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'This is how we change communities.' Clifton co-op takes shape

The Clifton Crafthouse co-op on the corner of Clay Street and Route 343.
Alejandro Figueroa
/
WYSO
The Clifton Crafthouse co-op on the corner of Clay Street and Route 343.

The Clifton Crafthouse Co-op recently kicked off its concept market space. That’s for members to teach classes or sell products they make. It also received a $350 thousand dollar USDA rural business development grant, and now, it's looking to expand its members.

The Clifton Crafthouse co-op will be a member-owned tap room in a historic general store in the village of Clifton.

On top of being a planned tap room, the 1,800 square foot space will also be a community room, shared commercial kitchen space and affordable artist housing.

Piper Fernwey, the managing director of the co-op, said a huge need exists for spaces like these in rural communities.

“We just don't have the spaces for small businesses to succeed,” Fernwey said. “And it's because there aren't the resources that people need to succeed and the few resources there are, are in urban areas.”

The co-op is a project in partnership with Co-op Dayton, the nonprofit that launched the Gem City Market in northwest Dayton in 2021.

The Crafthouse incorporated as a co-op in September 2021. In that time frame, it amassed nearly 60 member-owners, received a USDA Rural Development business grant of over $350,000, and in late September opened its concept space, the Creators Market Space.

The market space is a small building just behind the bigger historical general store. It models what the bigger space will eventually become once the co-op raises enough money to fix it up.

The Market Space is lined with shelves for member-owners to display their products. It’s also a workshop space for local instructors to teach classes like soap making, art or yoga. There’s also plans to build a shared kitchen commercial space with a separate $40,000 grant.

Clifton Mayor Alex Beiri said in a statement he’s looking forward to seeing the crafthouse take shape.

“This is an ambitious project that seeks to revitalize a piece of the historic town
center in Clifton,” he said. “It is especially encouraging that the development model has been created by people and for people that have a stake in it.”

Fernway said the co-op model is one that benefits all business types, including small food businesses or farmers looking for a space to produce value-added products like pickled vegetables or jams.

“This is how we change communities, and especially as a project based on meeting community needs in such a diverse array of business,” Ferwey said. “Otherwise you don't have that resilience, that adaptability to meet the needs now, but also be able to shift and change with the needs of the future.”

The plan with the USDA money is to build up the operational capacity of the co-op, like hiring staff, do membership outreach, and raise enough funds to eventually fix up the old building.

Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Support for WYSO's reporting on food and food insecurity in the Miami Valley comes from the CareSource Foundation.

Alejandro Figueroa covers food insecurity and the business of food for WYSO through Report for America — a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Alejandro particularly covers the lack of access to healthy and affordable food in Southwest Ohio communities, and what local government and nonprofits are doing to address it. He also covers rural and urban farming