Want to learn more about our journey as owners of a home and garden store? Well get ready, I am about to take you on a roller coaster ride and wait till you see the ending!
Before I get into the story, let me first apologize for the quality of photos. These were taken 25 years ago and we didn’t have the best camera.
Ok so let’s get on with the story.
Oh no, two babies and no work???
With an almost two year old daughter and a newborn boy, we found ourselves in a market downturn. I had just started my maternity leave with the birth of our son and there were no construction jobs to be found. Bentley was not taking it well, so I was trying to think of every possibility of putting food on the table and keeping a roof over our heads.
As an avid home and garden decor magazine subscriber, I saw so many cute things like garden or kids furniture, accessories for the home, etc., but I could not find any of those things in our town.
Then a lightbulb went off – Bentley could build the items and I could decoratively paint them.
Off to work I went, sketching designs for Bentley to build and then I painted them while the kids were napping.
Our first home and garden decor sale…
I placed a few ads, sent flyers and told all our neighbours. Then on a sunny, summer day, we had our first sale in our backyard overlooking Kalamalka Lake.
We had hand painted benches, tables, chairs, signs and potting benches. I also purchased pretty fabrics and had them sewn into pillows, tablecloths and napkins. I even managed to get an invite to a garden type wholesaler and purchased a number of pre-made items to compliment the items we had made.
The advertising paid off! We had a steady stream of people throughout the day and into the early evening. It was fantastic. We could not believe how well it went. I remember swinging on the porch swing that evening after everyone left so excited to follow this dream and see where it lead us!
Before we knew it, we needed a bigger space
It did not take long before we realized we needed a proper workshop and an area to display our products and it needed to be on a busy street so that we could lure customers in. We sold our home and purchased this old beauty of a house that had a large workshop and a lower level with big windows that would be perfect for a store.
It was in pretty rough condition but we scrubbed and then painted. I even painted the floor to look like large tiles (see below). We found some decorative columns and a header and placed it against one wall as a focal point.
So what did we sell?
I frequented garage/estate sales and auctions. I could only buy the cheapest of the cheap in order to make some money. Sanding, staining, hand painting and upholstering were required to turn every piece into something someone would want to take home.
Bentley created his own designs for adirondack chairs and benches. I finished them off with some natural hand painted elements.
I loved dragonflies in real life and therefore it was a natural to add them to our designs.
Flowers were also a favorite and I adorned whatever I could with roses, hydrangea, and lilacs.
I traveled long distances to find old farm pieces like milk cans, shovels and watering cans, then cleaned them up and decoratively painted them.
Anything that was friendly and welcoming could be found in our shop. Old patina’s were also very desirable and when I couldn’t find them naturally occuring I faked them on bird baths, pots and armillary spheres.
Garden sheds that are pretty instead of an eyesore? What a concept!
I have always liked to improve on what was available and one thing that truly needed a makeover was the common garden shed. Why did they have to be an eyesore that one hid in the backyard? Why not make them cute with an arch topped door and a window with a window box?
We jokingly named it “The Hoe House” and it quickly became our BEST SELLER!!!
Even sloped roof ones…
Welcoming handpainted signs
And then there were signs…
Rustic garden signs…
Pretty, colorful garden signs…
Even handpainted stepping stones!
I took custom orders too, so whatever my customers could think of, I would make!
Typical rounded top adriondack backs were not appealing to me. I wanted something more interesting so…
We had birdhouses…
And even lighthouses!
Behind the Scenes
Life was so busy with the business, but the kids continued to grow and I was determined to keep up the fantasy at home. My son Noah wanted a beach bedroom so I painted a mural on all four walls and Bentley built him an elevated bed.
The room was quite small so keeping as much floor space available for play was necessary. An elevated bed accomplished this.
I wish I could find the photos of my daughter’s bedroom because she had the perfect, sweet little house with a play area in the bottom and her bed up in the attic. So sad I couldn’t find pictures.
Garden shows were the key to our growth
Needing to get the word out of our existence was a must so we started displaying our products at small home and garden shows…
Then bigger garden shows in various cities…
And then we took on the infamous Van Dusen Garden Show. In our first year, we went in as newbies with a small display and won Rockie of the Year. The picture below just shows a portion of our display but unfortunately I couldn’t find any other photos.
The organizers saw our enthusiasm and asked us to compete in the theme garden display. Every year they thought of a theme and we had to leap to the challenge and bring their theme to life.
