Connecting trails, connecting people, creating history
by Melissa Gillespie
A fluke is as an unlikely chance occurrence. A fluke is not something that is planned or even thought of. A fluke is how Bill Sutterlin found Matewan.
A lover of mountains, dirt bikes, trail riding and history, nine years ago, the Chicago native stumbled upon the place he now calls home.
Each year, Bill and his friends would head out west to ride. They would race all across Colorado, Montana and Utah. They got a late start one season and because of particularly heavy snow, their usual route was out of the question. One of the riders suggested a trip to southern West Virginia, where trails wound through the hills of historic towns.
“Originally, we were headed to Williamson,” says Bill. “But we saw a sign on 65 that said Matewan and said, ‘Ah! What the hell. Let’s check it out.’”
They were riding down Mate St., the town’s main strip, when the owner of the Matewan Bed & Breakfast flagged down the group. He asked where they were from and more importantly, where they were staying. With no plans or reservations made, they decided to park their bikes at the B&B.
Riding on two wheels down Mate St. and off to the trails, Bill saw a vacant building and the wheels in his brain started spinning just as fast as the wheels on his bike.
“I was always looking for little properties and I was always looking around for things, even out west,” says Bill. “I like historic towns. There was a nice atmosphere and it reminded me of some towns out west.”
Bill made some calls and tried his best to purchase his first building in Matewan. His dream was to turn it into an inn where riders could come and stay during their visits. It took some time for the sale to finalize, so Bill stayed in Chicago and continued working and designing machinery. Once the sale went through, Bill packed up his things and moved down to Matewan to begin working hard on his new business venture.
“It was risky,” says Bill. “But I thought it had potential and [the building] was just sitting there.”
His goal was to open up a bar/restaurant with an attached inn where he could accommodate large groups of people. He changed the layout and renovated the entire building himself. The bar/restaurant area is still under renovation, but he was able to complete the inn section. With the inn having a total of four rooms and 16 beds, it is perfect for the large groups of riders Bill is expecting this spring with the slated opening of a connecting trail, another project he has been working on.
Bill has been able to target a niche market by using the trails. He is a rider of dual sport bikes, known to the commoner as a dirt bike. These bikes run the best on single-track trails. They are different from the other Hatfield McCoy trails that cater mostly to ATVs.
“I enjoy talking to them, catering to them and helping them plan their rides,” says Bill.
There are two main trailheads that are close to Matewan. The Buffalo Mountain Trails, which are a few hundred yards from the Blue Goose and serve the Matewan, Williamson and Delbarton areas. And further out, the Rock House Trails serving Gilbert and Man.
These trails do not connect. There is no way to get from one system to the other and Bill saw that as a problem. He knew that it was restricting the visitors that came in to town and how long they would stay. Bill has been working hard to establish a connecting trail between these two systems and will finally see it come to fruition this spring.
The connecting trail will be named “Devil Anse,” paying homage to the Hatfield family patriarch during the Hatfield McCoy feud. The Buffalo Mountain trailhead will be re-named the Devil Anse trailhead come spring. When the connecting trail opens, Matewan’s visitors will be directly connected to over 300 miles of trails via the Devil Anse trailhead.
“The history has to go with it too,” says Bill. “It gives you a reason to come here besides just the trails. My goal is to fill other hotels with my trail expansions and share the towns history.”
Since Bill has purchased and renovated the Blue Goose Inn he has also purchased two other buildings that are neighboring storefronts to the Blue Goose. He has plans to renovate both buildings, which will give his bar/restaurant more seating and also allow him to accommodate more guests with expanded lodging. He has also been working on street bike rides for Harley Davidsons and adventure riders, which he thinks he will be able to get a better handle on once the trail-and his bar-open in the spring.
Bill has also been working hard to better his community by joining the Matewan Branding Committee with three other community members. The committee is working closely with a student branding team from West Virginia University to create a branding plan for the town, in hopes to increase tourism and stimulate economic development in the long term.
“It’s a blessing. It’s wonderful actually,” says Bill. “The town needs an anchor and I’m hoping to make this an anchor for the town. One of the main places to be.”