Ox Shoppe Cafe Offers Coffee, Donuts in Thompson
May 22, 2024 by Ann Wishart

The red, landmark building on the north-west corner of Thompson Square has transitioned from a feed store to a thrift shop over the last few decades.

The red, landmark building on the north-west corner of Thompson Square has transitioned from a feed store to a thrift shop over the last few decades.

More than a year ago, Thompson Township resident Darrell Fleming-Kendall reinvented the space beside the township’s U.S. Post Office as a place people can buy locally-sourced foods, body care and gift items.

He and his wife, Dawn, set up The Ox Shoppe as a nonprofit organization and recently opened a coffee shop where commuters can stop in as early as 6 a.m. to buy that first eye-opening cup of coffee along with donuts and bagels.

The organization’s mission — to help adults with barriers find employment — has been chugging along with 20 individuals placed in jobs since October, Fleming-Kendall said in a phone interview May 17.

Clients include people who are disabled, those in recovery from drugs or alcohol, others who have been incarcerated and kids coming out of foster care.

“We connect people desperately seeking meaningful work with employers,” he said, adding he speaks to any group that will schedule him — chambers of commerce, Leadership Geauga, Kiwanis Clubs and Geauga Growth Partnership, to name a few.

The desire to work is an essential element in Fleming-Kendall’s venture.

He has a poster that explains when they started the business, they planned to market the meat they produce at their farm — Broken Yoke Ranch — in Thompson Township.

The willingness of their oxen to labor meshed with the nonprofit’s mission.

“When we pull out the yoke and the oxen hear the sound of the clanking metal rings, they come running. They want to work. They want purpose. They want to provide,” the poster reads. “Like those we serve with our employment program, our team finds dignity and value in being a contributor.”

The idea for a store expanded to include locally-produced bread, honey, maple syrup and a variety of vegetables that make shopping interesting, as well as charitable.

The second floor of the building has been converted to accommodate groups looking to enjoy a cup of coffee and a bagel, work on a laptop or have a business meeting. Fleming-Kendall said the Geauga County Drug Court has held sessions in the space. Part of the second floor is set up with toys for children.

The Ox Shoppe is managed by Dennis Battles, who operates the cash register and oversees the shop’s part-time employees.

“Dennis is our hero. Everyone knows him,” Fleming-Kendall said.

When Battles missed three days because of a family matter, social media exploded.

“Every household in Thompson commented,” Fleming-Kendall said. “It was all over Facebook and Instagram.”

While the Thompson store was Fleming-Kendall’s first venture, the couple also took over a donut and coffee shop at the intersection of state routes 528 and 20 in Madison Township, also called the Ox Shoppe Cafe, he said.

They also have future plans for the Thompson venue. Paninis and sandwiches will soon be grilled to order and ice cream will top off a meal, Fleming-Kendall said, adding he wants to make the donut and coffee shop there accessible to the disabled.

A ramp across the former loading dock is on the agenda, but the engineering and cost mean it will have to wait until sales and sponsorships increase, he said.

More information is available at theoxshoppe.org.