New business brings familiar faces back to N. Egan Avenue

FRIENDSHIP AND FAMILY form the foundation of a new business which will be located at 211 N. Egan Ave. Jeannie Heilman (left), her daughter Sarah Lien, and their friends, Karol Palli and Courtney Van Batavia, will be opening Inspired in October.

Inspired by friendship and a shared interest in creating beautiful items for the home, four local women are taking advantage of an open storefront on N. Egan Avenue to offer their repurposed furniture and home decor items for sale.

"It was the luck of the draw that it opened up and we were ready -- or close to ready," said one of the new store's owners, Sara Lien.

Area shoppers may find familiar faces when they step into Inspired -- the store's name as well as the animating force behind its owners' creative endeavors. Located at 211 N. Egan, the store will be operated jointly by Urban Junk's former owners, Jeannie Heilman and Karol Palli; as well as Lien, who is Heilman's daughter, and Courtney Van Batavia, who works with Heilman at Home Health Care.

Unlike Urban Junk, Inspired will not be taking items on consignment. Instead, the women will be offering items they create themselves.

"We've all been doing this a long time," said Van Batavia.

In fact, Lien said, the shed in which she works has become so full that she no longer has room to work.

"I have stuff like you wouldn't believe," she said. "I needed to clean out some stuff."

A grand opening is scheduled for Oct. 2 with the store opening at 10 a.m. Because all four women have other endeavors, Inspired will be open on weekends -- Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The friendships that create the foundation of the business are interwoven, not arising from a single source. Heilman and Lien are mother and daughter.

Lien met Palli when she worked at Kolorworks Paint and Decorating. Palli would come in to purchase paint for her projects. Heilman met Palli when she opened Urban Junk in 2011 and Palli consigned items with her.

Lien's son graduated from high school with Van Batavia. Heilman and Van Batavia met when they began working together at Home Health Care.

"We found out we had this mutual hobby," Van Batavia said.

Before the store was a reality, they would bounce around the possibility of doing something together.

Each of the women brings a unique flair to the items she creates or repurposes. Van Batavia is attracted to decorator items and has been selling her products at vendor fairs.

"I like the vintage-style stuff, mixing old and new," she said.

Lien is attracted to color.

"A lot of my furniture is bright," she said.

Her mother is attracted to neutral colors and the shabby chic look. Palli too is attracted to shabby chic but uses a little more color. She and Van Batavia also like farmhouse decor.

They are currently painting walls at their new location with neutral tones to showcase the collection they will have available to the public in less than a month.

None of the women finds it easy to discuss her creative process. As much as anything, it's intuitive based on experience.

"I might see an idea here or there and add to it. Sometimes I just look at something and [think] `I can make that out of it'," Palli said, not indicating what could be made but rather explaining the leap her mind makes from what is seen to what a piece could become.

Van Batavia grew up both watching her mother engaged in craft projects and making jewelry with her grandmother. She said her grandmother, who died in 2013, was one of the catalysts for beginning to sell decorator items at vendor fairs with her mother.

"She wanted us to start a business," Van Batavia said.

Similarly, Lien grew up around it.

"I've always been a furniture painter," Heilman said. She and Lien shared a story about one set of kitchen furniture Lien owned which was painted twice -- each time to match the apartment in which Lien lived.

"It gets in your system and you can't get it out," Heilman explained.

Lien added that it makes sense to repurpose older furniture because it's more well-constructed than much of the furniture available today. One of the biggest challenges they face is finding the pieces with which to work.

"You have to find a person who wants it out of their hair," Van Batavia said.

That has not always been true. Before repurposing furniture became popular, the women could easily pick up furniture pieces at auctions and thrift stores.

"Now they know people want these pieces so they charge a lot," Palli said.

That doesn't make repurposing furniture financially feasible. Time and materials have to be factored into the selling price to make a profit, but if the original piece is too expensive, it cannot be sold for a price attractive to a buyer.

Sometimes, though, they do get lucky.

"Sometimes, people give us things. They know what we do," Van Batavia said.

Too, they go junking.

"We live to junk," Van Batavia noted.

The four friends very much look forward to opening the doors of their new business.

"We all know each other's stuff. We all love each other's stuff. It will mix well," Heilman said.