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Marketplace Co-op planned for 70-year-old Romney building

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By MARLA PISCIOTTA

For The State Journal

Several officials are supporting a request for a United States Department of Agriculture Rural Business Enterprise Grant that would help complete the Hampshire County Co-Op and Heritage Marketplace.

Supporters include: U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Sen. Don Cookman, D-Hampshire, Delegate Ruth Rowan, R-Hampshire and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.

The grant, written in April, asks the USDA for $50,000 to help with the completion of the renovations that would enable the co-op to fully implement its marketing and business plan conceived in 2011. Expenditures from 2010-2014 when the grant application was mailed were $47,269.60.

The co-op is facilitated through the Romney ON TRAC program. ON TRAC is leasing the building, which is owned by Fort Mill Ridge.

Improvements on the building began with an $8,000 Flex-E-Grant from the West Virginia Development Office for $8,000 matched by Romney ON TRAC with $2,000. That grant money was used to create a business design and implementation plan.

Most of the building has been rewired, air condition systems have been placed on the roof and a new bathroom has been installed. The old wooden floors have been cleaned, sanded, stained and will remain in the building. Numerous walls and shelving units, original to the building, have been repainted. Hampshire High School carpentry students built an entrance ramp on the side of the building for easy handicap access. A platform to be used as a stage also is in the planning stages.

The new grant, if received, will cover upgrade to the electric service, ceiling fans, insulation, security cameras, tables, chairs and other essentials such as office equipment.

In the past month a group of artisans and business people have met and formed the Friends of the Co-op. The “friends” will be forming an advisory board, a jurying committee and fundraising committee to support the co-op.

Local businesswoman Patty Anderson is the facilitator of the FOTC.

“We hope this will be a wonderful place for tourists to visit,” she said. “The co-op will house artisans and farmers.”

Anderson said one of the highlights of the co-op, once completed, will be showcasing different local artists, book authors and musicians.

“We hope to have historic fireside chats with local historians and lighten the atmosphere with good music,” Anderson said.

So far Anderson said the FOTC has more than 50 people interested in becoming members. Monthly membership will cost $20. Call 304-822-4285 for details about membership.

Anderson said once the co-op is complete, the organization will look for other empty buildings to revitalize.

“Our plans are to revitalize downtown,” she said.

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