By Anna Walker

Small businesses in South Hyattsville have an energetic new source of support in the nonprofit organization SoHy Co-op, which was founded by Krissi Humbard, Bronwyn King and Daniel Simon. “We actively began reaching out to businesses to grow our membership in February and held our first small business meet-up in March, just before the COVID-19 situation,” said Humbard.

SoHy Co-op’s logo By Betsy Martin

The co-op focuses on supporting businesses along the Route 1 Corridor from Green Owl Design, near Hamilton Street, to Shortcake Bakery, near Charles Armentrout Drive. “We are lucky to have so many great organizations working to support this area,” Humbard noted.

All three founders are deeply invested in the community. Simon is a small business owner who also owns property in the SoHy area. Humbard and King have organized community events in Hyattsville for several years, including art walks, the Light It Up holiday shopping event, HyFest musical festival and the SoHy Scavenger Hunt. They are also co-curators of Studio SoHy, (www.studiosohy.com), an art gallery located in the hallway of Vigilante Coffee Company, which opened its doors in March 2015 as a space reflecting the community of artists working and living in the DMV area.

SoHy Co-op’s mission is to create and support a vibrant mix of community, commerce and culture in the SoHy area of Hyattsville. The co-op founders concur: “There is a wonderful mix of businesses operating in this area of Hyattsville.” The organization supports existing businesses and is eager to attract new and diverse businesses that would like to call Hyattsville home. The group plans to use live events and social media to create greater buzz.

Sangfroid Distilling is a business member of the SoHy Co-op. “The biggest advantage to joining the co-op is that our voices as business leaders are stronger when we come together as a collective than on an individual basis,” said Sangfroid Distillery co-owner Nate Groenendyk. “When we pool our knowledge and resources, we are much more well equipped to have a significant impact on the issues that will help to continue to improve the small business climate in Hyattsville and the community at large.”

Mark Burke, brewer and founder of Streetcar 82 Brewing Co., agrees. “The SoHy Co-op has been helpful for us by championing the small businesses along our geographic area of Route 1,” he said. “I see it as becoming a hyper-local force for businesses in our area, attracting new artisan businesses to fill the empty storefronts, providing support and creating a community of Makers to provide mutual support and creating the type of energy that attracts the critical mass necessary for small businesses to thrive.”

The “Handmade in Hyattsville” mural was created by Green Owl Design, a member of the SoHy Co-op. Part of the Co-op’s mission is to create a visual identity for the area through public art. Courtesy of Krissi Humbard

SoHy Co-op is also invested in enhancing the streetscape along Route 1 by making the area inviting and pedestrian-friendly. The organization’s vision includes colorful crosswalks and sidewalks, and pocket parks created by adding planters and benches. “We will work with the businesses and the city to flesh out these ideas,” said Humbard.

To cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, SoHy Co-op has been holding virtual meetings with partner businesses, updating the co-op’s resource list on their website and trying to keep on top of issues related to their partners, including closures and changing hours.

“The co-op has provided a virtual meeting place for all the businesses to share resources and ideas for how to best navigate both the health aspect of this pandemic as well as the impact on small businesses,” commented Groenendyk. “It has been an invaluable trove of information that all of us have been thankful to have during this difficult time.”

The SoHy Co-op team is also invested in the impact small businesses in the area are having during this pandemic. Many SoHy businesses are reinventing themselves on the fly, offering online ordering and curbside pickup. In addition to keeping the public updated through their website, the co-op hosts a weekly virtual happy hour so that businesses can share ideas with each other.

“We also started a virtual tip jar for employees who work in the SoHy area and have suddenly had their hours reduced or have found themselves without a job. We love the small businesses in this area and want to do what we can to ensure they are able to re-open after the pandemic,” said Humbard.

As of press time, the co-op had recently launched SoHy Swag Challenge contest on Instagram (#sohyswag). Participants post photos of treasures they’ve purchased from SoHy businesses or items they’ve crafted using goods from SoHy businesses. Four $25 gift cards to SoHy businesses of the winners’ choice will be awarded as prizes. The challenge runs from April 1 to 15.
“We thought it would be a fun way for folks to kill some time while drumming up support for SoHy businesses,” said Humbard.

The SoHy Co-op is a membership organization. Current members include Green Owl Design, Sangfroid Distillery, Arrow Bicycle, Train Printing, Satchmoe Art and Streetcar 82 Brewing Co. Membership fees are $100 annually or $25/quarter. Businesses can go to www.sohycoop.com and register to become a member.