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When transactions turn into transformations

When transactions turn into transformations

By Todd Travis

Happy little accidents

On more than one occasion, Jerry Vornholt, a longtime Hendricks County resident, has seen every day business transactions transform into unexpected opportunities. Vornholt has served as a commercial real estate broker in Hendricks County for 31 years now, and has made a habit of picking up investment properties along the way. Two of those properties, in particular, held more value than Vornholt had bargained for, and provided him with “accidental” twists of good fortune.

Of course, it takes someone like Vornholt, who is brave enough to step into the unknown, to experience these happy little “accidents.”

The first of these transactions happened back in 2008 when Vornholt picked up a 15-acre property in Danville for investment purposes. The previous owner had been trying to sell with little success and was willing to accept the offer Vornholt made on the property.

“The sellers came to me and asked if I wanted to buy it, so I gave them a number and they said ‘Ok, we’ll sell it,’ and I was like wow! As we were cleaning that property up, my wife and I, with three kids at the time, started to ask ourselves if we should just move into the house. So in 2008, we ‘accidentally’ moved to Danville,” Vornholt laughed.

Getting in the newspaper business

The next transaction has a little more backstory, but also served as the backbone for a change that would begin a whole new chapter for Vornholt. It all started with a bit of curiosity and some mystery regarding The Republican newspaper. Vornholt knew some of the history of the paper, which included being owned by the Weezner family since 1934. What he didn’t know at the time, was who inherited the paper after the passing of Betty Weezner, who had no children.

He “accidentally” found out one day when he was inquiring about an advertisement in the paper, since he was the president of the Hendricks Civic Theater at the time. 

“I popped in to ask about an ad, and while I was there I mentioned that I would be willing to help if the paper was in trouble in some way. I meant this more in a civic way than anything. Her response caught me off guard. She said the owner of the building and the paper lives in New Zealand, and is looking to sell,” Vornholt recalled.

“As we negotiated terms for the sale of the building, I found that the seller, Kim Golden, was not only wanting to sell the building, but the newspaper as well. I didn’t want to see the paper go, since I knew it had been around for 175 years. So before I knew it, boom, I was buying the newspaper as well.”

Catching the bug

For a while, Vornholt was happy to let the editor, Betty Bartley, continue to run the paper, as she had been doing masterfully for years. But he had the thought in the back of his mind that there was something interesting about being involved with the publication. Little by little, he began to start making his own contributions to the paper, and before he knew it, he was hooked.

“So I started slowly getting involved and writing some stories, and then I started writing a column every week, and I don’t know why I did that because now I was writing every week, and I came to enjoy it,” Vornholt joked.

Vornholt’s appetite for publishing continued to be wetted as he got more involved with the publication and began seeing its value in the community. One particular event really impacted him while he was attending a Black Lives Matter rally. He saw a man with a bullet-proof vest and a rifle in hand, and nervously decided to approach him. The man insisted he didn’t want to answer any questions until Vornholt mentioned that he was with the Republican. Surprisingly, the man suddenly opened up and began to talk. 

“That’s when a switch flipped. It was just one of those events that occurred which fascinated me about this business,” Vornholt mentioned.

Growing into his role

While his entrance into the newspaper business was unplanned, publishing the Republican has become one of Vornholt’s passions, along with his involvement in commercial real estate. One of his goals is to provide unbiased coverage on local topics by giving a voice to both sides. One way he has gone about accomplishing this is through his Start Talking series, where he allows one person on either side of the political spectrum to respectfully defend their views on major issues. He wants his readers to hear points from opposing stances, and to think for themselves.

The Republican has been quite an adventure for Vornholt, and the “accidental” discovery only proves that you never know what you’ll find in life until you ask the curious questions and seek out the mystery. Today, Vornholt continues to see, more and more, how important local newspapers are and how they help the community. That’s no accident.

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