Have you thought about Elkhart's Gateway Mile?

Columnist Richard Leib raises some questions about the new initiative.

Posted on Aug. 2, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.

Editor’s note: The byline on this story incorrectly listed Marshall V. King as the author. Richard Leib penned this column. We apologize for the error.


Have you given the new “Gateway Mile” logo for the re-branded downtown of Elkhart much thought?

Have you given it any thought?

If you’re unsure of what I’m talking about, I’ll describe it.

The graphic is shaded bronze in color with white lettering, and it looks a bit like a highway sign or a historical marker. It has a small “THE” above a medium-sized “GATEWAY” above a giant “MILE” above a teeny “ELKHART.” Some ads are appearing. But if you still don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re not alone.

When I first saw the logo, I wondered why the word “ELKHART” was so small. I wasn’t sure about the “MILE” part. And I really wondered what the word “GATEWAY” was all about.

I thought I’d get the opinions of a few people I know. I showed them the logo and asked what they thought “Gateway” meant. They said they didn’t have a clue.

“Gateway to the Toll Road?” my friend Lipton offered. I think he was kidding, but with him, I’m never sure.

I thought, “This needs some lookin’ into.” So I took a couple of days and asked some questions.

I asked more than thirty people. People on the street, people in stores, shopkeepers, RiverWalk walkers, tourists, bank tellers, factory workers, even a bunch of out-of-town bikers who I caught in a parking lot while they were studying a map. Nada.

A couple of storekeepers said they were familiar with the logo, but no one had any clue as to what was meant by “Gateway.” One young woman studied the image for a while, struggling to say nice things. “Well,” she said, “the colors are nice. They’re soft and classy. Yes, they’ve done that right.”

Finally I went to the Elkhart County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau to ask about it. The first person I talked to misspoke and called it “The Miracle Mile.” “You mean the “Gateway Mile,” I said.

“Oops, sorry,” he said. “Let me get you someone who can help you.” And he did. The person I next talked to was completely familiar with the effort to re-brand Elkhart’s unique downtown area. She explained the thinking behind the “Gateway Mile” concept to me. It’s approximately one mile from the spectacular Wellfield Gardens to the New York Central Railroad Museum. And that downtown mile is being promoted as being a “gateway” to many diverse experiences that are all in a walkable, easy-to-get-to area.

Starting at Wellfield Botanic Gardens, there is Ruthmere Museum, Havilah Beardsley House, the Riverwalk, the fabulous Lerner Theater, downtown eateries, retail stores, the Midwest Museum of American Art, the N.Y.C. Railroad Museum, and more.

I told myself I needed to try to improve my attitude about the symbol. But I expressed the opinion that I thought the word “Gateway” was an awkward choice.

“Just give it some time,” I was told. “There will be lots of promotion.”

“Fair enough,” I thought.

And how about including an informational mailing to downtown businesses so they all fully aware understand the concept? And particularly it should explain what is trying to be conveyed by the word “Gateway.” Maybe there should be a contest of some sort. Maybe a contest of Gateway Mile-themed photos? Or maybe, as usual, I’m over-thinking this.

Probably, as I was told, “I should just give it some time.” In any event, now I know all about it. And so do you.

Former Elkhart furniture store owner Richard Leib served on planning committees in several industries. An avoid auto fan, he raced in the 1972 coast-to-coast Cannonball Run.


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