2010-04-29 / Business

Outdoor art

Business looking to capitalize on “buy local” movement

Neil Jacobs of Outdoor Garden-N-Things, 7269 N. Genesee Rd. Photo by Roberto Acosta Neil Jacobs of Outdoor Garden-N-Things, 7269 N. Genesee Rd. Photo by Roberto Acosta GENESEE TWP. — A smell of wood and earthiness ruminates inside Neil Jacob’s quaint shop where local residents can pick up bird feeders, shepherd hooks, hanging baskets, plant stands or pots sculpted into various different forms.

Jacobs opened Outdoor Garden-N-Things, 7269 N. Genesee Rd., six weeks ago and hopes the authentic nature of the pieces in his shop will draw people in for their garden decor this spring and summer.

“We basically just started this out to be, so these people can build better product for the money than you can go to Home Depot and buy,” he said, adding the materials are sturdy and long-lasting as opposed to manufactured items. “We just strive with all of it to have a better quality product.”

“I’ve always built stuff by hand, stuff for my wife, for my mom,” he said.

Jacobs has drawn on the talent of seven local artists from Genesee County and Lapeer County to showcase their work and keep business here in the local community. Artists include Jan Werner, Teresa Whitney, Jeff and Kathy Atwell, Christine LaRosa, April Evans and Cynthia Gawne.

“I hand-picked everyone and dealt with the people,” Jacobs said, adding the artists pay a flat rate to have their works in his shop but he receives no commission from their sales. “I tried to pick people as close to here as I could.” He said in the future the shop may feature one artist of the month “so it’s always changing out and there’s something new.”

The idea of a store has been in the works for close to a year, Jacobs said, and by selecting local artists “It’s just my way to try and help. I wanted a store, so why not help others along the way.”

Jacobs worked in the masonry business for 15 years, before he began making different plant hooks and making upwards of 20 appearances at craft shows around the state in the past four years.

“This was naturally my next progression,” he said of beginning his own shop. Jacobs still has 22 craft show appearances scheduled for this year, because “It gets to the point customers expect to see you.”

He stated his family has been a big help along the way, including his wife, Rachel, as well as 14-year-old Cody and 11-year-old Allison.

“Everything of mine, it’s been a family thing,” he said. Jacobs used the example of his children being the genesis for his creating tulip-shaped garden ornaments. The family sold 200 at last year’s Tulip Festival in Holland.

He said the family comes along to craft shows on weekends, or Cody and Allison will help around the garage while Rachel takes care of business documents.

“We do everything as a family,” said Jacobs. He is pleased the children have learned about the business aspect, from his former masonry work to dealing with customers at different craft shows.

Jacobs said customers have asked for unique items, such as building a headboard, to making a cup holder for someone’s van to creating signs. He noted the shop will accept custom orders. Jacobs commented with the downturn in the economy and people staying closer to home, many residents are putting money into sprucing up their homes which he hopes will help his business.

“It’s a small store, but there’s so much in here,” said Jacobs. “People are finding things that are unique, yet usable.”

“I’m optimistic,” he said of making the business succeed in the long run. “With the caliber of stuff I have in here, and people wanting to buy more local, it fills a niche.”

Outdoor Garden-N-Things is open from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays. For more information on the store or to place orders, visit www.garden-n-things.com or call 810-309-3139.

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