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Two Covington Businesses Share "Mystery" Success Stories

When you drive around Covington you may notice some businesses and wonder what they do inside their buildings. For the two invited to speak before the Covington Business Council monthly luncheon Thursday, a lot of success is happening on the other side of those doors.

The event's theme was "Covington's Mystery Business", something CBC executive director Pat Frew said he hopes to continue showcasing in the future.

Ron Thomas of MAC Productions and Casey Fraser of Garden Grove Organics spoke about their businesses, their growth, and their success before a full house at the Madison Events Center.

MAC Productions, located on Pike Street, produces events and video for clients large and small from Downtown Covington to Cape Town, South Africa. Founded in 1971 (and still a family-owned business), MAC exclusively produces the events at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center and other local places, including work at Northern Kentucky University. But their name is attached to larger-scale efforts, too, including concerts for Bare Naked Ladies, Kenny Loggins, Earth, Wind & Fire, and more. 

Thomas said that his team also has the unique gig of working with Christ Hospital's heart surgery wing in Cincinnati where a crew sends out live video of a procedure as it is happening so that other doctors can watch either in from another room, or even another country.

He also said that the company hopes to become more involved with local educational institutions through classroom technology opportunities. Their offices are right across the street from John G. Carlisle Elementary School, so Covington Independent Public Schools are a possible target, as well as Gateway Community & Technical College and NKU.

A few blocks east of MAC Productions' office, Garden Grove Organics is expanding, an unlikely event for a business that operated in a low-visibility space on the ground-floor of the Doctors Building north of City Hall on Seventh Street.

"I find you can really yield high results in a small space when you use the right ingredients," owner Casey Fraser said. He was talking about successful urban gardening, but the message could also apply to his own business that has grown into the adjacent space and now fills the entire first floor, including a coveted corner entrance on Seventh Street & Scott Boulevard. The Doctors Building is also slated for redevelopment on its upper floors by The Salyers Group to include twelve residential units.

Fraser, instantly recognizable for his long dreadlocks, said that his look is part of his business model. "We try to look the part (of the urban farmer)," he said. Before he opened his business, however, someone told him he looked the president of the Campus Republicans. That's because Fraser's appearance used to be more kempt, complete with suit-and-tie as he traveled selling goods for a fertilizer company.

After working with a similar company in Erlanger, Fraser opted to open his own in Covington, where he lives with his wife, Heather. Together, they are active urban farmers that also participate in the Covington Farmers Market. Everything in their store is organic and natural and they work to make sure you find the right ingredients for the size of your farm.

When the time came for Garden Grove Organics to grow, Fraser went around Covington searching for spaces. "I love Covington and I really wanted to stay here but a lot of landlords wouldn't call me back," he said. Fortunately, the neighboring space became available and during the demolition of the former Paul's Pharmacy, Fraser saved some of the wood and turned it into a new front counter.

He was also grateful for a visit from Covington Mayor Sherry Carran. "Community support is good. To have the Covington mayor stop by and congratulate you on your expansion, that means a lot."

"You're going to see that corner of Seventh & Scott really brighten up because of all the support Covington has shown us."

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Casey Fraser (L) and Ron Thomas/via Covington Business Council