River + Road Marketplace
A Tribe of Women-Owned Businesses Hit their Stride in Huron
A gift shop, a lunch stop, a maker’s haven? – proprietor Lea Wechter most often thinks of River + Road Marketplace as her happy place. The newly opened marketplace in Huron, Ohio has just the comfortable, inviting feel she had hoped for when she started assembling a creative team of entrepreneurs to maximize use of the retail space adjacent to Lea’s coffee shop, Gathering Grounds.  

Lea is one of the pioneering entrepreneurs who have enlivened Main Street Huron over the last few years. Creating a cohesive, engaging neighborhood in downtown Huron has been a priority of city administration and residents alike since the City’s visioning process a few years ago. Gathering Grounds opened in the early stage of this movement and just celebrated their sixth-year anniversary.

Lea’s been a champion of her small town and fellow entrepreneurs ever since opening Gathering Grounds. That’s why the economic repercussions of COVID-19 were particularly troublesome to her. With events and festivals closed down, the makers and creatives Lea had befriended over the years had lost the most critical sales channel for building their businesses. Even with the rise of online shopping, people are most often introduced to a business and make their first purchase in-person where there’s an opportunity to see and experience the wares. Lea had seen this firsthand over her years in Huron by hosting frequent pop-up shops in the coffee shop and being one of the primary organizers behind the popular Lake Front Market hosted by Huron Chamber of Commerce.

When the height of the pandemic was being felt this April, Lea sat down with a team of her favorite creators to find a way through, and the River + Road Marketplace was born. Five fellow female entrepreneurs immediately signed on, committing to supply mixed goods to the marketplace: Treats from Bake Erie, earrings, furnishing, and other gifts from Paper Kite Creations, clothing from Fancy Me Boutique, fresh flowers from Sweet Pea Flower Truck, and healthy snacks from Maca Root Juice Bar & Eatery became the founding ingredients of River + Road. The marketplace would serve as a supplemental location for these entrepreneurs to make up for sales lost through pandemic closures and restrictions.
Fast Facts
  • Flowers + food + fashion - hundreds of ways to brighten your day have just arrived at this mixed goods Marketplace in Huron
  • 7 out of 10 people think that gifts bought at an independent retailer are more personal than gifts bought at a mass retailer
  • If you spend $100 at a local business, roughly $68 stays within your local economy (compare to $43 at a non-local business)
Lea’s commitment was to transforming her retail space and making room for the other creators in a modest 1,000 square feet. A host of cosmetic upgrades and tens of thousands in new investment leave the marketplace looking quite different than its former office use. Displays crafted or up-cycled by Rachael Summerfield, owner of Paper Kite Creations and Lea’s sister, create a unique and homey experience.

It’s important to Lea and the other founding entrepreneurs that you find something new each time you visit. Shoppers can expect to find the goods or foods they showcase ever changing. The first quarter of 2021 will bring an announcement of newly featured vendors at the Marketplace. Lea’s excited to grow their offerings of men’s items. Apparel items currently stocked pay tribute to the female tribe of founders, but patrons of all kinds are enjoying cocktail mixers and the increasingly popular made-to-order charcuterie and brunch boards.

The River + Road Marketplace has opened to the public just last month, and Lea’s been grateful for the overwhelming support of patrons in Huron and north central Ohio already. With just a few more days to shop this holiday season, now’s the perfect time for your first look at 404 Main Street, Huron.
Did You Know?
Partnerships can be an efficient and effective way to grow your business, but they can also introduce new complexities in legal, finances, human resources and marketing. Our team of RISE business advisors have assisted many new, small, and mid-sized companies wade through this in crafting appropriate operating agreements and standard operating procedures. Schedule a one-on-one appointment with RISE advisors this January to discuss your avenues for growth.
Stay Tuned for Day 11: AkzoNobel
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The 12 Days of Development email series recognizes and celebrates another year of progress in Erie County, Ohio. Throughout the weeks of December, you will receive email spotlights on a company investing, improving and innovating in our community. We can't capture it all, so let us know a neighbor we missed or what activities you've got planned to make the 2021 list! #ErieCounty12Days