Quintin and Donna Smith, founding members of the family who brought the dynamic farm-to-fermenter concept of Twin Oast Brewing to Catawba Island, announced their purchase of the historic Mon Ami. The restaurant’s former owners are John and Peggy Kronberg.
The business said it marks an exciting moment in local history for the Catawba Island businesses and the Erie Islands Wine Region.
The deal, finalized June 12, will see the new owners slowly taking over the management of the winery as they learn the existing operations. Special events, day-to-day operations, staff management and wine sales will continue to operate as usual.
The purchase of Mon Ami is the fulfillment of Smith and his family’s dream — a vision to enhance the regional appeal and draw of Catawba Island while putting an emphasis on restoring the winery to its historic glory. The outcome would again mark the winery as a renowned destination and wine producer in the Erie Islands Wine Region.
After launching QuinStock Farms in 2009, a picturesque 60-acre fruit orchard that Smith runs with his family, he opened Twin Oast Brewing in 2018 to showcase and preserve Catawba Island’s farmlands. Their product mixes traditional German offerings with a modern American twist. The family’s insights and expertise will spill over into Mon Ami, where plans are already in place to bring old-world winemaking traditions back to the winery by planting vineyards on Catawba Island.
Smith said Catawba Island’s microclimate and its sweet limestone soils create ideal conditions for wine grapes.
"Mon Ami has a special place in the history of Catawba Island and the Erie Islands Wine Region,” he added.
“The building remains unlike anything else I've ever seen. Our hope through this acquisition is to strengthen the celebrated status of Mon Ami and to share it with the local community. We dream that our guests become immersed in the beauty and wonder of Catawba Island. We have a responsibility to uphold the winery's long history and leave it better than we found it, as John and Peggy have.”
Top homeownership barrier may be easing
A recent Eye on Housing blog post revealed that 53 percent of buyers actively searching for a home to buy in the first quarter of 2019 have been looking unsuccessfully for at least three months.
Why is it taking these buyers so long to pull the trigger?
The most important reason is they can’t find a home at a price they can afford, followed by not finding one in the neighborhood of their choice and not being able to find a home with the features they want.
These were the findings from the most recent Housing Trends Report (HTR), a research product created by the NAHB Economics team with the goal of measuring prospective home buyers’ perceptions about the availability and affordability of homes for sale in their markets. The HTR is produced quarterly to track changes in buyers’ perceptions over time.
Comparing these findings to similar data from a year earlier shows a five-point drop in the top reason respondents cited as their biggest barrier to homeownership — finding a home at a price they can afford. Future data will determine if this is an ongoing trend.
If the right home remains elusive for these buyers in the months ahead, these house hunters reported they will do the following:
• 56 percent will continue looking for the ‘right’ home in the same preferred location,
• 41 percent will expand their search area,
• 30 percent is willing to accept a smaller/older home, and
• 21 percent might buy a more expensive home.
Giving up on homeownership is the least likely outcome, as only 14 percent will stop trying to find a home.
Growing gap: high rents, low wages
Only three out of the 10 most common jobs in Ohio actually pay employees enough to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment, according to a recent report.
Ohio’s housing wage increased again this year to $15.73 — the hourly amount renters need to earn to afford the rent for a basic, two-bedroom unit, according to a report jointly issued by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO).
Of the 10 occupations in Ohio with the most employees, only registered nurses earn considerably more than the two-bedroom housing wage, with a median wage of $30.87per hour. Median wages for office clerks and customer service representatives are just barely higher than the housing wage at $15.74 an hour and $16.18 per hour respectively, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Ohio housing wage:
2 bedroom = $15.73/hr
3 bedroom =$20.72/hr
Most common Ohio jobs and median hourly wages:
1. Food prep, fast food — $9.31
2. Retail salespersons — $11.06
3. Registered nurses — $30.87
4. Cashiers — $9.71
5. Laborers/freight movers — $13.67
6. Office clerks — $15.74
7. Customer service reps — $16.18
8. Waiters/waitresses — $9.37
9. Janitors/cleaners — $12.03
10. Stock clerks — $11.96
“We hear a lot about how great the economy is these days, but it’s not so great for the hundreds of thousands of low-wage Ohioans who are struggling to keep their families stably housed,” said COHHIO executive director Bill Faith. “The high rent–low wage gap explains why we’re seeing more and more children and families showing up at homeless shelters.”
With nearly 400,000 households now spending more than half their income on rent, 70,000 Ohioans experienced homelessness in a single year, according to data from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency. That includes 21,000 children and 3,000 infants younger than age 1 — a population that has increased 53 percent in five years.
Faith said state lawmakers currently are considering a proposal that would reduce children’s homelessness and expand access to housing for Ohio’s low-wage employees and their families. COHHIO is asking the Ohio Senate to include an amendment in the state budget to increase the Ohio Housing Trust Fund fee to generate more funding for local homeless and affordable housing programs.
“The Housing Trust Fund has a great track record, but revenues are down and the fee hasn’t changed since 2003,” he said. “Having a safe, decent, affordable place to live is essential children to grow up healthy and do well in school, and for their parents to recover, stay employed and hopefully find a better job that actually pays the rent.”
Every year the Out of Reach report updates the housing wage, an estimate of the full-time hourly wage that a household must earn to afford a basic apartment at fair market rent without spending more than 30 percent of income — the official standard for housing affordability. In addition to the statewide average, the report includes data for each county and metropolitan area.
The typical renter in Ohio earns $13.92 per hour, nearly $2 less than the hourly wage needed to afford a modest two-bedroom rental unit. Workers earning minimum wage of $8.55 an hour would have to work 74 hours per week year-round to afford a two-bedroom apartment.
If you have an item for the business roundup column, send the information to the Norwalk Reflector in care of Zoe Greszler, 61 E. Monroe St., Norwalk, Ohio 44857, or email it to [email protected]