Happen, Inc. was founded in 1999. Many readers of The Northsider are familiar with our mission of bringing families together through creative experiences. But what many people don’t know is that Happen’s original business plan had the organization opening its first doors right in the heart of Northside more than 15 years ago. As the ideas and plans started to come together, we decided to interview parents to help shape our business plan. There was a lot of discussion about the best location to kick off our new non-profit. What we found is that back in 1999, many parents did not feel comfortable driving into Northside. Our goal was to be accessible to everyone, and we knew that it was going to be difficult to make this business successful, so we needed to find a space located in an area that was welcoming for families to travel to.
We found a space in Corryville on West Corry Street, which would become the first Happen location. It was at this space we started to develop the mission, vision, and programming that we still use today. After a year, we moved to larger space on Beechmont Avenue, and soon after started to develop outreach programs like Happen’s Community Canvas Program and Happen’s Let’s Play with Clay. Happen then expanded the programs and the facility to include Happen’s Toy Lab and Happen’s in school programs.
When Happen was located in Corryville, and on the east side, we were involved in many different aspects of the community, much like we are here now in Northside. We were able to build out the space and create an environment that was fun and full of surprises. But the one thing that was missing was a real sense of community.
Because we were located in a retail strip mall, our front yard was a parking lot. There is nothing wrong with being in a retail environment, but given Happen’s mission, a strip mall did not support the best way for us to reach families.
About eight years ago I started to see a real positive change in Northside. I saw more and more families moving and buying homes in Northside. So we raised enough funding to provide 52 weeks of programing and opened the Northside location. We had enough funding for one year in Northside and really didn’t know if we would last much beyond the 12-month commitment. The space was a originally a pharmacy starting back in 1896, and the recent tenants before Happen were a pet supplies store and Pinnokkio’s Hair Salon. I always give Tina, the owner of Pinnokkio’s, the credit for all the hard work in saving and restoring the original ceiling, long before Happen started to work in the space. All of the woodwork and the marble floors are also original. Happen installed six chandeliers and velvet stage curtains that have helped to transform the space into a magical art studio for families.
But the biggest attribute to our space has been the families who have become our family at Happen. The number of parents and children has soared since we opened our doors in Northside. It’s been wonderful to see children grow year after year, and know that the time they have spent with their family at Happen will be a memory that will last a lifetime.
We look forward to celebrating our 15th anniversary on March 8, which kicks off six months of Happen celebrations in Greater Cincinnati. We want to celebrate with past and new visitors, and especially with the residents of Northside, who every day have helped make Happen a success. I thank everyone who has helped Happen start and continue to provide award-winning educational programs to parents and children. We have grown to provide eight different programs in Greater Cincinnati that now also includes three Happen garden locations. Our Happen motto is “community is not just where you live,™ it’s how you live with other peopIe.” And I see that motto come to life every day by the families and individuals who live, work and serve in our community. It has been rewarding to take the time to look back, and know that where we are today is exactly where we wanted to be 15 years ago—Happen, Inc. located right in the heart of Northside.
Don’t Miss Happen’s 15th Birthday!
You are invited to Happen’s 15th Anniversary Celebration Saturday March 8th, 2014 – 6:00 to 8:30pm
Celebrate the past and make the future Happen as we kick off six months of Happen celebrations.
We would like to thank Lisa Kagen for providing food from Picnic and Pantry’s catering menu and market for our party goers to graze upon. We’re very excited to have such a wonderful Northside business take part in our big celebration.
By Tommy Rueff, Writer
Tommy Rueff is Happen, Inc.’s founder and executive director