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COKE PLANT pair

By DAVID ZOELLER dzoeller@paducahsun.com

Taken individually, the accomplishments of Ed and Meagan Musselman are impressive.

Their resumes include advanced degrees, professional careers, and a long and varied list of civic activities and accomplishments.

But their crowning achievement, aside from their three children Molly, Ryan and Annie, is their collective effort to purchase, renovate and revitalize the former Paducah Coca-Cola bottling plant building, known simply as the Coke Plant, in the heart of Paducah's Midtown neighborhood.

When it comes to recognizing the impact the development of the long-closed Paducah landmark has had on the community, it is impossible to separate the two.

In recognition of that, the Musselmans, collectively, have been selected as the 2016 Young Leader of Western Kentucky award winner, presented by the Four Rivers Business Journal, and sponsored by the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce.

The annual award, which highlights young leaders who are making a difference in their profession and community, includes a $1,000 scholarship for professional development.

February marks 80 years since the infamous 1937 flood in Paducah. That event led Luther F. Carson to move his Coca-Cola bottling plant from its then-downtown location to the first "dry ground" he could find at 3121 Broadway. It just so happens February will also be the two-year anniversary of Dry Ground Brewing Company, the Musselmans' first business foray in the Coke Plant, which they purchased in early 2013.

On his Young Leader of Western Kentucky application form, Ed Musselman was succinct in his description of the Dry Ground operation: "Brought craft beer here to western Kentucky. Good people work there. Good people congregate there. Success."

The Coke Plant is also home to Pipers Tea & Coffee, which is operated by Amber and Peter Barnett.

"From the moment my husband and I met the Musselmans and heard their vision for the Coke Plant, we knew we wanted to be a part of it," Amber Barnett said. "Ed and Meagan have gracefully managed to balance support with creative freedom in their endeavor to create a unique local collaboration of businesses. We are honored to have them as landlords and champions of our business.

"Pipers would not be where it is today without their support and encouragement. It has been an absolute pleasure working with them and we hope to remain friends for many years as we continue to build our dreams," she said.

The Coke Plant also houses True North Yoga, Time on the String music studio, and the Ochre Art Gallery and gift shop.

It will soon welcome Mellow Mushroom, an art-focused pizza restaurant Meagan Musselman describes as "the anchor tenant we've been after since we purchased the building."

"Paducah's history is full of many great leaders, from Luther Carson, John Williams, Joe Framptom, Dave Denton, and many others," said Scott Darnell, president/CEO of Paducah Economic Development. "Ed and Meagan Musselman deserve to join that list.

"When meeting Ed and Meagan for the first time to discuss the concept for Mellow Mushroom, one thing was obvious: their passion and the desire to take a risk. They were entrepreneurs wanting to give our community opportunities, venues and change that would make us proud of our past and positioned for the future," he said.

According to Darnell, the Musselmans, both 35 years old, didn't look at the Coke Plant redevelopment as only a real estate or business transaction, "but a commitment to bring the vibrancy of Midtown back to what it once was and what it deserved to be."

Socially Present, an already established Paducah marketing business, will be moving into the Coke Plant. Another established business, Ice Cream Factory, is planning a second location in the Coke Plant, also. And, earlier this month Baptist Health Paducah unveiled its Baptist Health Founders Room on the building's second floor, a space that served as the late Luther Carson's office.

The community room will be open to individuals, groups and businesses, and any proceeds from rentals will benefit the Baptist Health Foundation.

"Meagan and Ed are a dynamic asset to our community. Their passion for Paducah is evident in everything they do to help Paducah flourish and thrive," said William Brown, Baptist Health Paducah president.

"They have sparked a contagious revitalization of Midtown, energizing surrounding neighborhoods and businesses. We admire and applaud their efforts."

The Musselmans' passion and commitment to Paducah is reflected in their responses to questions put to the 2016 Young Leaders of Western Kentucky candidates.

When asked to name a characteristic every leader should possess, Meagan replied: "Passion. If a leader is passionate about something, he/she will have a positive attitude, a strong work ethic, advocacy for the issue, and the ability to inspire these qualities in others. This passion should be contagious and spread to others in the organization."

On what each candidate was doing to ensure they continue to grow as a leader, Ed offered: "I am working daily to transfer whatever apparent success I have achieved into an unparallelled success of the community around me. I strive every day to increase my ability to impact community growth.

"People have removed barriers for me, and I will one day measure my success by the number of barriers I was able to remove for others in our community. True leaders will make those around them reach their full potential."

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