Brian Kinney opened the Organic Garden Center about a year ago. The store, set on the lower level of a barn at 201 Elmwood St. in State College, sells a number of products dedicated to sustainable gardening practices, and has hosted workshops on things such as hydroponics and edible landscaping.
The business has continued to grow. On Saturday, the end of Pennsylvania Small Business Week, Kinney and others will unveil The Barn at Lemont as part of a grand opening celebration. The festivities, sponsored by the Penn State Small Business Development Center, will kick off at 10 a.m. at The Barn and run until 4 p.m.
“It’s great, the level of enthusiasm for entrepreneurship in this area and how businesses can come together and not view each other as competition as much as partners and working together to create solutions and develop business models that help everybody involved with it — and we’re seeing a lot more of that,” said Michael Ryan, a business analyst with the Penn State SBDC.
The Barn brings together seven retail partners in one space, a vision that Kinney and his wife and co-owner, Gabi, began to have after talking with customers during the past year. The space houses a community of small businesses, which range from spirits and soap makers to pet and furniture store owners.
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“Locals wanted a place that was like a farmers market, without the inconvenience of a trying to catch normal farmers market hours,” Kinney said. “It was trying to create that one-stop shop, that farmers market experience in a brick-and-mortar space that’s open almost every day.”
After Sustain, the boutique upstairs, closed in December, Kinney finally had the space to make the vision a reality. The store has since added organic produce, a home-brew section and beekeeping equipment to its wares.
“We got the idea of bringing in subtenants and other local companies, where it’s just creating more of that community and farmers market-type atmosphere,” he said.
Part of a national event, Pennsylvania Small Business Week celebrates the effect of small businesses in the state’s communities, while also highlighting resources and events geared toward entrepreneurship.
According to the state Department of Community and Economic Development, Pennsylvania is home to 1 million small businesses employing 2.5 million workers. In the second half of 2015, DCED reports that the state’s small businesses generated about 24,000 jobs.
For Kinney, being a small business owner is about community. Besides growing his gardening store into a larger, collaborative shopping experience, he continues to teach classes on gardening practices at local schools and at Penn State. It’s the most rewarding part of the job, he said.
“Bringing business back to small businesses and trying to recentralize that on a local scale is important to me,” Kinney said. “By bringing in these other businesses and people buying their products … they’re helping their neighbors.”