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Push begins for 'artisan corridor' at Exit 33

CENTRAL POINT — Local business owners will soon embark on a new way of marketing their quiet town that, over the years, has become a hub for artisan vendors offering everything from chocolate, wine and cheese to custom glass and furniture.

Rogue Creamery owner David Gremmels and marketing director Frances Plowman initiated the concept with city officials, which garnered some support from hotel-motel tax revenue. Plans are to produce a special brochure and market the area near Highway 99 and Pine Street as an "artisan corridor."

"The idea is truly to bring attention and celebrate the quality and talents of the artisans at our little Exit 33," Gremmels said.

"We've really kind of put together a collective of people on a brochure that represents those businesses — makers, growers and producers who are really connected to their craft or their art."

While the campaign is still in the creative stages, Gremmels said efforts are ongoing to include the "artisan corridor" in regional and state maps to attract tourism.

Longtime businesses with regional draw include the creamery, Hastings Furniture, Yellow Basket, Grange Co-Op and Horse Blanket, while businesses added in recent years include Red Oak Glass, Lillie Belle Farms chocolate, Rostel's restaurant and Mellelo's coffee.

Gremmels said the businesses in the area also will capitalize on their close proximity to Seven Oaks Farm and Crater Rock Museum, while plans are to add a small farmer's market, wine-tasting room, fish market and bakery next-door to the creamery.

City Administrator Phil Messina said promoting the artisan corridor will be good for tourism.

"We think it's pretty cool. It just kind of gives us a little more visibility, especially with the Creamery and Lillie Belle attracting so much attention," Messina said. "They're using 'Exit 33' as kind of the branding. Hopefully it will draw visitors to Central Point for cheese and wine and chocolate and whatever else people can find. Anything we can do to help bring people in and put us on the map, we're glad to do it."

Red Oak Glass owner Louis Colosimo said the idea has been a long time coming.

"It's something I've been pushing for a long time so I'm really happy for them to take a lead on that," said Colosimo. "We've been added to a Medford tour schedule where wine riders show up and go to the glass place, the cheese place, they get chocolate "¦ We want Central Point to put a sign up there that says, 'Central Point: The other end of the valley.' "

He noted, "I was at Art in Bloom last weekend and there were these two people from Ashland "¦ The lady goes, 'I don't think I've ever been to Central Point.' And the husband said, 'Sure you have. When we go to Grants Pass we have to go past it on I-5.' "

With any luck, Gremmels said the sleepy city would soon become a destination for fine food and crafts, rather than an exit to pass on the freeway.

"Central Point is truly positioned as a centerpiece for some of Oregon's finest growers makers and producers," he said. "We think our little Exit 33 makes for an interesting stop off of I-5 — not only an interesting stop, but an interesting experience."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.