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  • Writer's pictureTracy

Why We Ask Why: The Story of VanWhy CoOp

Updated: Jul 7, 2022

Tracy and Chad get their curiosity honest. Tracy’s continuous desire to be an educator literally runs in her veins. While Chad, a marketer and analyst, forever asks “WHY” in his quest to see things from differing perspectives. This is how VanWhy got started, while on one of many road trips to Colorado. And, yes, they do own a van. But, no, the name didn’t originate with a van…

The History of Van Why

Julie Van Why and Family pictured here
Julie Van Why and the Van Why Clan

The six bedroom, four bathroom home where Tracy’s grandmother, Julie Anne Van Why (Sivert) grew up in Winsted, Connecticut, still stands today. Julie, pictured alongside her brothers in the back row, and her family were residents of this home from 1914-. The home is an elegant 3,000 sq.ft. Victorian, with a quaint porch and sizable yard. Mr. Eugene Van Why, Tracy’s great-great grandfather, was the superintendent of The Gilbert Home (now The Gilbert School) at the end of the street. Mr. Van Why would walk up the hill to work, and as stated in several articles, ran the school with love and dedication.

Newspaper clipping of Eugene Van Why, The Gilbert School, Winsted, Connecticut
Eugene Van Why, Director of The Gilbert School

The Gilbert Home was an orphanage, housing students in grades 7-12 who had been left due to financial difficulties, and numerous other circumstances. The home ran during the Great Depression and survived an outbreak of scarlet fever. His wife, Ethel Barteau Van Why, was the first president of the Parent-Teachers Association at the Central High School in Winsted.

Genealogy remains important to Tracy, who grew up listening to her grandmother, Julie, recount her research on the family, telling her that her great-great-great grandfather had been Edgar Allen Poe.*

The Name and The Start of VanWhy CoOp During a period of pre-pandemic travel, Chad desired to begin a passion project. As a result, VanWhy CoOp was born. Using the collective ideas of owning a van, asking why, and the family history of Van Why, Chad and Tracy began VanWhy. The idea of an actual business/company started simply: to share stories of people who are doing life differently than the norm, the CoOp desires to highlight small business owners who are “living the dream,” by sharing their passions: such as creating purpose built hiking and mountain biking trails and inspiring healthy living through a regional, artisanal kombucha product. Our Why Tracy will no doubt forever have her hand in education, and Chad will no doubt forever wonder why. Together, they have written articles, talked with businesses, and trekked into entrepreneurship roles. Currently, Tracy works on small projects within VanWhy CoOp, assisting businesses with graphic design, best practices, website design/development, and business consultation. Her desire is to do meaningful work, helping businesses determine what works best for them in their realms. She calls the people she works with partners, as she simply steps in for a moment to co-work with these businesses, who have already paved the way and done the hard work of building a business. Tracy also works part time teaching Art and World Cultures for Tennessee Connections Academy, where she can fill her love for students and the educational realm. Chad works for a larger corporation as a Director of Marketing, where he designs creative insights, offers analysis, and works to build a successful brand. Chad and Tracy laugh that they now work together on projects, oftentimes, walking into each other’s offices to pontificate which way to take an idea. They are both currently remote workers, and consider their officemates adorable, and yet needy at times.

VanWhy CoOp: Tennessee and Beyond Our goal at VanWhy is to be a community resource offering sustainable** education to the entrepreneur. We work by breaking down key elements of owning a business today, simplifying them and then sharing. We do not want to spend dollars upon dollars to acquire, but instead, we want to personalize the work for you, the business owner. Reach out to get in touch with someone who wants your business to grow, where you are at.

Sources: O’Brian, Joseph. “The Gilbert Home is closed, but those who lived there remember it with love.”, Hartford Courant: Town Courant. 29 Dec 1991, p.5. Accessed 17 Jan 2022.

“William L. Gilbert Home Opened in 1889: Founded by Winsted’s Greatest Benefactor–Cares for and Educates 200 Children.” Winsted Tercentenarian. P. 7-8. 1 Aug 1935. Accessed 17 Jan 2022. “Theodore “Dorie” Van Why.” 27 Jun 2009. Accessed 17 Jan 2022.

*Poe had no children of his own so this story is not entirely correct. Tracy notes that her grandmother found lineage to the Allen’s, the adoptive family of the great author. Her grandmother was convinced it was true, and therefore, Tracy spent much of her life believing it as well. **Sustainable is often a buzz word today, but the desire is that the education that VanWhy CoOp offers remains current, and not fluffy - only what is needed - thus sustainable.

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