So I have a lot of people that come into the shop an ask, "what is this place? why is it called Restoration Alley DIY Co?" Some get confused and think that they can come in and have anything restored. So I'm here today to share the story of Restoration Alley and how it all began.
In my previous post I shared with you that I love art and always wanted to be a high school art teacher. Along with that I have always loved crafting and creating things. Even as a child I crafted with my mom. She used to make things and sell them at craft fairs and I was always there watching and helping when I could.
I worked at A-B in various roles, but at the time when my side hustle began I was in a position where I was not using any of my creativity at all. I was just doing the day to day desk job and I needed something more! I lived in South St. Louis City and shortly after moving there I discovered that when people didn't want things they'd put them in the alley. There were certain days of the month that were designated "big trash day" and the days leading up were the best for finding great items. It really is amazing to see what people throw away.
I found some cool pieces and would take them in, usually paint them and then use them in my house. My ex-husband and I even took old windows and made shadowbox tables out of them, which was one of my favorite projects. People in South City were constantly getting new windows in their homes and they'd just throw the old, originals, out. So we went around and collected all that we could.
As I also mentioned in my previous post we divorced when Wes was about 5 or 6. I kept our house and took on all the debt that came with it. Being a single mom was not something I ever planned for and I was not financially prepared for it. So I would find furniture in the alley and refinish it to use on our home. I had no means of buying brand new furniture so I made each piece new again and soon we had a home full of unique furniture.
It didn't take long for friends and family to ask me to refinish pieces for them and thats when my side hustle was born. It was amazing! I was getting to be creative and I was making extra money while having fun.
This is when Restoration Alley was born! I was literally taking things from the alley and restoring them into beautiful, unique pieces. It really is a trash to treasure story.
Nowadays I don't keep as much furniture inventory on hand, the hubs likes to park his car in the garage. But I do still do custom refinishing for people. I also always have a project in our house that keeps me busy.
Restoration Alley has evolved quite a bit over the years and I really like where we are now. In leading the DIY classes, I feel like I'm finally doing what I was always meant to do, which is teaching people to use their creativity to make something beautiful.
Hey there! It's been a long time. If you are one of my OG followers then you may have noticed that everything is different. My site, my blog, my email, my social posts. Literally everything.
Last year I decided to leave the corporate world and follow my dream! Crazy, right?! Well I'm about to tell you how it all went down. But to do that I need to go back... way back! So please bear with me...
When I first went to college, right out of high school, my intention was to graduate with a degree in secondary art education. I was going to teach high school art. I discovered art in high school, like really discovered it, and I wanted to help others do the same. I was always good at drawing and crafting, but I fell in love with art and all the possibilities that came with studying it.
Well as it would happen, things didn't really go according to plan. I was young and naive and to make a long story short, I moved to OH for a guy, almost married him, that didn't end up working out, so heartbroken I left, very quickly, and moved back home to Missouri. Once home I didn't re-enroll in school right away, instead I sat around feeling sorry for myself and worked to save money to move back out on my own again. I was able to move out pretty quickly, which I was excited about. I made new friends at work and even met a new guy. I enrolled in college again and was back to studying art.
Well shortly after all that I became pregnant with our son Wes, who is now 12. Again, I quit school. Luckily I landed a job at Anhueser-Busch when Wes was about 1. I was making really good money and had amazing insurance benefits for my son. All without a degree! I was thrilled.
When Wes was about 5, I decided to divorce his dad. It was the hardest decision I ever had to make up until that point. His dad and I just weren't meant to be, but we wanted to try and keep Wesley's parents together. It wasn't until after my divorce that I really started to focus on myself and honestly take care of me again.
I realized that to be a good mom I needed to be happy and healthy. I started Restoration Alley shortly after. It was the creative outlet I needed after working at a desk job all day. My job was fine, but it was never what I really wanted to be doing. I went back to college and eventually finished a couple of years ago.
