Renaissance Covington Challenges the Pandemic with New Programs

This Northern Kentucky nonprofit is at the center of efforts to revitalize the city.

As state pandemic-related restrictions are relaxed and people evaluate how comfortable they are attending live events and eating in restaurants again, organizations and small businesses are finding new ways to bounce back. Right across the river, local nonprofit Renaissance Covington (RCOV) has stepped in to help its business community get back on track.

The organization is known for creating vibrant spaces and community events that work to revitalize the area. It focuses on connection and community building, both of which were at an all-time low during the height of the pandemic last year. “We have had our highs and lows,” says Nick Wade, RCOV’s executive director. “But we are coming through just fine.”

“Just fine” may be an understatement. Since last April, RCOV launched its entrepreneurial program MORTAR Covington, expanded programs at the Covington Farmers’ Market, and created the interactive restaurant event “Cov Grub Crawl.”

June 2021

Photograph courtesy Melissa Sliney

MORTAR Covington is a 15-week course designed to help entrepreneurs in Northern Kentucky build a sustainable business, teaching individuals how to build a comprehensive business model and get a better understanding of business management. The Covington Farmers’ Market, a city-wide favorite for years, partnered with St. Elizabeth Healthcare and Community Farm Alliance to offer “Kentucky Double Dollars”—which doubles federal nutrition assistance benefits to purchase products grown on Kentucky farms—for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), WIC FMNP (Women, Infants, and Children Farmers Market Nutrition Program), and S FMNP (Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program) recipients to better assist those in need due to widespread food scarcity. This action contributes to low-income residents’ ability to access fresh, healthy food. And the “Cov Grub Crawl” grew out of the need to support the hard-hit restaurant and bar industry, allowing participants to download a virtual passport, which they can get “stamped” when they eat at Covington restaurants like City Goat, Agave & Rye, Eishaus, The Gruff, and more. (Visit five, and you’ll get a T-shirt!) The event kicks off this weekend and will continue through Aug. 31.

“The biggest motivator for us came from the business owners,” Wade says, reflecting on 2020. “We watched businesses change and be incredibly successful during a global pandemic. Downtown Covington is home to 250-plus businesses, and thankfully, we had zero business closures because of the pandemic. That is enough to inspire anyone.”

This year, in collaboration with its MORTAR program, RCOV has introduced “CovGrow Corner.” Every other Saturday, a rotating vendor spot at the market features an emerging Covington entrepreneur. MORTAR participants and alumni can use this spot to test their products or services, giving them the opportunity to expand their knowledge outside of the classroom.

Wade notes that RCOV has worked hard to keep spirits lifted and positivity flowing through the community during the last year, but the city’s long-term growth is always top of mind. “The pandemic is temporary,” he says. “The organization is working through the pandemic and beyond by creating more events and programs that serve Covington sustainably.”

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