Netflix and podcasting superstars lend huge helping hand to Dayton Gem City Market 

Stars of the successful Netflix documentary, “Minimalism,” and Top 100 podcast “The Minimalists” have made Dayton their passion project. 

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Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus are born and raised Daytonians who now live in Los Angeles. They have an extensive list of accomplishments and projects that have effected change around the world. Most recently, the pair has teamed-up with Co-op Dayton to help raise money for the building of the Gem City Market. Millburn and Nicodemus are about $10,000 away from reaching their goal of $100,000, and they’re using their international following to help.

Photo: Justin Vaseur

The Minimalists have a fan base of more than 20 million people in more than 190 countries. Their mission is to help people live meaningful lives with less clutter. With their reach, The Minimalists have been able to point the attention toward their hometown’s problem of hunger. Donations have come in as little as $1 and as large as more than $1,000. 

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“I love the city. It’s still my favorite city on planet earth,” said Millburn, who makes at least four trips per year back home to Dayton. “We often help overseas and I think that’s great, but why not look close to home and in our hometown? We started asking around, ‘Where is the biggest need in Dayton, Ohio? And people just started pointing toward the Gem City Market. There is not a single grocery store in the entire West side.” 

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Gem City Market will be a full-service cooperatively owned grocery store and deli located in the Salem Avenue corridor, just across the bridge from downtown Dayton, according to the Gem City Market website. The store’s opening is expected by the end of 2019, early 2020.

The food desert on the West side isn’t unique to Dayton, said Lela Klein, executive director of Co-op Dayton, the developer of Gem City Market. It’s a trend across the country where the money is following the jobs and for that reason, services like grocers are leaving downtowns and shifting to suburbs. If you’re one of many people in Dayton without reliable transportation, you can really get stuck, Klein said. 

“Food is at the center of life. It’s at the center of families. It’s at the center of kind of how we experience our lives,” Millburn said. 

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The Minimalists started their campaign for the Gem City Market by donating $25,000 of their own money. They like to back one big philanthropic project a year— past projects including building clean water wells in Malawi, funding a high school in Kenya for an entire year and helping Hurricane Harvey victims. 

Photo: Joshua Weaver

“I grew up really poor and so did Ryan,” Millburn said. “We were on food stamps and government assistance ... we made poor decisions with the resources we did have. It wasn’t just about us not having money, it was about us not having access to healthy options. (Gem City Market) doesn’t just want to be a place people can buy lettuce. They want to be a place that helps people understand why it’s important to make healthy choices.”

Millburn and Nicodemus are committed to the idea that a healthy market isn’t just a community asset. It’s health, but it’s also a sense of neighborhood pride and security.

HOW TO HELP

To donate to The Minimalists’ campaign for Gem City Market, visit gemcitymarket.com/theminimalists

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