Rain Brothers moves to Yellow Springs
- Published: May 19, 2023
The use of cisterns and other rainwater collection systems dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who often used rainwater to supplement water drawn from a well for daily use. Today, cisterns and rainwater collection systems are used to store water for gardening, and in some cases, drinking.
Continuing that centuries-long tradition is where local resident Johnathan Meier steps in. His business, Rain Brothers, has been focused on “rainwater harvesting” for both residential and commercial enterprises for 17 years. The business relocated from Columbus to Yellow Springs in 2022 and is housed in the former Sound Space building in the 800 block of Dayton Street.
Meier recently told the News that he comes from a family whose work focused on providing potable water for people.
“I do come from a long line of well drillers dating back to my great-grandfather,” Meier said. “And they drilled wells in South Dakota where the wells were a half-mile deep and water was precious.”
To supplement water supply in an otherwise arid part of the state, many families used cisterns to collect rainwater. While there are many households who have cisterns, finding companies to service cisterns can be difficult.
“I think we are one of the only companies in the country that specializes in underground cisterns,” Meier said. “It’s kind of a forgotten thing.”
As a company, Rain Brothers installs cisterns that can be used to collect rainwater for drinking. They provide several options for filtration systems, including UV filtration and reverse osmosis systems.
“We’re licensed through the Ohio Health Department,” Meier said. “We put in pre-filters, tanks, pumps, pump controls and indoor filtration so that the end result is drinking water from the roof.”
They also offer solutions for people who have low water supply from their wells or have had wells go dry.
“There are few alternatives when a well runs dry. A lot of people have to rely on a diesel truck to deliver water, which is completely unsustainable,” Meier said. “We are glad to have grown into this business.”
Asked about the trajectory of Rain Brothers, Meier said he began designing rainwater catchment systems while co-directing Four Seasons City Farm, a nonprofit in Columbus.
“We were doing urban agriculture and we had a hard time getting water access to the sites,” Meier said. “A good friend of mine and I started building rain catchment systems to get water access.”
People started noticing their work, Meier said, and he started getting requests for designs from other people.
“In the early stages, we built rain barrels in our backyard,” Meier said. “One of our earliest customers was a woman from Yellow Springs who owned a shop called Eco-Mental.”
After 15 years in business and a family move to Yellow Springs, Meier decided to move Rain Brothers to Yellow Springs, too.
“We had a space in the west side of Columbus that we operated out of for a decade,” Meier said.
At the time, Meier said he was not “anxious to sell” or move Rain Brothers, but an opportunity to move closer to his home in Yellow Springs and do some good for the Columbus community presented itself.
“A friend of mine who does economic development was looking for a site to build a large affordable senior housing complex,” Meier said. “We had a unique acreage in the heart of a neighborhood.”
So in January of 2021, Meier sold his business space in Columbus and began searching for space near Yellow Springs. After meeting with Chris Hertzler, the owner of Sound Space, Meier decided to purchase the 2,666-square-foot Dayton Street building and one-acre lot.
Since purchasing the building, Meier and his crew of five have continued working with clients to find ways they can capture and use rainwater to their benefit.
“The beauty of having kind of a niche industry is that we’re not only servicing people who need [rainwater systems] for their whole house water supply, but there are several starting points,” Meier said. “People can get a rain barrel or a rain barrel kit and build their own little backyard system that really has a tremendous impact on lowering input into a municipal storm sewer.”
The environmental impacts of using rainwater for various purposes drove Meier to collaborate with Yellow Springs Hardware to sell rain barrels and rain barrel installation kits at a lower cost than other stores in the region.
“We helped develop a lot of parts or a lot of kits that are used for rain barrels,” Meier said. “Because of that, we have relationships with manufacturers and we can get very low pricing on a lot of the products.”
Today, Meier and his crew work out of their Yellow Springs space, installing systems throughout the region and educating people about rainwater catchment systems.
“We’re trying to shift more and more towards training others to install these systems because it’s kind of a forgotten water supply,” Meier said. “We’ve been intentional, and now we get calls from Turkey, Mexico — every corner of the world from people asking about assistance, so we’re trying to train others.”
And that’s where Meier said he finds fulfillment — connecting people with the oldest method of collecting and using rainwater in a sustainable way.
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