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Commuters Trade Time In Transit For A Taste Of Rural Life

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The historic downtown of Martinsburg, W.V. hosts a range of small businesses, though some storefronts remain vacant.
Tara Boyle
The historic downtown of Martinsburg, W.V. hosts a range of small businesses, though some storefronts remain vacant.

South Queen Street in downtown Martinsburg, W.V. feels almost like a movie set of small-town America. There's a chocolate shop, a bistro, and an old-fashioned pharmacy with a soda fountain.

"The amenities are all here," says George Karos, mayor of Martinsburg and the owner of the aforementioned pharmacy, Patterson's Drug Store. "[We've got] a small-town location, the real estate taxes are extremely low... the services are excellent, they have an excellent city fire department, EMT services."

But this once rural corner of the West Virginia panhandle is slowly becoming more suburban, Karos says. Hundreds of people take the commuter train from this and other West Virginia towns into the District every day, and many others drive into the Washington area.

Jann Logan is one of them. She works at Montgomery College in Rockville, and she and her husband moved to Hedgesville, W.V. in 1995. She hasn't regretted the move, despite a commute that runs anywhere from two to four hours each way.

"We're back in a secluded little part of heaven," says Logan. "It's just a different kind of life up there, it's a lot slower, and so we made the move."

Officials in Berkeley County, which includes Martinsburg and Hedgesville, say more than 12 percent of residents work in the Washington suburbs. That statistic doesn't even include workers who trek all the way into the city.

And Mayor Karos says he expects those numbers to grow in the future.

"We still have that so-called home brewed mentality at times," he says, "But yeah, we have changed."

[Music: "Runnin' Down a Dream" by Lullabye Players from Lullabye Tribute to Tom Petty]

Photos: Martinsburg, W.V.

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