By Burton Speakman
There was a flurry of activity as people worked to get everything ready for the Thursday opening of a mostly Amish market in Boardman.
Ron Cohen, owner of The Valley Marketplace, said there is still a little fine-tuning going on, and a few of the companies that lease space said they just received equipment in the past couple of days. Of the 30 shops at the market, 28 are owned by Amish, Cohen said.
The market is at 6121 South Ave., next to the former location of Pat Catan’s in Mathews Square shopping center.
The idea for the market was part of a family tradition for Cohen. Unlike a traditional market, there are several separate vendors including a smokehouse, meat market, ice cream shop, soft-pretzel maker, crafts, furniture, doughnuts, art and other items that staff separate storefronts within the market.
“I didn’t come up with this wonderful idea by myself. My grandfather started a market like this just outside of Philadelphia in 1931,” Cohen said. “There’s always been a lot of Amish involved in that market.”
After moving to the area three years ago, Cohen said he contemplated bringing the idea here and decided to travel to Middlefield and started knocking on doors.
Cohen would then go to the Amish shops and see if anyone was interested in being involved with his planned market, he said. Then there were meetings in the Amish community to continue to generate interest.
“After two years of work, it has now come to fruition,” Cohen said.
The strength of the market is that most of the food items are being made fresh on site, he said.
“They’re also not trying to provide the cheapest product, but they do want to provide the best quality,” Cohen said.
Ivan Bender was one of the first Amish approached by Cohen. Bender has a bakery in Burton.
“We had been selling our products in farmers markets so our business was very seasonal. We were really busy in the summer and had a fraction of the business in the winter,” Bender said. “I was looking for an opportunity for a bakery to operate year- round.”
The vendors are still wondering what to expect from the new market, he said.
Uria Schlabach of Middle- field remained nervous heading into the first day for his Our House restaurant. A few weeks ago, Schlabach was still working as a roofer.
He had heard about the market through a friend and started attending meetings but wasn’t really sure what type of shop to open, he said.
“I’d never run a restaurant before, but part of my inspiration was my two sisters. They’re both deaf,” Schlabach said. “They’re good workers and thought this would be a better environment for them to work in.”
The opening of the market is going to be a huge challenge for all the vendors involved, he said.
“There will be some bumps in the road,” Schlabach said. “But we’re doing this because we believe it’s what God wants us to do.”
One of the few stores not owned by the Amish is Imagine That Emporium. Its owner, Jen Krezeczowski, got involved with the project because she knew someone involved in the market’s planning.
“I thought it would be a good fit,” she said.
Her store sells items from artists living in Northeast Ohio including paintings, jewelry and other items, Krezeczowski said.
“This is my second store,” she said. “I hope to grow it based on what [products the] customers want.“
The market is open three days a week — Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.