#HomeGrownStories – March

Our March #HomeGrownStories are on The Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau’s blog! I’m excited to share these small glimpses into life in Miami County with you. My community is a wonderful place to live and a great place to visit! The folks I interviewed in March are business owners, community leaders and big fans of Miami County. What I enjoyed most about this month’s interviews was learning why each person loves Miami County.

I wanted to share some snippets of our interviews with you – but be sure to read the full interviews (and check out more photos) on The Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau’s blog! Continue to follow our series for more stories and share them with your friends, family, and neighbors using #HomeGrownStories.



#HomeGrownStories – Lorna Swisher

Lorna Swisher, originally from Zimbabwe, Africa, has lived in Miami County for the past 31 years. She is the long-time director of Mainstreet Piqua, a non-profit organization that focuses on the development and promotion of downtown Piqua. Lorna works with local business owners to help them pursue their own version of the American Dream and loves the people of Miami County.

Why she loves Miami County:
The people. I guess you call them midwestern values, whatever they are, I love the people. I love how caring they are and friendly they are. I think that you could probably stop and talk to just about anybody for any length of time and have a great conversation with somebody. I love the scenery as well. I spent most of my time here in Piqua and I live in Tipp City now. I am blessed every day to drive almost the entire length of the county to come to work. I just love the scenery and the people.

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#HomeGrownStories – Lindsay Woodruff

Lindsay Woodruff is a Tipp City graduate and world traveler. In November 2015, she opened a fair trade store called Pachamama Market in downtown Troy. The store features colorful clothing, jewelry, accessories and gifts that are all fair trade, handmade and eco-friendly. Customers can find beautifully handcrafted items for their home, or gifts for friends and family and know that their purchase will help alleviate global poverty and promote sustainability.

Why she loves Miami County:
Everyone here is just so kind. There’s something very comforting about living in a small town where you know your neighbors and you know you can count on them to take care of you and you can take care of them. Raising our kids in that kind of environment; they know so much love here and that’s really what we wanted for them. There was a young woman, a wife, and mother, in my town that passed away unexpectedly. I was at some sort of community event that evening and a friend of mine was crying and five or six other people came and put their arms around her and somebody walked up to me and said, “Who did we lose?” Just hearing that “Who did we lose,” it was just an amazing reminder of how we all belong to each other here. There’s an amazing quote from Mother Teresa, that “we belong to each other,” we really do live that here.

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#HomeGrownStories – Ryan King

Ryan King is a Piqua High School graduate who has lived in Piqua his entire life. He and his wife, Amanda, also a PHS graduate, share a passion for running. In December 2013, Ryan and Amanda opened a running store called Can’t Stop Running Company (CSRC) on Main Street in downtown Piqua. CSRC received a lot of community support as it was opening and the business continues that spirit of support by offering many community running and walking events. The store features running shoes, clothing and gear to both improve a runner’s pace and help soothe sore muscles.

Why he loves Miami County:
When we were deciding to do business here what it really came down to is the fact that I want to do business with my friends. That’s what Miami County is for us. This is our home, this is where we know the people, we know the personalities and we know the likes and dislikes of the people. We’ve noticed when working in partnership with stores in major metropolitan that the community isn’t as connected as this community is. Our connection is a key thing. We have a stronger connection to the people who are in our shop, the people that are doing business with us and the people that are out there accomplishing their goals. It’s very rewarding, with running particularly, to see people accomplishing their goals. I just feel like we’re far more engaged in that process with them than if they were one of many in a larger community. There are other places we could go that might be more profitable or have higher foot traffic or bigger opportunities, but this is where our heart is.

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#HomeGrownStories – Heather Rader

Heather Rader is the world traveling blogger behind Ohio Girl Travels. She grew up in a rural part of Clark County, Ohio and never imagined she’d someday travel around the world. Today Heather has traveled to three continents, over twenty countries, thirty-six states, and over one hundred cities. Even though she enjoys new adventures around the globe, Heather also loves exploring her home state. She is a monthly contributor for Tourism Ohio and has featured Tipp City on her blog.

What she loves about Miami County:
The friendliness of the people. I always feel welcome when I visit Miami County. I grew up in a small community (in fact, right next door in Clark County) and we always smiled, waved and said hello to whomever we met or passed by, so I feel at home in Miami County with the friendly, welcoming locals! As a child, one of my fondest memories was attending the Troy Strawberry Festival with my family. We would spend the day in Miami County visiting the festival and perusing the local shops in Troy and Tipp City. So whenever I return to Miami County I feel a sense of nostalgia.

