Meet Me at the Corner

From left to right, Alysha Baier, Ian Baier and the late Peggy O’Neill Hilimire, Photo courtesy Cornerstone Market.

By Kay Thomas

 

Every Monday morning at 6 when The Cornerstone Market in Honeoye opens for business, a close-up picture of the freshly baked muffin of the day appears on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
“Happy Muffin Day,” say owners, Alysha and Ian Baier, who established the market on Main Street in the village in 2014. They depend heavily on word-of-mouth and social media, along with a limited print advertising budget.

In only a matter of minutes people flock to the store to grab their muffins – they might be apple pie, dark chocolate mixed berry and strawberry, or chocolate – before they are sold out by the afternoon.

The weekly electronic newsletter delivered to customers’ inboxes highlights the seasonal produce available, craft beer specials – growlers filled, too – and featured lunch items on the menu in Peggy’s Rumpus Room.
Friday is a favorite day at The Cornerstone Market. A new supply of meats comes from Seven Bridges Farm of Lima; and freshly picked, organic hydroponic greens (mixed greens, basil, cilantro, micro greens and kale) are delivered from Bolton Farms of Hilton. Dairy products from Pittsford Farms Dairy and meats from The Piggery of Ithaca are also scheduled to arrive. Most products are unique to New York State, and the Baiers enjoy working directly with purveyors and supporting them as well. There is a conscious trend in buying locally, and the market is making that option available in the Honeoye area.
The Cornerstone Market is customer-friendly and Alysha and Ian say that they know everybody by name. “We’ve noticed a lot of younger people moving into the area because it is affordable, there are good outdoor activities and it’s a fine place to raise a family.” They live in Conesus, and are considering moving closer to the business.

First came the artisans

In 2013, ceramic artist Kala Stein found studio space to rent in the rear of the building that houses the Cornerstone Market.  At the time, she traveled to and from Alfred University – where she was a visiting professor – Livingston Arts in Mount Morris, and her studio. She asked fellow potter Alysha Baier, founder of the Western New York State Pottery Festival in Avon, to be her studio mate. Alysha wanted room to expand her pottery work, so the fit was next to perfect. Honeoye Pottery was born.
Today, several artisans use the large open space in the former lumberyard for studios. “The Cornerstone Market and studios will always have a presence in Honeoye. There’s a lot of energy,” says Robin Whiteman, who rents a small space there. A graduate of RIT’s School of Crafts, Robin is a nationally recognized sculptor. Her work focuses on the sacred serenity of being a body, both animal and human. For years, she has sculpted human-and-other-animal hybrid figures in both ceramic and fiber media, but her current work further emphasizes duality through the merging of masculine and feminine features, as well as inner and outer worlds.
Jim Johnson’s showroom in the front of the building displays original pieces of occasional furniture and carvings. He has a fine art background in sculpture and painting, and he started making furniture soon after grad school. Jim is very passionate about sustainable living and promoting local businesses and makers. It was his idea to introduce “Second Saturday,” when the four would open their studios to the public. Several other businesses in town joined in. Visitors came to see what new life was blossoming at the red light.

Then came the market

In 2014, one large area in the building, facing Main Street, was still available. Again, Kala started throwing out ideas of what she wanted to see in town. Everybody joined in. One thing was evident: there was no other place for a good source of quality food after 7 p.m., other than pizza or Chinese food. Alysha’s husband, Ian, put his extensive restaurant background to work, and came up with a business plan that the two took to the building owner, a supportive person intrigued with the idea of an artistic group of people settling in one location.

“It is a nice niche for Honeoye year-round,” says Alysha.
They opened their market in May with business partner Peggy O’Neill Hilimire, Alysha’s childhood friend from Livonia. The original plan was for Peggy to eventually manage the market. Alysha would go back to her pottery studio and Ian would fulfill his lifelong dream of farming the land; perhaps growing hops.

Nothing stays the same
There have been a lot of unexpected detours and changes, including a very devastating loss when Peggy passed away suddenly the following spring. Today, a room has been added called Peggy’s Rumpus Room in honor of her antics and shenanigans. The place brings smiles to everyone’s faces, but it’s bittersweet, say the Baiers.

The addition gives customers a place to sit down with a cup of coffee, sandwich or salad, and has freed up more room in the market for a larger bakery, more products on the shelves and a catering prep area.
Its custom high top counters were crafted by James Johnson, who has since moved out of his showroom space and into his working studio, James Willis Studios, in Bristol. Kala left for a stint on the West Coast as the Director of Ceramics at the Sonoma Community Center in Sonoma, California, although she will keep her ties to Honeoye Pottery through social media and her part-time studio assistants. Robin is temporarily using part of Kala’s space, and hopes for a studio in her own home. Alysha is back to work in her studio, leaving Ian, his brother and six other employees to handle the market. “I will always have some presence here. People can also come visit me in my studio,” she says.
The one piece that holds every other element together is the cornerstone, and that’s been the circumstances for The Cornerstone Market complex and the artisans sharing studio space. It’s taken courage and reimagining by a group of entrepreneurs – they’re good friends, too – committed to their work and the community.