Crafts business grows in Monticello
The holiday season is a special one for Monticello school bus driver Cheryl Wheeler. It's that time of year when the pastimes she's enjoyed when not driving for SAD 29 go on display for all to see. Country Goose Crafts, her growing gift store, sends a message to those driving on Route 1 through town: stop and see, her flag beckons, white lights twinkling from the porch of the historic home.
How did I get started? She asks herself the question in way of answering how it all began.
"I always did everything (crafts). I do what I like, all by hand, and do what I don't see anywhere else," she explains.
"Our House" as the roadside sign says, is home to her crafts store. In the next year or so she hopes it will also flag passersby to the "Our House Bed & Breakfast", which is handily located alongside the ITS snowmobile trail.
"There's still work to do," she says, " so it won't be ready yet."
Inside this second oldest house in town, she's busy cutting out runners and organizing wreath decorations. The porch entry into her store brings one into a pleasantly cluttered showroom of dolls, teddy bears, wooden country decor, baskets, candles and much, much more. Once one has had a chance to peer over and around all the items, it's time to move to the front room that is filled to the brim with even more country collectibles.
Low wooden hinged bench seats hold displays of her homemade dolls and teddy bears with unique outfits. The wooden furniture is also make by Cheryl, who brushes off any exclamation of expertise recognition as 'oh, I just do these things...'
Her woven baskets help set the displays off, and the tickets reflect what has helped her business grow: low overhead is passed on the customers in the form of the reasonable prices.
"I've grown ten times over since I started five years ago and especially when I moved the shop into the (my mother's) house two years ago," she notes.
"You can do anything you put your mind to," she affirms.
To complement the items she makes, Cheryl adds a selection of other country items, some handmade in the County. Robin Underwood in Presque Isle supplies country crafts as do New England manufacturers of wrought iron lamps, a wide variety of teddy bears (she dresses most of them), candles and antique cards.
Cookie dough gingerbread men with raisin eyes are shellacked and attached to hangers for wall or tree decor. The 9-1/2" men are $8.98 and she prices the smaller ones at $1.50. Each sports a painted-on heart and homespun cloth scarf with button trim.
"A month or so before Christmas I'll do custom work," says Cheryl, who's always looking for new ideas and new craft challenges.
"It's a hobby that grew into a business," she adds, noting that having the talent for crafts is what makes it work.
She's always done a lot of sewing as her children grew up, so additional gifts are expanding into women's clothing like country jumpers. With the children just about grown and gone she's starting to take growing the business seriously.
A velvet angle bunny doll with wrinkled antique ears commands Cheryl's attention for a moment. She props it up on the edge of a trunk display and notes it's been a new best seller. A new woolly lamb is coming out for Christmas and so the display is ever-expanding.
About one thing, Cheryl is adamant. She doesn't copy other crafters.
"It's not right to take over what they do," she says.
For now, Country Goose Crafts has just enough space for all the new ideas that Cheryl dreams up. Tomorrow - and the reality of Our House B & B - there will be even more on the horizon.