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Steve Taig (L), David Marks and Rob Hartzler

A crowd of Elkhart-area business people converged for a Friday evening (Sept. 15) reception at the downtown offices of TaigMarks Inc. (TM) that included The Vine’s hors d’oeuvres, a few rounds of karaoke and an intriguing historical tour of the 1890’s-era building into which the marketing and public relations agency moved some 15 years ago.

In fact, saluting the downtown’s turnaround and the agency’s own South Main Street building, rumored to have been haunted, was the crux of the civic-minded gathering as the nearly 20-year-old firm has been an outspoken downtown booster for years.

“We’re having this event because 15 years ago, in July, we moved downtown because of the desire to be in the middle of a city that was beginning to care for its downtown,” said Steve Taig, president and principal owner of the agency that currently represents an array of RV-related companies. “We actually got the first development grant that the city of Elkhart had given out to help us move here. So, we were sort of on the leading edge of helping downtown rebuild itself. Fifteen years ago, downtown Elkhart was a mess. It was all closed. Empty storefronts. There were no apartments upstairs. There was pretty much nothing down here.”

But much of that has changed, explained David Marks, Taig’s former partner and creative director now in retirement, who was on hand for Friday’s reception. An ardent bicyclist and occasional TM consultant, Marks said that TaigMarks had the foresight to buy and gut the building – actually four adjacent structures previously occupied by a vacant stationary store – long before an investment in downtown Elkhart was a fashionable thing to do.

Now looking back, “a lot of companies moved in after us,” said Taig, whose 12-employee firm provides a wide spectrum of digital, print, PR, event management and trade show support marketing services for a client roster including WFCO Electronics, Truma, Carefree of Colorado, Dexter Axle, Dicor Corp., Dehco Inc., KIB Electronics, Ziggity Systems Inc., Champion Manufacturing Inc. and Nation Tank & Trailer as well as a some non-profit organizations such as the Community Foundation of Elkhart.

“We were an anchor for the downtown revitalization project,” said Rob Hartzler, a 14-year employee named vice president and director of creative engagement late last year. “So, TaigMarks, Steve and Dave, came in here and revamped it. As you can see, it’s quite an artistic and cool place to work.”

“Elkhart’s doing some very nice things in the downtown area, which are improving things,” added Taig. “The Aquatic Center is going to make a big difference to the area. It’s not built yet, but it will be, and the downtown here keeps going through changes as part of a gradual and steady improvement.”