Then six years ago, last week, I went on my last first date. I love our story and never get tired of telling it. Jeff also worked at A-B, but we never met in person at work. Our departments worked together and he and I talked on the phone almost daily. You know when you talk to someone and based off the tone of their voice and the way they talk you picture what they might look like? Well I pictured Jeff as a plain guy who was about 50 years old. I was 28 at the time, so to me that was old!
We talked on the phone for a year or more until we met, in person, at a concert. I was there with one of my best friends who actually worked within Jeff's department. When he first pointed Jeff out, at the concert, I was like, "thats not Jeff Jahn (John is how I thought his last name was pronounced) that guys old!" My friend insisted it was him and asked if I wanted to meet him. Um yeah... of course I did, this guy was super cute! I walked right up to him, slapped him on the arm and said, "dude I thought you were so old!" This was after a few beers of course!
Apparently that line works, because after that we started talking more and more, became Facebook friends, ran into each other in the halls and elevators at work and eventually went out on a date. Now I didn't realize we were on a date, I planned a night out and all my friends ended up canceling for various reasons. When I was telling him about how they canceled, he said he'd go with me. So he picked me up and we went to my favorite little hole in the wall bar right down the street from my house.
I guess I didn't realize that he liked me, I mean I was hoping he did, but I had no idea. The blues were on, we watched the game, had a couple buckets of beer, played some ski ball and then he kissed me during a dart game. We have been inseparable ever since!
Two years later we bought a house and got engaged that October. We got married the next October. Then had a surprise baby the following October. And to be even crazier we opened Restoration Alley this last October. Needless to say we aren't doing anything this fall LOL.
So that brings me to the point of my post. After having Oliver, I took some time on my maternity leave to think about what I really wanted to do. Jeff also has a daughter, Scarlett, and we never thought we'd have anymore children, but Ollie has completed our family. Knowing he was our last baby I really wanted to find a way to have more time with him. Our older kids keep us busy too, and we were always shuffling them around and asking for rides to and from school from others and I just didn't want to be that mom anymore. I wanted to be able to take them to school and pick them up, to get them to practices and just be home more often.
I also wanted to show them that anything is possible. You know when you're young and adults tell you that you can be anything you want to be? I truly believe that now. If you put in the work and have a great support system you can be anything you want to be.
I kind of got to a point where I was like, "it's now or never." I didn't get to become a high school art teacher, but after my divorce I fell in love with the idea of Restoration Alley and I wanted to take it to the next level. For years I wanted to open a brick and mortar store and sell my handmade creations.
Well I am excited to say that I was finally able to do that. With the support of Jeff, there is no way I could do this without him, I am living the dream. Seriously... its AMAZING.
We opened in October and it's been an amazing ride so far. Somedays I still can't believe I own a store. I feel like I'm in a dream. It's been a lot of work and I've learned a ton and am sure that I have even more to learn as we evolve and grow.
Besides selling my handmade items, I teach DIY classes. So in a way I turned out to be what I always wanted to be, a teacher. It's a lot of fun and I've met some amazing people.
Besides having the help of my love, my mother in law works here and my best friend. It's so much fun! I am very lucky to have them both in my life and helping me in the store. This truly is a family affair. Our parents were huge helps in getting this place up and running, from painting, to cleaning, to organizing and even making products to sell they have all been amazing!
I can't wait to see where this year takes us. Last year was incredible and I feel like this year will be even better. I hope that you will follow me in this journey and if you are in the area you will come in and see all the wonderful things we have to offer. Besides my handmade items we feature items from about 40 local crafters and makers. There is some serious talent in here!
Lastly, if you have a dream... go after it! Live your dream, show your kids that you really can do anything you set your mind to. I think that's my favorite part about this. I hope that our children learn as much as I do from this experience and that they know with some hard work and a great support system they too can be anything they want to be. I am proof that even if there are some bumps in the road, great things can happen and you can follow your dream!