It’s good to be home

Published 8:25 am Wednesday, August 7, 2019

My family has been a part of the Lawrence County and Ironton community for an extremely long time.

My great grandmother, Mary Mahle Kleinman, was born in Lawrence County in 1864. Her youngest son Joseph, as well as his youngest son, Timothy, was born and raised in Ironton, as was I.

After college at Ohio University in Athens, I briefly returned home for a year before moving to Scioto County with my now-husband, Chris.  Last year, we decided to bring our family back to Ironton after more than a decade there.

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Ironton was not our first choice for where to live when deciding to take the moving plunge last year.

We love to travel, listen to amazing live music, hike, kayak, camp, eat interesting food, experience new cultures, art, religions and people.

More than anything, though, we love to share these experiences with our daughter.

Asheville, North Carolina was at the top of our list.

So what stopped us?  Money.

The cost of living is extremely high in that area of North Carolina, as a result of the explosion of population in the last 10 to 15 years.

After much consideration, we finally settled on moving to Ironton for a while.  We found a house in an amazing neighborhood on the north end of town, but were still set on eventually moving into the mountains.

Shortly after months of blood, sweat and tears poured into renovating our new home, we fell in love with our neighbors and the feel of being home again.

We have our parents, a dozen or so neighborhood kids and the Ohio River less than a three-minute walk from our backyard. Then there is that general comforting feeling of knowing the town and people.  Basically, I feel like I am back as a part of the original community I grew up in.

That sense of community is not something I felt when I lived in Scioto County.

Sure, I made friends by joining organizations and asking those moms I would meet to do something, but it was not the same sense of community that comes with a hometown.

One wouldn’t think that living only one county over from where I grew up would seem so far away, but it did.

There were little differences, like not being recognized in the grocery store.  No one would stop me and tell me that I looked just like my dad or that they remember my spitfire of a grandmother, Louise Corn Wolford.

Perhaps those are extremely small things, but noticeable having grown up in Ironton, where both sides of my family have lived for more than 140 years.  I feel at home in Ironton.

I reconnected with an old friend somewhere in the past year of being home.

Amanda Massie Cleary and I met in 5th grade and remained on and off again friends through high school. Towards the end of 2018, she and I had a glass of wine together at The Depot and discovered we both want to make the most out of living in the town we both grew up in.

More than that, we want to figure out a way to give our children opportunities to stay in Ironton and the Tri-State area without feeling like they are sacrificing a better lifestyle somewhere else. We want to build a better community that offers opportunity, experience, and more importantly than anything else hope.  Ironton is not Asheville, but what it is, is a town with an incredible amount of untapped potential.

Amanda and I, along with our families, decided that if we are ever going to build a better community, we need to invest in the community ourselves.

We cannot sit around and wait for a huge company or the government to come save us. We need to be the ones to start creating the collaborative change we desire to see.

The result of those long hours dreaming together of a thriving local economy for Ironton’s long-term future is The Vault Market.

The Vault may be a retail space but what it represents to us and hopefully to others, is hope for our town and regions future.

Abby Kleinman Kuehne is an Ironton native, co-owner and operator of The Vault Market and can be reached at