(I am in the white shirt standing next to my dad, who taught me everything I know about picking, and many other things as well, along with my four siblings who were packed into the back of our old Jeep Wagoner on one of our “vacations.”)
(that is my poor Mom, holding one of the twins about to get back into the car already filled with three of my other siblings… and all of the finds)
I have to be honest with you in that I was overjoyed to have been included in Philadelphia Magazine’s latest feature about Treasure Hunting. I have been a champion of reusing what you have ever since I can remember. Having learned and absorbed that trait from both my Mom and Dad, who recycled before recycling was a buzz word. We rummaged through garage sales, old road side stands and barns and the likes, on our many road trips. I have to be honest with you in that I was not keen on any of these practices while growing up, except for decorating with my dad. I was his wallpaper and room painting helper and both my sister and I redecorated our rooms on every move we made… and we made a lot of them growing up.
Until my parents found their dream property when I was 13… an 1800’s stone farmhouse, a stone barn, a spring house and a little playhouse, all of which had been vacant for at least three years. The house and property were severely showing its neglect by the copious amounts of rodents and snakes that lived primarily in the barn with some finding their way to the house. None of that deterred my dad and the years that followed were ones in which he brought the house and barn back to life. Thus began my true immersion into giving old things new life. Ohhh… and you should see their barn today. If I ever run out of stuff to find, I shall head there!
After my calling to go back to my roots that ground me to the years living in that old house at McLeods Pond brought me full circle to restoring the home of our dreams at Willowbrook Farm 15 years ago, I began picking in earnest once again. In those years since, I have gone on hundreds and hundreds of forages to search for those items that just speak to me… there is no other word for it. I pass up other items that my sometimes partners-in-crime point out for they just don’t feel right and on both my solo journeys and accompanied, I fly through the offerings quite quickly in search of something whose composition, style, uniqueness, color or lack there of calls to me. Those picking trips actually were a huge impetus in the formulation of my business and thus the business was created around the incredible architectural salvage items and furniture pieces I was bringing back to both renovate and fill our new “old” home.
We built this entertainment center out of old shutters that were painted a dark black, other smaller shutters and the headboard of a bed.
This entertainment center that you see in the lower barn, I had built out of a gorgeous set of fireplace doors that I had found, original paint intact!
In the years of picking, I have brought my children along on some of these trips much to their chagrin. Don’t they look thrilled?
My husband has often been cajoled into joining me and after typically reluctantly agreeing, we both find ourselves enjoying the perusals in the barns together and his help in loading the trailer is par none! His support and love through this crazy, time-consuming idea of mine rivals his trailer loading skills and you might even see him playing a larger role in Life’s Patina in this upcoming year.
But my most constant companions on my big picking trips to the Brimfield Antiques Show have been my friends. Friends who are not lured by any misconstrued ideas of glamour, for there are none. Friends who will pack four of us into one room for several days, knowing full well that our days will be long, hot and very dirty. Friends who along with myself, also have come to enjoy this event and look forward to it all year long.
So… what does all of this have to do with the arrival of Philadelphia Magazine on the newsstands this past January? I believe behind each recognition for an accomplishment is a story. And I believe that these stories are just as important as the accomplishment or recognition itself. My story goes way back, as I just depicted, and I assure you that it is far too long to fill in the blanks in this missive but I do want to share with you a very important piece of this story.
From the very beginning of this journey to the day we first opened our doors for our first barn sale to today, I have had people who have supported me in my vision for no one ever goes it alone on their quest to bring an idea to light and make it prosper. The solo entrepreneur might create the full big picture vision alone and they might put in all the legwork to figure out how to bring these plans to life. They might put in more hours than anyone can image from the outside looking in, bringing those plans that fill their head during all waking hours … and sometimes sleeping… to life. They might shoulder the entirety of the small business that is emerges, but they have people behind them as cheerleaders, as supporters in body and spirit who show up to help bring those visions and dreams to life… and my story is no different.
