural, educational, cultural and urban environment of Chattanooga and the surrounding region.”
The University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government was the facilitator of the Lyndhurst Foundation’s grant of $40,000 to the twin cities of McCaysville and Copperhill, Tenn. along with Ducktown, Tenn. to learn what the communities would like to see happen in the area. This is the first time the Foundation has granted money for this kind of endeavor which usually concentrates on one city but has crossed state lines with three cities in its view!
The Copper Basin Renaissance, with a strategic visioning and planning process by the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute and support from Lyndhurst Foundation’s $40,000 grant, will focus on 3 components:
1- Acquire public input and engagement with focus groups gathering information and ideas how to revitalize the towns of McCaysville, Copperhill, and Ducktown.
2- Vision and design to be processed into a report that will be presented to the towns, and
3- To implement the program of revitalizing the towns as suggested in the report.
The McCaysville Revitalization Committee worked closely with Copper Basin Renaissance to hold focus group meetings. If you would like to volunteer to become part of the McCaysville Revitalization Committee, please contact Zachary Welch at 706-633-8807 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Galinski, Galinski Enterprises, is the investor for the downtown McCaysville revitalization and renovations program. Galinski started a computer chip company 30 years ago in Fla. Since then, he has taken money from his business, America II Electronics, and invested it “mostly in real estate.” He has bought property in FL since 2001 and basically has not sold them, looking at the investments long term.
In 2009, he and his wife discussed moving to the mountains of North Georgia. They rented cabins, took in the ambiance, and later settled on purchasing “a fairly large tract (of land) down on Mountain View Road. That’s how we came to McCaysville.”
Around this time, he asked who he could talk to about buying property in McCaysville. The Colemans suggested Mike Williams with Cuddle Up Cabin Rentals. After viewing properties, Galinski was shown the property from where he stood viewing a deck of the building across the way. He liked the property (100 Blue Ridge Drive) and decided to purchase it. A contract was made.
Galinski stated he did not realize the challenges that were ahead of him with the properties.
“I didn’t realize what I bit off, to be honest,” he said. He met with people on the streets who were wondering what he would do with the mall. He wanted their input. Many stated, “We need restaurants in the area. We need good restaurants.” People preferred seafood and steak as the restaurant(s) of choice.
He purchased the buildings from Oct. 2015 – Dec. 2017 making the buildings from the river to the traffic light one big property.
He asked John Soave of JFS, Inc. to oversee the project at Riverwalk Shops. Soave has developed many projects in Blue Ridge so it “seemed to be a pretty good match,” Galinski stated.
Soave is handling all the building aspects of the project to ensure Riverwalk Shops will be the destination tourists are anxious to visit when in the area, envisioning the clock tower as a focal point of interest.
Galinski spoke of the long-term vision he sees for McCaysville. At first, the vision was to copy Blue Ridge and its successes–restaurants and shops. He said he spoke with his daughter one day who encouraged him to visit a couple of places in Atlanta to see what was trending.
Trips were made to Ponce City Market (675 Ponce de Leon Ave NE) and Krog Street Market (99 Krog Street NE). Galinski saw the themes of both locations saying to his daughter, “I got it!”
The Sears, Roebuck & Company building became Ponce City Market, originally the site of Ponce de Leon Springs and later Ponce de Leon Amusement Park. In 2014, the fully renovated building began to reopen, restoring its prominence as a vital landmark in Atlanta’s burgeoning Old Fourth Ward.
Krog Street Market is a historic 1889 building, once home to Atlanta Stoveworks. The market features 14 different dining establishments, something for every taste.
Both locations were unique and had their own theme—keeping the old look while bringing in new establishments for customers to enjoy.
“Let Blue Ridge be Blue Ridge. McCaysville has to be McCaysville” Galinski added. “Let’s give McCaysville its own identity, its own theme.”
The revitalization of
McCaysville encompasses the buildings from the river to the traffic light. It is a “big undertaking in the middle of the town.”
Soave and his team have been working hard to present McCaysville with its own theme and identity so visitors in Blue Ridge will be excited to drive 15 minutes north to a quaint little town in the mountains.
Three restaurants will be facing the Toccoa River —Burra Burra Seafood, Concetta’s Riverside Bakery and Cafe, and Cowanee Restaurant. Retail shops coming in are Art Gallery of the Hill, Afrika Corner, Blue Ridge Adventure Wear, A Bridge Between Worlds, Buffalo Check Trading, Painted Pony, River Laurel Gifts, and River Walk Gifts…for a 90 percent occupancy. Three spaces are still available for lease (at press time).
Forty to fifty parking spaces are currently under construction near McCaysville City Park, a short walking distance from Riverwalk Shops. If the need arises, more spaces will be available by building on top of the current location, according to Galinski.
The revitalization of downtown McCaysville can be summed up from a quote by Jan Hackett, Fannin County Chamber of Commerce President in the Fannin County Joint Comprehensive Plan 2018-2028, “All we have to do, really, is embrace what we have and work together to figure out how we can best tell our story.”