Youngstown group encouraging people to shop local with open house event

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The group is called Growing Elm Street

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A Youngstown neighborhood initiative group is encouraging people to shop local.

The group is called Growing Elm Street.

On Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., eight newly renovated businesses along Elm Street hosted a holiday open house. They came together to offer special deals.

“You wouldn’t put $100 in a paper envelope and mail it off to Bentonville, Arkansas, but when you shop at Walmart, that’s basically what you’re doing,” said Jim Converse of Common Wealth, Inc.

Common Wealth, Inc. is a local economic developed group who bought and renovated businesses on this strip of Elm Street.

Converse says since his company is a non-profit, both store owners and shoppers benefit.

“Out community is basically our shareholders. Instead of paying out to investors, we invest it back into the community itself. That’s one of the ways nonprofits can really be a tool in this kind of wacky economy,” Converse said.

Three years ago, Sue Payton decided to help bring back a failed cafe on Elm Street. Now called Cultivate: a co-op cafe, the store sells local produce like eggs, drinks and more.

Their goal is to fill a food desert in the community.

“We participate in nutrition prescription programs and snap double up programs so that we can really hit the people in the neighborhood,” said Payton.

The cafe’s kitchen doubles as a kitchen incubator–a commercial kitchen that can be used to get prospective businesses off the ground.

Currently, up to 15 cooks a week use the facility.

“Many businesses go broken within the first six months because they spend all their money on rent and equipment. In this case, you pay a small amount for space and a small amount of rent for equipment,” Converse said.

The Elm Street Diner also uses the incubator from time to time.

“We’ve actually had a couple meal prepping groups that started here and are now out in their own space,” said Payton.

Each business works together to maximize their reach.

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