One year the theme was “The Senses”. My experience is that children use their senses the most – they touch, feel, smell, taste and listen to everything. I designed a children’s playhouse and created a surrounding garden that would tempt all of their senses. Of course, as always Bentley was key in bringing my ideas to life.
Another year, the theme was “Romance in the Garden” and I designed a romantic date set in an outdoor location…
All of those cedar trees, gravel, rocks, sand, bark mulch, gazebo, etc. were brought in by Bentley and I. We worked such long hours and were thrilled when the local news stations that were covering the event decided to hold their interviews from our gazebo!!!
It seemed like it was time for a commercial space
Our biggest success was in larger cities so it seemed like the time was right to move the business from our home to a store. I searched around town and I knew this one area was bound to become a wonderful shopping district so I found an old paint store and leased it.
Bentley did a thorough makeover on it and even brought in pavers and columns to make a focal piece where we had a pond.
One of my favorite things to do was window displays. Here is one from fall…
It turned out, I was about 10 years too soon for that area and business wasn’t that good. Fast forward to today and that area is one of the most desirable shopping areas in our city. As business was lacking, we were forced to move into the local shopping mall. We moved from spot to spot as a temporary tenant as we could not afford to pay the lease rates that permanent tenants paid. Business was fantastic!!!
Things were going extremely well, until…
We got moved into a new part of the mall. The manager promised us it would be a thriving area. Unfortunately there were no other stores in that area and they did not allow us to put a sign at our old location telling people where we were. Our loyal customers even told us that they asked but were told that we had closed up so they didn’t look for us. Even though Bentley built a gorgeous facade, business tanked.
Funny story about our name change..
You probably noticed our new name “Eden Home and Garden”. Well there are two funny parts to that story. First, we changed it from Romantic Home and Garden because there was a magazine by the same name and my gosh but we could not convince people that we had nothing to do with the magazine. They were sure they should be able to pick up a copy with us and when they couldn’t they got annoyed…sigh.
While the name Eden seemed perfect, reflecting back to the very first garden, it turned out to be the name of a questionable massage parlour where the masseuses did more than give a therapeutic massage. How was I supposed to know? I didn’t go looking for such types of treatments and neither did Bentley. We didn’t know they existed as they did not come up on any searches we did. Changing our name to Eden didn’t really cause any problems, it was just funny when men would show up in my store asking if it was associated with the Eden down town. Like what did they think? That all my home and garden decor was a cover up for some freaky stuff going on in the storage room? Geeesh!!!
Seriously though, the worst part was that by 2002, everyone had jumped on the home and garden decor bandwagon. We could not compete with all the big box stores and their ultra low prices. People seemed ok with getting a plastic adirondack chair over a hand made solid wood one. Combine the competition with the poor location and we were going downhill fast.
Then the 2003 wildfires were the icing on the cake..
As the business had grown, we had moved to be closer to the store and Bentley had built a workshop. It was outfitted nicely with good machinery and space to work. He even had a large spray booth (remember this fact for later).
Then one hot August day in 2003 a wildfire broke out near us. We never expected it would get to our home, but eventually one evening we were forced to evacuate. Still in disbelief that the fire would make it to our neighbourhood but suspecting thieves may try to take advantage, we loaded all our precious garden decor and designs into the workshop and locked it up believing it to be safe.
That night the wildfires devastated our neighbourhood. Early the next morning, we found a home across the lake from our home and they had a telescope that they were allowing residents to look through to see if their homes were still standing or not. Bentley took a look and said all was fine. Then I took a look…
Our very old house with a flat tar and gravel roof was standing…
Our brand new workshop was not…
In fact, the spray booth and all it’s accelerants had exploded and fell into our pool also destroying it.
The destruction of our workshop along with all of our tools and designs, was the sign we needed.
Our kids were 8 and 6 by that time and we were spending all our time on the business and not enough with our precious children. It wasn’t making money and no matter how hard we tried, we finally realized our dream was over.
So that is the story of our home and garden store, but don’t worry, it wasn’t a sad ending.
I threw myself into the kid’s lives with sports, art and fun. We re-built the workshop, our driveway and pool. Then we sold it as we had lost all of our privacy due to losing so many trees and moved out a beautiful little acreage and lived the best years of our life.
That portion of our story will be covered in an upcoming blog in which I show you all of the renovations we have done. Ten massive reno’s, one small one and a few spec builds. We worked hard and achieved many beautiful transformations!
As always, thank you for sticking through to the end! Your support and kindness are always appreciated.