[Arielle Lyons | WOUB]

Athens businesses are serving up “Berry Specials” for Mt. Zion Baptist Church fundraiser

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — If you shopped or ate at any local businesses this week, you may have noticed a pattern among a few berry products.

Across town, several businesses are selling “Berry Specials” for this week only. Things like blueberry pancakes, wild cherry berry ice cream and even Berry-themed notecards can be found in several businesses in Athens. All of these specials are to celebrate the legacy of Edward “Ed” and Martha “Mattie” Berry, the owners of the once world-famous Berry Hotel on Court Street.

The hotel was torn down in 1974, but the history and legacy did not die.

In 2004, a historic landmark was put where the hotel once stood — where HangOverEasy Diner now stands — and the day the sign was unveiled, May 23, is now known as “Berry Day.”

For Mt. Zion Preservation Society, however, the celebration lasts all week.

Like the Berry Hotel, Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Athens was once an important landmark for Black culture and history and has since deteriorated. Unlike the Berry Hotel, the church is still standing. Members of the Mt. Zion Preservation Society, like Dr. Trevellya “Tee” Ford-Ahmed, plan to restore the church and turn it back into a thriving Black cultural center. Part of that plan is to restore the iconic stained-glass windows, and that’s where Berry Day Week comes in.

[Ahmed Hamed | WOUB]
[Ahmed Hamed | WOUB]
[Ahmed Hamed | WOUB]
[Ahmed Hamed | WOUB]
[Ahmed Hamed | WOUB]
[Ahmed Hamed | WOUB]
[Ahmed Hamed | WOUB]
[Ahmed Hamed | WOUB]

“Edward and Mattie Berry was probably the most famous Black Americans in the late 1800s, early 1900s, who had opened a hotel, nonetheless,” Ford-Ahmed said. “You know, Black Americans owning a hotel? Which presidents visited, movie stars … all of them came and stayed at this hotel. It was very, very famous and well-known throughout the country.”

Ford-Ahmed said a younger member of the Preservation Society’s board noted that Berry Day could be a perfect way to raise money to restore Mt. Zion’s stained-glass windows. So, the two women approached as many local businesses as they could and asked them to create these specials, the proceeds of which would go toward the windows.

“We have about 13 organizations or businesses participating in Berry Day Week, and it’s just wonderful,” Ford-Ahmed said. “They’re contributing to our effort to save the most precious piece of this edifice, and that’s the stained-glass windows.”

Brenen’s Coffee Cafe is offering raspberry lemon muffins and raspberry oatmeal bars as its Berry Specials. [Ahmed Hamed | WOUB]
Many of the participating businesses were excited to help educate the community about the Berrys. Jessica Lonberger, assistant manager of HangOver Easy — which is selling blueberry pancakes —  was happy to honor the hotel where the diner once stood. Geoffery West, owner of Bam & Bros barbershop — which is giving blueberry facials — shared her sentiments.

“I thought it was a pretty awesome thing,” West said. “I thought it was a great way to bring awareness to the Berry Hotel.”

A few more examples of the specials you might find are muffins and oatmeal bars from Brenen’s Coffee Cafe, smoothies from Kindred Market and a special flavor of ice cream at Whit’s Frozen Custard.

If these specials sound tempting, you’re not alone in that thought. Ford-Ahmed said restoring Mt. Zion’s windows isn’t the only reason you should purchase these specials. The other reason?

“Because they taste good.”

The full list of specials can be found here. They are available until Saturday.