In recent years, the “maker” movement has helped many individuals transform their artisanal and hobbyist roots into thriving businesses. This month, we launch our profiles of local makers and celebrate their diversity, ingenuity and creativity.
I meet George and Shelia Spalding of Farm Fresh Collections in their workshop, where they are most at home. George is assembling a bookcase on one workbench, while, on another, Shelia paints an American flag on reclaimed barn wood. The building where their workshop is located once housed Wagon Wheel Antique Mall, the couple’s first retail foray. But it didn’t take them long to realize that they’d rather be making their own rustic and farmhouse-style pieces from reclaimed materials than tending to a store.
“We were frustrated when we couldn’t help someone.” George explains. “A person would come in looking for a coffee table or something that we didn’t have. And I’d think, ‘Why don’t I just make one?’ One day, I grabbed some old barn wood we had in the back and made a coffee table,” he continues. “Then someone else was like, ‘Can you make a farm table?’ I said, ‘Sure, I can do that.’”
“When people found out what we were doing,” Shelia interjects, “it spread like wildfire.”
Soon, they closed the store and began exclusively working on a line of handcrafted hutches, farm tables, painted signs and décor items and taking custom orders. Recently, they even created display cases and the front counter for Hello Cupcake in Ocala.
“We’ve made about 3,000 pieces in the last five years,” Shelia says. “Between referrals, Facebook and Etsy, we have more requests coming in than we can handle. Right now, we have a lot of people waiting on pieces. But our customers are great. They’re like, ‘It’s fine. You’re worth the wait.’”
And although adding more staff is something they’ve considered, the Spaldings haven’t found a way to add to the mix without sacrificing the most rewarding aspects of their business.
“It is an intimate process when you build something yourself,” George explains. “You really do put care, thought and your own energy into it. I always say that we build heirloom pieces.”
“Our customers tell us, ‘I’ll have this for the rest of my life.’” Shelia says, continuing the thought. “We want them to be able to share our pieces with future generations.”