ST. GEORGE — A beloved store that housed over 90 local artisans, makers and farmers’ goods in its three years on Main Street is set to close its doors in less than 30 days.

MoFACo founder and owner Kat Puzey stands in front of the shop that has helped over 90 local artisans, makers and farmers support their families for the last three years, St. George, Utah, Nov. 21, 2023 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

“It’s been so beautiful,” Kat Puzey, the owner and founder of the Modern Farm and Artisan Co-op, said with tears in her eyes. “It’s gone so far above and beyond what I could’ve ever thought possible. I’ve met so many beautiful people — so many artists. It’s truly changed the community, and it’s changed me.”

MoFACo will close Dec. 16 with no set plans to re-open. While Puzey said it’s one of the hardest decisions she’s ever had to make, she’s thankful to the community for making it all possible in the first place.

“For me, especially, being in the minutiae of everything, this last year has been so hard,” she said. “And I had to take a step back and ask why we’re doing this. This is just the sign we needed that it’s time to move on because we cannot make this work.”

She said the angels were on their side when they happened to get the perfect location for an artisan co-op on Main Street in 2020. With the help of community volunteers, the space underwent a complete renovation, including wall removal, new flooring, hanging drywall, new lighting fixtures and more.

MoFACo provides small businesses with the opportunity to showcase their work on Main Street in St. George, Utah, Nov. 21, 2023 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

“We should’ve never been here,” Puzey said. “But it was magic. And it happened. And I hope when something like this rolls around to the community again that people engage and fight for it and keep it and love it because you never know how long it lasts.”

It wasn’t until this article was published on the shop last year that people were able to see the store for what it really was, she added.

The store’s opening included a three-year lease. Due to market values, they expected the cost to go up once the contract was over. But Puzey said even the landlord didn’t anticipate just how much the price increase would be.

“We were expecting maybe a $500 or $600 increase,” Puzey said. “But to have it go up over 50% and, over the course of three years, double in rent for a little co-op, we just can’t do that.”

Puzey said they only keep 35% of artisan’s profits — a number unheard of in retail. Those profits go directly into overhead costs including staffing and electricity. After running different models including subletting to keep the shop open, the numbers still didn’t work. They were able to negotiate the lease to extend through the holidays, giving MoFACo one more Christmas with the community.

MoFACo provides over 90 local small businesses with the opportunity to showcase their work on Main Street in St. George, Utah, Nov. 21, 2023 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

If somebody had this as their one thing, they might be able to make it work,” Puzey said. “But where I have to fight for this, where I have to fight for the farmers market, everything has just been a fight for years.”

MoFACo not only showcases the work of local artisans and farmers but also assists in each individual business’s setup and growth. That includes providing each member of the co-op their own website, assisting with company branding, providing a breakdown of everything sold each month in order to maximize future sales and shipping to customers directly from the store.

“To have a lot of these artists say it’s the first time they’d had an online shop because they were so overwhelmed with their lives, and teaching them how to do that and walk them through everything from the beginning, it’s just a dream,” she said.

Now, she said she feels called to focus on one thing – the St. George Downtown Farmers Market. With uncertainties and no guarantee of its future, the market continues to grow and requires additional attention and proactive planning. Between Puzy and market assistant Ashley Tiller, the pair were averaging 50 hours a month at one point just to secure the future of the market. For Puzey, that was in addition to running MoFACo, organizing live events and being a mother of two young kids.

“I’m still just so passionate about community spaces where people can come together and I had to just decide to focus on events,” Puzey said. “This is devastating to the community. But I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have a farmers market. I don’t want to see that happen.”

Artisan/ MoFACo Store Manager Kierstin Madsen and MoFACo founder and owner Kay Puzey take a photo together in St. George, Utah, Nov. 21, 2023 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

Once she posted MoFACo’s closure on social media, the outpouring of both sadness and support was overwhelming, she said, adding that there are few community spaces where people can connect, build and be a part of something. To find out MoFACo was that place for so many surpassed what she ever could have dreamed, she said.

Over the three years that MoFACo has been open, she’s had the pleasure of watching people start businesses from scratch and transition into making a full-time income off their dreams.

MoFACo store manager Kierstin Madsen, also the jewelry artist and designer behind MPE Designs, has been involved since the store’s inception, starting first as an artist and stepping into a management role as the store quickly grew. 

“It’s been everything we hoped for and more,” Madsen told St. George News. “There are times that we just laid ourselves on the floor exhausted. We’d ask ourselves if it was worth it. But it was always worth it.”

Homemade ornaments hang from a Christmas tree inside MoFACo in St. George, Utah, Nov. 21, 2023 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

For her, the opportunity to network with other creative people in a supportive space has been the most rewarding part of her partnership. At one point, she worked one-on-one with 90 different local creators, helping them understand their worth while also learning how to build their businesses. She and a group of other vendors discussed the possibility of eventually doing a rebrand with the same business model and opening a similar store in the future.

“I want everyone to understand that you were always ours and we were always yours,” Puzey said. “The store wasn’t mine; it was yours. It was so far beyond me cutting up pallets to make boxes. It went so far beyond me painting an orange wall or loving food and loving the people who make it. It turned into so much more.”

MoFACo is located at 55 N. Main St., St. George. Its three-year run will end on Dec. 16 with a final closing celebration. The event will include a photo booth, a potluck, farewell karaoke and more. Follow MoFACo on Facebook and Instagram for more information.

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