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Photo courtesy of Tomfoolery Outdoors

 

#HomeGrownStories – Tom Helbig

Tomfoolery Outdoors has a mission to encourage people to live an active outdoor lifestyle while making a difference in the world. The company’s founder, Tom Helbig, an outdoor adventure enthusiast, has just returned to Ohio from a 5-week adventure in the Great Exumas region of the Bahamas. This tropical excursion was spent on stand up paddleboards and had Tom and his group camping outside for 34 of the 35 nights spent on the most crystal clear water Tom has ever seen.

Why he loves Miami County:
I love the people number one. There are a lot of just down to earth, kind and very supportive people in the area. From an outdoor and natural standpoint, I enjoy that we have bikeways and rivers to paddle and hiking trails in the Miami County Parks. It’s a very good area for someone that likes the outdoors like myself.

There’s a big community focus in Miami County. When I worked for the Special Olympics the community really supported the program. I got to know the athlete’s families. I saw members of the program graduate from high school and go on their first dates and ski down a mountain for the first time. There’s this amazing community-family feel of Miami County. Now, as a small business owner in Miami County, I take a lot of pride in my foundation of my business that it started in Miami County.

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#HomeGrownStories – Susie Pope

Susie Pope is a Piqua native who grew up in a suburb of Cleveland. She and her husband, Wayne, are the third owners of Susie’s Big Dipper in Piqua. Susie’s Big Dipper serves not only 44 different flavors of homemade ice cream but also a variety of fresh sandwiches with homemade sides like coleslaw, potato salad, and soups. Susie’s also makes boxed lunches which can be ordered for business lunch meetings or parties.

Why she loves Miami County:
The small town feeling. Growing up outside of Cleveland, we were in a suburb, but it was still a very large suburb. So, you know, you could go out to do errands and not run into a person you know. I think it’s so funny here that I can go to the grocery and probably five times out of ten I’ll hear a little voice saying, “Mommy, look there’s the ice cream lady!” So it’s kind of fun to be recognized that way and make people happy. I like that.

I also like that all of the cities in Miami County come together to partner with each other to do festivals and events. I love that. I love the Miami County Visitors Bureau, they always get us on the calendar and promote our business and that’s really nice.

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#HomeGrownStories – Terri Bessler & Shelby Anderson

Terri Bessler and Shelby Anderson work together in two unique antique shops in historic downtown Tipp City. Terri, an Ohio native who has lived in Miami County for the past twenty years, owns Midwest Memories Antiques. Shelby, a Tipp City native, is the manager of Midwest Memories’ sister store, The Iron Dog Salvage & Antiques. Terri has owned Midwest Memories for the past 8 years, though the business has been in downtown Tipp City for the past 18 years. Iron Dog is a new shop, named after an iron replica of a dog who grieved his young owner’s passing early in Tippecanoe’s history.

What they love about Miami County:
Terri – I love the events, the community spirit and the cohesiveness of these wonderful small towns that have such unique things to offer.
Shelby – Yeah, there’s definitely a sense of community that you really don’t see anywhere else. Terri’s been all over Ohio, she’s seen it. There’s just a sense of home here. I think that’s what draws people here, especially when they come to Tipp City. This feels like an area where you can really grow your roots, just kind of settle in and live a good life.

Continue reading →

 

#HomeGrownStories – Margaret Begg

Margaret Begg loves the science and beauty of artisan bread baking, especially sourdough bread. For the past twenty years, her bakery, Bakehouse Bread & Cookie Company, has provided delicious bread, baguettes, challahs, ciabattas, focaccias, cookies and pastries of every flavor in their downtown Troy bakery. Margaret focuses on high quality and nutritious ingredients as well as taste. In addition to baking a variety of bread and pastries, the Bakehouse also has an extensive menu of soups, salads, and sandwiches. Margaret is one-third of the local cooperative, The Farmer, The Miller, The Baker that grows, mills and bakes spelt in the southwestern region of Ohio.

What she loves about Miami County:
I love the sense of community. It’s very important to most residents of the county, which you can see by the folks that come downtown to support small businesses. We have wonderful events at the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center and we always come downtown for the concerts and symphonies in Troy. In downtown, you can move about so freely, anywhere you need to go you can get there. The bike path has always been one of my personal favorites. Watching the bike path grow has been amazing, especially for a town of this size. We go to Hobart Urban Nature Preserve at least three times a week for a walk. Garbry Big Woods Reserve is one of our other favorites, but we tend to pick a different park to walk at on the weekends.

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Photo courtesy of Sharon Elaine Photography

 

#HomeGrownStories – L. Ruby Randall

L. Ruby Randall, or Ruby for short, has wanted to live in Miami County since she was a girl living on a farm in Preble County. Now Ruby works as a model, makeup artist, and a folkloric and historic wardrobe stylist. Ruby has modeled and styled various historical looks, from Mary Queen of Scots and Rosie the Riveter to folkloric characters like elves and fairies. She has also posed as many fictional characters like Belle of Beauty and the Beast, the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella and Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Wicked Witch, Glinda the Good Witch, the Wizard, the Lion and the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. Through her work, Ruby captures the magical feeling of our small town communities that charmed her when she was young.

