small businesses

The second and third generations of the Stalder family of cheesemakers: John Stalder and Chuck Ellis stand behind Grace Stalder and Sally

The big cheese

For Swiss immigrants Ernest and Gertrude Stalder, 1937 was an important year. Not only was their son John born, but a new rural electric cooperative began powering their business, Pearl Valley Cheese, in eastern Coshocton County.

For the Stalders, cheese is more than a business — it’s a lifestyle that has endured for four generations. John and his wife, Grace, took over the factory during the 1960s, and though they’re now octogenarians, they lend a hand there practically every day. The couple also raised four daughters — Ruth Ann, Sally, Heidi, and Trudy — who, along with their spouses and offspring, have helped to make cheese and run the plant in various ways over the years.  

Bess Paper Goods & Gifts, Cincinnati

Ohio Cooperative Living's 2022 Holiday Gift Guide

Granted, Santa’s workshop is at the North Pole. But we think his helpers must live in Ohio. Why?

Bess Paper Goods & Gifts, Cincinnati

At her West Benson Street shop, Kristin Joiner not only designs the artwork and composes witty messages — for example, “Happy Ugly Sweater Season” — for her Christmas and Hanukkah cards, but she also prints them one at a time on an 1882 letterpress named Bess. Joiner uses paper sustainably made from recycled cotton, and her repertoire of handmade goods includes ornaments and miniature paper trees. 
kristin@besspapergoods.com; 513-748-6955

Laurelville Fruit Farm sign

Cider season

It was the antics of a wily and very hungry fox that serendipitously led to the creation of an apple-growing enterprise and cider mill that are still going strong more than a century later.

“My dad took over the farm after World War II,” he says, “and growing up in the ’60s, I remember working my tail off to help out. Some of my high school friends and I would get up at 5 o’clock in the morning and make a thousand gallons of cider before school started, and then jug it when we got home. But it was fun, we didn’t think of it as work.”

The display at Ormandy’s Toys and Trains delights visitors during the Candlelight Walk and throughout the season.

Merry and bright

Candles have symbolized the Christmas season for centuries, but how many places become merry and bright because they’re the home of a company that produces millions of candles every year?

Featuring traditional Yuletide activities such as a parade and visits with Santa, the Candlelight Walk attracts about 50,000 people every year. With genuine candlelight charm and a picture-perfect setting, the event exemplifies the glad tidings of small-town America, and it’s easy to imagine George Bailey shouting “Merry Christmas!” to folks on the square or the Gilmore Girls joining in the caroling at the gazebo. Indeed, says Sam, “Visitors often tell us, ‘I feel like I’m in a Hallmark movie.’” 

A crowd watching the fireworks show

Having a blast!

What started out as a little backyard celebration just outside the village of Fletcher in Miami County nearly 20 years ago has evolved into an event that everyone can enjoy. 

Even their “humble” beginning wasn’t all that insignificant; the event drew between 100 and 150 agricultural business contacts, family, friends, and neighbors. But now, the event has grown to several thousand in attendance — and that doesn’t even include those who watch the show from neighboring private parties or from safe parking spots nearby.

“Ultimately, we do this to make people happy, especially those in our community,” Mike says. “You don’t do this for the money — you do this because you want to make those people happy. That, to me, is the challenge.”

Pence family

Popping along

One of Michael Pence’s earliest memories dates to the 1950s, when he traveled to the Indiana State Fair with his parents to sell popcorn. He was only 5 years old at the time — but his daughter, Leslie, got her start in the family’s mobile concessionaire business at an even younger age.

Pence’s Concessions originated in 1902, when Michael’s grandfather, Clarence Pence, started selling popcorn and peanuts from a pushcart at state fairs. Michael’s father, Don Pence, continued the business in home-built trailers that he towed to fairs and festivals. “My dad didn’t get a manufactured trailer until 1957,” recalls Michael. “I still have that trailer, but it doesn’t travel anymore because we use it for making candy.” In the 1980s, Michael decided to make the company’s concession trailers pink and green.

Alpaca-shorn yarns

Spring yarns

When a young woman approached Robbie and Carrie Davis about making the yarn for her wedding shawl, they readily obliged. The bride-to-be wanted the yarn to contain fleece from a specific alpaca, so they created an alpaca-silk blend especially for her.

A cria is a baby alpaca, and the farm’s name was inspired by the couple’s years of alpaca industry experience. They acquired their first alpacas in 2006 and soon began breeding and showing the animals at fairs with help from their son, Jessie, who is now 20 and an aviation technology student at Sinclair Community College. Alpacas don’t shed, so Robbie and Carrie became adept at shearing. 

Jason Duff

Renewal and restoration

Jason Duff stood in the middle of the crumbling, mostly abandoned downtown area of his hometown, Bellefontaine, and saw what everyone else saw.
 

Unlike many others, though, he was able to look past the despair and see potential. Instead of heading to the brighter lights of bigger, more prosperous Midwestern cities, Duff decided to make a difference. He enlisted friends who shared his vision and his can-do attitude — along with plenty of talents and skills — and built a team to rebuild and revive their hometown.