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Downtown Middletown business trying to survive the coronavirus pandemic, death of co-owner

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Posted at 4:20 PM, Feb 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-28 16:20:32-05

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — A downtown Middletown business is trying to beat already tough odds after being dealt two blows in its first year: the coronavirus pandemic and the death of its co-owner.

“Super challenging,” said Susie Hatton, co-owner of Charlie + Will Provisions, 68 S. Main St. “It was a year full of surprises, some of them good, some not so good. It certainly wasn’t the plan that we had.”

Hatton and Kara Goheen opened the retail destination in October 2020, and Goheen died unexpectedly one month later. She was 41 and the heart and soul of the business, Hatton said.

“What a loss,” she said of her business partner. “That was a rough one. She ran circles around me getting things done.”

Hatton said she talked to Goheen on a Saturday night and discussed that day’s sales. The next day, she was supposed to borrow Goheen’s truck.

“Then she was gone,” Hatton said. “She was so young and vibrant. I kept thinking, ‘This can’t be real. How is she not here?’”

Hatton, 50, said she hopes to hire someone to run the store. She’s the founder of Chocolate Sun, a skin care company based in California, and she spends a lot of her time traveling back and forth between Middletown and California. Because of COVID-19, she hasn’t flown to California since March.

The coronavirus also impacted business at Charlie + Will Provisions, which offers a mix of vintage and new products, and a lot of one-of-a-kind items and creations from local vendors.

Making customers feel safe and giving them a reason to leave their homes were two obstacles, she said.

“It wasn’t like we were selling Rolling Stones tickets,” she said with a laugh. “But once we got people in the store, it was like a relief to them.”

Hatton also is looking for the best use of the upstairs space of the building, an 1800s Italianate Victorian home. She envisions it being a “quiet studio space” for writers or artists to rent for a week or a month.

“That seems to be the direction,” she said.

She also envisions the back of the building being a community space. The parking lot has been ripped out and 16 trees have been planted in hopes of creating more green space downtown.

“That corner is magical,” she said. “Right now my head is spinning with lots of stuff.”

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