Why she loves Miami County:
Miami County is really nothing like anywhere I’ve lived. I lived in Chicago for a short while and at first coming home and to Miami County was a shock. Everyone seemed to move so slowly and time stood still. But once I fell back into the groove of country life and the magic of a small town, I certainly remembered that there is indeed no place like home. I love the fact that it’s seemingly frozen in time in some ways, just like I am. I love that Miami County is a farm community as well as an artist’s community. I feel connected to the memories here, the beautiful people I mingle with daily, the annual events, the small town feel, the Midwestern farms… just all of it.

Continue reading →


I have enjoyed this first month of interviewing and photographing my neighbors and members of my community. I can’t wait to share more stories you with about why Miami County is such an amazing place to visit. Look for the hashtag #HomeGrownStories and follow The Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau’s blog!

Coming Home

Ever since my husband, Kenneth, and I moved back to our home county in late 2015, I’ve been thinking about where I grew up and how I ended up coming back. I prefer to take back roads to get to work… or anywhere, really. So I spend a lot of time thinking about coming back home when I’m driving through Miami County. I have a backlog of essays and blog post ideas related to coming back home — how certain parts of town can make me feel like a kid or teenager again, or how driving down some familiar roads can fill me with hope and inspiration while others bring to mind painful memories.

To be completely honest, I didn’t plan on living in Miami County as an adult. I didn’t really have a town or area picked out, but I didn’t expect it to be where I grew up. I certainly didn’t expect to live in the town that was my high school’s biggest rival, either.

I think I felt that I had outgrown my hometown. I had graduated high school and was going on to do big, exciting things in college and, then, who knows where? My boyfriend (now husband) and I lived in a small college town for four years, then we moved to a big city for another four. That’s really all it took for me to want to come back home: being away.

I loved living in Athens. It is the most interesting place I’ve ever called home. Athens is a unique blend of rural Appalachia and the international community via Ohio University – it’s a cultural explosion in a lovely little area of Ohio. Columbus took me a while to get used to. I quickly discovered that big cities are not my thing. I didn’t like how long it took me to drive to work, or how noisy and smelly the city could be, especially in the summer. Big cities are an assault on my senses; they overwhelm me easily. I did end up falling for Columbus, about a year before Kenneth and I moved. The gorgeous metro parks, amazing restaurants, fantastic library system, and numerous museums did it for me in the end.

We lived in a little town near Cincinnati called Harrison for a year and a half. While I found things that I loved about Athens, Columbus, Harrison, and Cincinnati they were not somewhere I could call home. I couldn’t put down roots there. The 3-hour drive from Athens to visit family or for school breaks started to feel like it took forever. Then when we were only 1 1/2 hours from home in Columbus and Cincinnati, we wondered how we ever managed the 3-hour drive (with cats in the car too!).

Kenneth had an opportunity to take a job in Miami County and we jumped at it. We were both ready to be closer to our family and to really, finally, be home. While I thought that I had outgrown Miami County, Miami County had been growing while I was away.

While many things look the way they did ten years ago, Miami County has been changing. New businesses and community events have been popping up in our absence. Old underused buildings have been or will be renovated. We have farmer’s markets, delicious restaurants, music festivals and half-marathons! Miami County is still the place where I grew up, but it’s becoming so much more.

One of the things I think about a lot when I’m driving to and from work is the sky. You can see so much of the sky here. In Athens and Cincinnati, the gorgeous hills and forests took up a lot of the horizon. In Columbus, the skyscrapers and miles of suburbs surrounding the city filled the view. In Miami County, I can see the sky and it’s huge. Fantastic red sunrises, stormy gray mornings, bright blue afternoons and clear night skies. There’s so much room here, room to grow. Room to put down roots.

Which I am ready to do.

New Project: #HomeGrownStories

I have a new and exciting project to announce! In partnership with the Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau, I am working on #HomeGrownStories. Inspired partly by Humans of New York (@HumansofNY), #HomeGrownStories will feature images and stories of the people of Miami County. Folks who live here, work here and visit, people who just love Miami County.

This is a project that feels like a really good fit for me. I’ve been trying to share why my community and home state is amazing with my blog and on social media, but lately it’s felt like something was missing. I wasn’t connecting with the people in my community who already know how awesome Ohio is.

That’s what I will be able to do with #HomeGrownStories. I will be going out to meet business owners, residents, and visitors who love Miami County and interviewing them. I have a couple interviews under my belt and already I can tell that this project is going to be amazing. There are so many interesting stories in my home county!

