Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Umpqua Local Goods: A Unique Approach to Community Development

This post comes to us from affiliate NeighborWorks Umpqua in Oregon. Leave a comment if your organization is promoting local shopping this holiday season!

By Anna Jen
Microenterprise Development
AmeriCorps VISTA at 
NeighborWorks Umpqua
Umpqua Local Goods in Roseburg, Oregon, is a groundbreaking new project aimed at revitalizing community and small business simultaneously. The project, made possible by a partnership between Phoenix Charter School and NeighborWorks Umpqua, takes a multifaceted approach to community development through its retail learning environment, retail space for vendors and commercial kitchen.

A century ago, Roseburg, Oregon, was a bustling country town in the heart of the beautiful Umpqua Valley. For visitors, the Grand Hotel was the place to stay. The 116 rooms featured hot and cold water, steam heat, and phones, all cutting edge in those days. This building was a focal point of Roseburg’s post World War II economy. Over the years, the hotel went through many renovations to accommodate its changing tenants, including a speak-easy card room in the basement during prohibition. After a fire, however, the building remained unoccupied for decades, until NeighborWorks Umpqua purchased it and began a mass renovation in 2002. Today, the building provides 37 apartment units for low-to-moderate-income individuals and families and four commercial spaces for small businesses.

In September 2012, Umpqua Local Goods opened its doors on the bottom floor of the Grand Hotel. With more space (it was previously housed just down the street), the store has been able to accommodate dozens more vendors. Stop by and you’ll find all sorts of unique items made by talented local artisans – from beautiful earrings and stone pendants to scented soaps made with Oregon rainwater, fresh produce, hand-carved wooden cars and airplanes, mouthwatering toffee and much more.

Students from Phoenix Charter School’s Retail Learning Program spend a few afternoons a week at the store to learn valuable job skills such as resume building, interview preparation, working with vendors, and pricing products. “The program creates lots of potential for students,” says Karry Johnson, store manager. “It helps them develop goals, open their minds, and think for themselves.” The program is not just for Phoenix students, but is open to the public; anyone who is looking to gain new skills and experience.

Attached to the store is a licensed commercial kitchen. Stocked with basic restaurant equipment, it provides the perfect work space for food professionals and entrepreneurs. Dana, a Douglas County resident, currently rents the kitchen four days a week and whips up delicious goodies, such as pies, cookies, granola, and brownies, which she sells in the store.

Even in the early stages of operation, Umpqua Local Goods is becoming well-known in the community. It’s initiatives like this that are investing in the local economy, building strong small businesses, and creating future leaders. For more information, please visit or drop by 733 Cass Street to shop local!