Just a little spit n' polish
Our new storefront seemed nearly move-in ready when we decided to purchase, but we're going for a particular feel for the shop. Of course we had a few projects in mind...
In the front room we wanted to move the slat wall. Slat wall is great for movable shelving and hooks, but we had pegboard planned for the rest of the space, and thought it might be useful in the center room, which was to be our work room. Kate and Dad tackled the removal, and found plenty of screws through a layer of paneling, all installed while the previous paint was wet! But, off it came. The wall repair was minimal, and there was leftover matching paint in the back room. What luck! When we put it in the center room we made it a little shorter and cut a hole for the precious outlet.
The other major project in the front room involved the ceiling tiles. Several of them had stains, and the realtor told us to just swap them with a few tiles in the middle room. Rumor was another buyer was interested in tearing out the drop ceiling entirely to expose the original tin ceiling.
Kate and I sort of allowed each other one vanity project each in this remodel - a project not absolutely necessary, but one that would add to the "feel" of the place. This ceiling was Kate's vanity remodel. Kate and I both really like tin ceilings, but renovation/restoration on that scale was out of the question. Kate looked into other options, and found a really neat product that simply installed over the existing tiles and replicated a sort of tin ceiling look. It took a few evenings on a ladder and some sore arms, but the result was totally worth it.
Aside from the slatwall I mentioned above, we didn't do a thing to the middle room except move furniture in and replace a TV mount. The original mount was meant for a very large computer monitor and wouldn't fit the extra TV Kate had. But, the bracket was already drilled into a stud, so we used the same wall placement. It's nice to have music or a show on while we repair items.
The back room was another story. I don't think it had been touched since the 1970s. However, we were going to use every square inch of this shop, back room included. It has our desk, shipping station, furnace, internet modem and router, dressing room, bathroom, staff fridge and drinking water dispenser, vacuum closet, storage closet, and back door. Phew!
With Kate working days at a home center she was able to snag some mis-tinted paint. It was a shade pinker than either of us liked, but after we swapped the one ceiling fixture's bulbs from old incandescent to a blue-leaning fluorescent the tone evened out to a more neutral. We gladly said goodbye to the brown paneling.
My vanity project was the carpet in the back room. It was brown, and worn out. I don't think either of us expected that removing it also removed much of the old building smell! Underneath was worn out linoleum, so we had to cover it again. I used the same carpet tile that I had installed in my sewing room, and saved a little money by using the leftover tiles from that project. It looks like a patchwork quilt back there, which usually makes people smile.
And finally the dressing room. We didn't want a permanent structure since the room served so many purposes. As for the location, there were already hooks on the wall in one spot, and a plumbing access hatch that was begging to be covered by a bench.
The walls were cheap curtains strung on narrow PVC pipe. The outer corner was another vertical PVC pipe stuck in a bucket of concrete, and joined at the top with a T-joint. The pipes end at the walls with a closet pole mount. It provides privacy and stands up on it's own, but comes down pretty quickly when it needs to.
Oh - and we hung curtains around the furnace, plus put an outdoor plastic screen around the base. It seems less scary walking into the back room that way now that the corner of your eye only sees neutral curtains, not a large metal box.
I'll leave you with pictures of our outdoor signage so far. We have another vinyl sign to mount above the window outside, but we'll have to borrow a taller ladder.
The iconic HEN
It has always been our intention to sell "branded" merchandise in our new store. We've tossed around several ideas, and joked about just slapping our chicken outline on EVERYTHING.
But in all seriousness I did want to develop a simple pin cushion in the shape of a chicken to sell. Pincushions are collectible! I could make this a series! But first I had to start.
I had the idea of making a shaped plush and shrinking it down, but after playing with paper and tape I realized that wasn't happening. I remembered some simple drawings of birds Kate had done years ago after being inspired by greeting card art. Kate's art is gone, and my attempt at sketching what I remembered did not produce a shape that would suit for a pincushion.
Still, I was encouraged in my own process to keep it simple. A search online for free patterns came close, but didn't produce exactly what I wanted. I was thinking of the pyramid shape that has been made into chickens, frogs, owls, and more. Through a blog post I finally found this pattern that I thought I could work with.
The changes I made were to round out the "thigh" area, change the eyes to french knots, glue on the beak, comb, wattle, and felt wings and also to sew one corner before stuffing to form a tail. The legs were just scrap string I had lying around.
I didn't end up making her big enough, and I didn't put anything to weight it down, like walnut shells. So, she is just a prototype. But I am excited to build my flock! (And sell the flock!)
Okay. We'll admit it. We've been keeping something from you all. And, we actually didn't count our chickens before they hatched. We just found our little eggs a henhouse and then they hatched. So to speak. Let me back up a bit. Incoming wall of text to explain some history:
We had a dream that started in high school of operating a small cozy business together. We’ve always loved sewing - from Strawberry Shortcake yarn threading cards when we were 3 to creating a custom black silk cocktail gown for a friend a couple years ago. Even with professional lives we always make time to sew.
When Rachel moved to Beloit in 2011 Quillen’s sewing store was still open, but it has since closed. Alco removed their sewing department, and then closed. A few years ago Stuff n’ Such (a quilting store) in the nearby town of Downs closed, and finding physical, local sewing supplies became even harder. Rachel started to take on custom garment requests and in talking to locals realized a need.
We chose a name for the business and started this blog in 2017 and an Etsy store to maybe someday get a business going. Rachel even ordered business cards with a version of the hen logo in 2018. But, life got busy with other distractions and we left things pretty much dormant.
Meanwhile Kate was pursuing her profession in libraries until 2020 when a recent change in job didn’t turn out to be the environment she needed. The COVID-19 pandemic hit and Kate took the opportunity to evaluate long term goals, mainly moving to be closer to family here in Beloit and start that sewing business we'd been talking about for years.
We thought we’d start the business slowly, out of one of our houses. Kate was getting re-settled in a new job and looking for positions closer to her professional background. Finding retail spaces in small towns isn’t always easy so we weren't in a rush. But a store-front opened up in our budget range (thanks for the tip, Mom!) so here we are. Flying around with our tail feathers on fire, setting up a retail space!
It’s exciting to create a cozy, inviting space where other sewing creatives can find the supplies they need. We want to provide notions, tools, materials, and other supplies our locals ask for in the retail space. In our workshop we’d like to help people feel their best in their clothes with simple alterations, repair, or even a custom garment. From wedding and prom alterations to repairing favorite overalls we’re here to help officially. We just have to set up shop.
Oh - and where does a chicken fit in to all of this? We grew up with Mom’s chickens and have found the little birds to be funny, brave, industrious, inquisitive and more. Besides, who wouldn’t want a modern miniature dinosaur for their mascot?
The bird logo on the main page of this website is a real chicken belonging to our Mom years ago that Kate captured mid-trot. She converted the image to black and white and I printed and traced it, reversing the direction of the run and adding a spool of thread. Our outdoor sign will look like this:
Believe me - we're harried hens already, even if our doors aren't open to the public yet. Setting up a business is not for the faint of heart! We close the contract on the storefront on August 16th, but even before then we'll be hard at work setting up a limited liability company with us as members, contacting state and federal departments to collect taxes eventually, making Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram accounts, setting up bank accounts, talking to insurance people and wholesalers, plus researching point of sale systems and a million other details.
Still, we hope to open our doors mid September. We just need to decide exactly what to fill our space with.
Twins each with half a brain in reality; the other half displayed here!