To follow along on this project, be sure to follow the Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau on social media. You can also check out the initial blog post about the project on the MCVCB blog and my first interview with Mainstreet Piqua Director, Lorna Swisher.

I hope you enjoy these small glimpses into the lives of the people who make Miami County such a wonderful place to live!

Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau

Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

BlogThis Will Be Our Story. #HomeGrownStories

#HomeGrownStories – Lorna Swisher

Tiny Purse from Thirty-One Gifts – Review

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Until recently, I always carried a big purse. My purse was my safety blanket and it had to be big enough to hold a snack, a book, my reading glasses, my sunglasses, my iPad, paper and pens, and the things I actually needed to have in my purse: my wallet and keys. I was always anticipating “disaster,” going somewhere for dinner that didn’t have enough gluten-free foods for me to eat or being stuck somewhere and getting bored. I felt safer having an emergency snack or book to read, just in case my day didn’t go as planned.

My first purse that I really used wasn’t an actual purse. It was a deep green army bag I bought from a vendor at the Heritage Festival in Piqua while I was in high school. It was perfect for my big purse needs: nice and roomy, a separate compartment for a water bottle, small pockets on the inside for pens and pencils and an adjustable strap. I was able to carry EVERYTHING in this bag. I even decorated it by sewing on fabric patches I had collected from attending birding events. I loved this bag so much – it even went off to college with me.

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Once I graduated from college though it was time for more adult looking purses and bags, sans the birding patches. I’ve had black bags with space for a portfolio and cream-colored bags with room for an iPad. They always had room for a book, a snack, anything I might need and plenty of things I didn’t. Just in case.

Just in case items get heavy, though. I was constantly switching my bag from shoulder to shoulder, or carrying it one hand, then the other. I usually had neck and shoulder pain on the days I was out and about, large purse or bag in hand. I also could NEVER find what I was looking for in my bag. All that stuff and I never had what I needed quickly. Something needed to change.

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Let me introduce to you, my new tiny purse! This little gem is made by Thirty-One Gifts and has changed the way I carry my essentials when I leave the house (I just carry the essentials). I love the bright cobalt blue color of this purse (technically it’s a wallet) and the zip around closure. It’s super small so I can’t carry anything with me that I don’t actually need.

When I was asked by Thirty-One Gifts to partner with them for a review, I chose this wristlet (it’s called Tons Of Funds in Daring Cobalt Pebble) thinking it would be my “travel purse.” Which is what I initially used it for and it was perfect! Plenty of room for cash, credit cards, keys, and an emergency tube Burt’s Bees lip balm (some habits are hard to break).

I couldn’t fit my original glasses case for my reading glasses in this purse, but I found a fabric case which fit perfectly (and my glasses are still intact six months later!).  I also found a pair of sunglasses that fold fairly flat and fit in this purse. Both pairs of glasses do not fit at the same time, but I’m usually wearing one of them so it works. If I pack the purse correctly, I can even fit my phone in it. ? After my last trip to Seattle, I didn’t feel like swapping everything out of my blue purse to go back into my bigger bag. I just kept carrying my tiny purse, which has become my go-to bag.

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Thirty-One Gifts is a direct sales company that sells purses and wallets, bags and totes, jewelry, home organization products, thermal food storage products, jewelry, and accessories. Most of their products can be personalized with names or initials. The mission of the company is to empower and support women by giving them the opportunity to run their own business.

Thirty-One was founded in 2003 by Cindy Monroe in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The company is based out of Columbus, Ohio today and has been recognized as one of Columbus’ most giving organizations. In the past four years, Thirty-One has donated more than $100 million to nonprofits that share their mission. Last summer, they donated $10,000 to a local women’s nonprofit during their national conference.

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I like that Thirty-One has a variety of unique products, I mostly browsed purses and handbags and they have everything from cute little wallets and tiny purses to gigantic purses that could double as my overnight bag on my next trip!

The aspect I like most about Thirty-One, though, is Thirty-One Gives. Thirty-One Gives partners with non-profit organizations that focus on building confidence in women and girls and strengthening families. This year, Thirty-One Gives will donate approximately 5% of their net total sales in product and cash to support organizations they work with. Some of the organizations they have worked with include Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Girl Talk, World Vision, Girls on the Run and the Salvation Army of Central Ohio. In 2013, Thirty-One Gives established the Cindy Monroe Values & Vision Endowed Scholarship to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Thirty-One Gifts. Each year one girl in the Chattanooga area of Tennessee, where Cindy Monroe is from, is chosen to win a $12,400 scholarship to support her college career.

Thank you Thirty-One Gifts!

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ohio-120x120Thirty-One Gifts

Address: 3425 Morse Crossing, Columbus, Ohio 43219

Phone Number: 1-866-GIFTS31

Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube

Thank you to Thirty-One Gifts, a Columbus-based company, for sponsoring this post.