From my grassroots inception of this business supported by the confidence and experience of my friend Chris to the team that has grown over the years, I have been supported by these bolsters of the mind, body and spirit. As we celebrate this recognition of the Meet Your Picker feature in Philadelphia Magazine, I would love to introduce our current team that has allowed me to take this little business whose first barn sales consisted of only family and friends where we were thrilled if 100 people showed up to our barn sales that now bring in 1,800 people in an extended weekend.
Meet Maggie our Brand Manager
Maggie Bangham, now known as Maggie Nelson, came to us via her now hubby, Ben, who had worked for many years on all things Willowbrook Farm related. He was an integral part of the team with building, creating, framing, moving, gardening and role model… working alongside our son, Christopher. When Chris Stoner, my original partner in crime, left her side kick role to devote more time to her exploding real estate career, Maggie, a former buyer for Urban Outfitters joined on as my first time, full-time employee. She brought with her, mad skills in graphic design and social media, a knowledge of retail in general, and that perfect team player disposition and creativity. She even agreed to wear these crazy hats that I constructed at Ladies Hat Day during the Devon Horse Show in her first year with me. With her prowess, we made progress in sharing all the beauty that we were striving to create here at Life’s Patina with all of you that was so very important to us. She understood and continues to understand the vision and the aesthetic which is so very valuable while helping to steer the ship in the direction to which we want to head. She has also become a dear friend who has a way with words that ring true to who she is.
Life is all about transitions right? Big ones and little ones. When Maggie revealed her big news that she was expecting in 2018, and would be converting from a full time to a part time, from home position so that she could spend time with her beautiful soon to be baby boy, I was deeply concerned about filling her shoes as my in-person right arm. Maggie was going to continue to create her beautiful communications to send to all of you, assist with some of our technology and social media platforms, and direct our branding and marketing but her in-person, daily presence would be sorely missed. Who would help with the acceptance of the pallet loads of shipments? The merchandise to be unpacked, damages reported, and priced? Assist with the vintage picking trips and subsequent research and tagging of all of those items? And heck, the most important part… being the sounding and listening board to my crazy ideas!
Meet Julie our Retail and Events Manager
These socks were made for walking… and for laughing… and this is where Julie Niness entered as my full time side kick. Julie had been involved off and on from the beginning of this wee little venture. Actually, she had been in my life since we became next door neighbors as young moms in our last home. We had brought our children up together for ten years in our old neighborhood before moving here for the last fifteen years. We have been through a heck of a lot of mothering and other life stuff together in our history, including her volunteering her time in working the sales when I first started. As the hours of her then full time job waned, she began to spend more time here assisting with unpacking and pricing our merchandise. As fate would happen, her full time position faded fully at the time that Maggie was to leave and Julie accepted my offer to bring her on full time here. The rest has been history! A history that continues to evolve as dear lifelong friends and co-workers.
Julie brings with her an unbelievable work ethic, a stick to it until we get it done mentality, a cohort in my recycling crazies, an “I can read your mind” talent, and a personality that no one could ever copy that brings us more laughter than we can typically handle in one day filled with heart and a pitch-in-when-you-need-him hubby, Mark. (Yes… that is a run on sentence but it had to be!)
Meet Lynda our Book Keeping and Accounting Guru
Anyone who knows me well, knows that Math is not my fortay and while I am a phenomenal “stick to a budget girl,” I am the worst choice to keep up with the creation of spreadsheets, budget projections, and any vast amount of paperwork having to do with numbers. That coupled with the fact that God has not provided for us to have more hours in a day, brought in Lynda Angelo to join the ranks in 2018 part time, while she masters two other side businesses. Lynda and I go way back to the halls of the Conaty Dorm as college freshman who both spent a lot of time living in those very hallways, each having been paired with difficult roommates. We became fast friends then and have remained so ever since, serving as bridesmaids for each other’s weddings (no I will not delight you all with any photos). Lynda, as well as the other team members, is a roll up your sleeves girl and a let’s get it done one at that. She went on her first buying trip with Julie and I to Atlanta in January of last year to keep us in line with our purchases and ordering and she, too, has been a fixture at the front of the barn in the checkout aisle for a few years now. Many of you will recognize her from seeing her smiling face there or at the Duck Doughnuts in Avalon and now Sea Isle in the summer months for she owns and operates both with her husband, Dave. Lynda, needs more hours in a day and we are thrilled that she has been spending some of those waking hours with us.
