Sometimes things don’t work out the way you expect. Sometimes they work out better. For example, the Mast family bought the old Coppes factory in the 1990s because they thought it would be a nice building to renovate and put on the market. Two decades later, they still own it. As a result, a number of small and start-up businesses have a place to thrive, area craftsmen and craftswomen have a place to showcase their wares, the county has a unique event center and the storied Hoosier Cabinet has its own museum. Thomas Mast, owner of John Mast Construction, laughs a little when he talks about his family’s early vision for what is now known as Coppes Commons:

“Our first intent was to just fix it up and sell it,” he says. “But no buyer has come around yet.“Meanwhile,” he adds, “retail is happening.” Eight retailers operate out of the Commons, he says, with room for more. All but two of the existing Coppes Commons businesses are start-ups. Of course, that retail isn’t simply “happening” … it’s being nurtured and encouraged by the Masts, who charge rent based on a business’ sales. That way, the start-ups have the opportunity to pay what they can.

As their sales go up, their rent goes up. “We believe in dealing fairly with people,” Mast says. Having grown up in Nappanee, Mast says he wants the Commons to be a community asset – a vision it has in common with the family’s bigger business, the commercial and residential builder founded in 1960 by his father. “On the construction side, we just want to continue building a reputation for satisfied customers,” Mast says.The family’s business practices are informed by its faith, says Mast. He and his wife have six sons, some of whom are already working in the business with him. He intends one day to pass the business along to them – unless they get a better offer.“I tell them, if the Lord calls them to go elsewhere, they can,” he says. After all, he’s already seen that, sometimes, when things don’t work out the way you expect, they work out even better.

Thomas Mast - Expecting the Unexpected

Owner, Coppes Commons, Nappanee, IN

Elkhart County, IN Entrepreneurs​
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"Sometimes things don't work out the way you expect. Sometimes they work out better."