HARRISONBURG — At first glance, nothing seems overly special about the Common Good Marketplace — it’s a shopping center like any other lined with a coffee shop, a thrift shop, a cafe and a bank.
What connects these businesses is not just their proximity, but their drive to build a bridge between the international world and the town while fostering a community. This week, the marketplace is celebrating its 10-year anniversary during customer appreciation week and providing music, prizes and fun to its supporters.
Merge Coffee Co., the newest business on the block, is a partnership between two families who bonded over a love for roasting coffee out of a garage. After hearing positive feedback from friends and family, the group decided to take their products onto the market, and since have provided rich roasts harvested on foreign farms from Brazil to Burundi.
Darryl Matthews, director of coffee at Merge, said the business prides itself on bringing delicious flavors to Harrisonburg while supporting the farmers so they can continue competing in the market.
“We make sure we pay fair prices so farmers can invest in the infrastructure,” Matthews said. “We strive to establish good relationships with our sources.”
A Bowl of Good serves healthy dishes with occasional exotic twists to commemorate the travels of cafe owner Katrina Didot. To celebrate the anniversary, the cafe has highlighted a different culture each day by creating a regionally inspired meal. The venue also has daily children’s storytime, Facebook giveaways with products from neighboring businesses and live music in the evening.
“I kind of think of A Bowl of Good sort of that way — we really have people from all different walks and ethnic backgrounds and interests that come to eat with us. And our menu kind of gives people a little walk around the world trying different food,” Didot said.
Whereas other financial institutions may not normally scream “culture,” Everence Financial is a religious-based credit union that helps members integrate their faith into their financial decisions. By facilitating members to budget “Socially Responsible Investments” — savings which are ultimately donated to causes they support — Everence promotes philanthropy. The company itself also donates over 10% of its profits to churches and partners.
Managing Director Teresa Boshart Yoder said there is a strong sense of community and support between all the businesses.
“We tend to partner with each other,” Yoder said. “If we’re doing a workshop and we want to cater, we’ll go to A Bowl of Good. Anyone who works in the complex gets 10% off coffee from Merge. Most of them use our credit union.”
Gift & Thrift and Booksavers of Virginia live under the same roof in the marketplace. Both organizations are dedicated to upcycling goods and donate profits to the Mennonite Central Committee, the international development branch of the Mennonite Church that provides relief and development work.
Visitors to the shopping center can pick up and complete “Common Good Passports” for the chance to win a grand prize today. Every day, a winner from social media challenges has walked away with small goodies from the participating businesses. The final goodie basket is complete with a tumbler and four free vouchers to ABOG, two coffee bags from Merge, an insulated bottle and umbrella from Everence, and a Congolese textile and popular book on Rockingham County by Nancy Hess provided by Gift & Thrift.
If the grand prize is not enough incentive, this morning at ABOG will offer a French-inspired all-you-can-eat buffet from 8 to 11 a.m. and a Congolese goat roast at 4 p.m. to finish off the week of specialized culinary dishes. The winner of the gift basket will be announced at 4:30 p.m.
The marketplace from its early beginnings has incorporated culture and a sense of family into every businesses’ mission, but this week it is focusing on giving back to its local area and the people who have kept the marketplace running.
“Ten years ago when we built that particular location, we worked really hard to come up with the name of the area. And the Common Good Marketplace just felt like it fit because we are all very much have a social aspect to what we do as businesses,” Didot said. “Even though we’re very separate and very distinct in what we do, we do share our deep concern for the common good of our community.”