Nov. 6—A long-time dream became a reality on Saturday, when officials from Ashtabula County Residential Services cut a ribbon to officially open Maples Mercantile to the public.
Developmentally disabled adults will work at the store, which will provide fresh produce, crafts and other items on a daily basis. The store is scheduled to be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, said Brittany Winchell, who will manage the store.
The ACRS was formed in 1973 and operates residential homes for developmentally disabled adults in North Kingsville and Conneaut, said Joy Groel, director of the non-profit organization. She said the organization was started by the parents of developmentally disabled residents of Ashtabula County.
Winchell said the workers are being trained on new machines that will help them make crafts to sell at the store. There was a wide variety of merchandise on hand for sale at the ribbon cutting sponsored by the Conneaut Area Chamber of Commerce.
Organizers have been working on improving the property, in hopes of opening, for about a year, but the idea of a place for the adults to work goes back much farther. Groel said the idea has been in discussion for at least 10 to 15 years.
About a dozen workers participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony with county officials, area business leaders and board members from ACRS.
Groel said fresh seasonal produce will be supplemented throughout the year to what they will grow on site. She said renovation work is ongoing at greenhouses on the site as well.
Kim Tantari and her granddaughter, Haylee, 8, checked out the merchandise after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"I wanted to just come and check it out, and we know some of the people here," Tantari said.
Groel said there are 27 residents of the three homes at this time, and they will be the workers at the new enterprise. "In the future, we hope to open [employment] to other [county] residents with developmental disabilities," she said.