Meet Suzy our Operations Manager and Cafe Baker
As we have been working on the renovation of the Jenny Lind House in Historic Yellow Springs Village, a name kept popping up when I would talk to Julie about what I envisioned for the menu at the Cafe and my concept of “Food as Art”. Her name was Suzy Montanye. I met Suzy through Julie in the early years of our friendship as Julie and Suzy basically grew up together. Thus she was at many of the Birthday parties that Julie celebrated with her family when the kids were littles. Julie and Suzy worked together at a Clinical Research Company that Suzy had started for a local Doctor. She basically founded it and then figured out how to run it for twenty years. She was looking to make a life change when the Doctor changed direction in his practice and closed the clinical research side. Now what attraction would that have for us? Suzy is one of those unique individuals who has both a business mind and is an extremely talented artist, baker and maker. I first entertained the idea of utilizing those aforementioned talents to bring to life the “Food as Art” concept at the soon to be opened Cafe. As we talked more and more about that vision, I soon learned of her incredible fine arts artistic prowess and a lightbulb went off in my head. Couldn’t Suzy be the artist that I had been looking for to create hand drawn maps of both Life’s Patina at Willowbrook Farm and the village of Historic Yellow Springs to incorporate into the new website Maggie and I had been working on with our web designer over the last year? Well she did that with such staggering prowess that we then utilized her to create the hand drawings of both the barn and the Mercantile to be used in one of the versions of our new Logo.
To make a long story short, Suzy won us over through a combination of our stomachs, her art, her organization, and her business prowess. And she has joined us full time as both our baker and our Operations Manager.
Meet Christopher our Farm Manager
Rounding out our team, there is a gentleman that you have most likely seen on many of your visits to the barn and that is of our oldest son, Christopher.
Christopher is a passionate young man who wears his heart on his sleeve and his knowledge about any type of wood, plant material or animal species you could ever possibly inquire about. He works here on the farm full time as he keeps up with the ground maintenance of the farm, takes care of the animals, the vegetable garden as he hand crafts products that he makes from fallen trees on the property that he cuts and clears… which are many.
Meet Brett our Jack of All Trades and Master as well
Joining Christopher and the team over the last few months has been a fully divested team player in the form of Brett Boyle. He brings with him a wealth of hands on knowledge in many arenas and has assisted in setting up for the Barn sales with moving key pieces into place, building and constructing new pieces from our salvage materials, working on some of the construction projects at the Jenny Lind and leading the direction of them. He has an incredible work ethic, a huge talent pool to draw from, he sees the potential and vision where others might not and he is a phenomenal role model for our son Christopher who works closely with him.
So that is it! Thank you for sticking through to the end on this one. I had to share my experience with my team members for I would not have been staring back at myself when I opened up Philadelphia Magazine had it not been for their support. Their roles and responsibilities and their competent carrying out of them, enable me to really fine tune the value that I want to bring to each and every one of our Life’s Patina consumers and customers. My mind has more bumper bars than a vintage pinball machine for I cannot stop the ideas from flowing and the projects from popping up in my head like those little guys who used to appear and disappear into the floor of the game, before or after your pinball tried to gather points by falling into them. This team, while we may not be experts in our fields, has the work ethic, the” stick-to-it-ness”, the personality and the enjoyment of working together with people we love on a daily basis. That is power! Together we will use a little spit with our polish and figure out first what works best to get us past the trials of this year so that we can bring so much more of what we love to all of you. We are launching into our Tenth Year Anniversary this year and there is going to be a lot of hoopla and hollering going on to celebrate! As we create our plans to bring this celebration to all of you, we will be sharing them and thanking you from the bottom of our hearts for your support, your love and your confidence in our abilities to create not only a place to buy things but to create an experience in the barn. We will be welcoming you in again this Spring and we have some fabulous things up our sleeves that we think you will enjoy!
“Great things in business are never done by one person” ~Steve Jobs