Our Retailer of the Month for October is one of our most dedicated stockists, run by someone I have known for years now. But it was only recently that I discovered we had more in common than I first realized! Learn how Becky and her business partner Rob have turned their passion for the handcrafted into a one-of-a-kind store.
I have a special place in my heart for teachers who become entrepreneurs. After all, I am one myself! Same goes for alumnae of my high school alma mater.
By a happy coincidence, Becky Morgan, the owner of the Claremont, CA boutique Heirloom is both. In fact, Becky not only attended St. Lucy’s, but she also went on to teach there!
But it was her love for unique finds and beautiful, handcrafted goods that ultimately drew her towards a different path. After perusing thrift stores and gathering interesting items for herself, she decided to make a go of selling some of the things she had found. She started out online, but it would soon grow into something even bigger.
“I had started making things and began to sell those online also,” Becky explains. “I was also inspired by stores that specialized in locally made goods, by a real flesh-and-blood person working away in their home studio somewhere.”
Taking a Leap of Faith
Meanwhile, Becky’s best friend Rob had worked in the movie industry for over 20 years and wanted something that would let him flex his creative muscles a little more. The timing was right for both of them.
“I had experienced some success making and selling online, and Rob was ready for a change,” recalls Becky. “Inspired by others who had opened brick-and-mortar Etsy-type stores, we decided to take a huge risk and opened one ourselves!”
Becky and Rob envisioned a community gathering place, where people could sell their handmade wares, teach a class, take a workshop, and connect with others. And that’s just what they did.
But it didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t easy.
“I hoped that after a year I could quit my day job,” says Becky. “But the reality of running a retail store—and sending two kids to college—necessitated that I continue working. So, Rob ran the store himself for the first couple of years.”
Crafting a Place for Community
That was five years ago. Now, Heirloom is thriving, a centerpiece of the neighborhood. “We now have a team of employees and they’re amazing!” Becky says with gratitude.
Becky & Rob have leveraged their talents for designing and building beautifully crafted items in order to create an eclectic space with whimsical touches. Becky confides, “Rob and I (mostly Rob) built everything in the store, and if we didn’t build it we got it secondhand.”
Inside the store, you’ll see a corrugated tin roof and a door repurposed from an old car door that they bought at a local antique shop. In the kids’ section, they've built a tree around one of the support pillars, complete with steps leading up to a little house with a tire swing.
“The best part of it is that there is a little mouse house up in the tree that most people don’t even notice,” Becky shares. “But when they do they are delighted! We tell kids that the workshop mouse lives in it. They love it!”
In addition to creating a welcoming space for all, Heirloom is also a place for community members to sell their own handmade items. Becky tells the story of how her boutique has become so much more than a store for its customers and employees.
“A woman came in who was trying to raise money for medical expenses,” Becky recalls. “She was hoping I might let her sell some little purses she had made out of old pairs of jeans. I was so moved by her struggle and her bravery that I bought everything she made, full price. It wasn’t a ton of money, but I felt happy that she knew she could come to us for help.”
Another story connects directly with Becky’s background in education: “We have a young man who has special needs. He comes in several times a week to sit and draw at our kids table because he knows he will never be told to leave. I think he’s my favorite store visitor. We have actually had his art work up for sale in the store!”
The Blessings & Challenges of Business
Even though the day-to-day demands of running a store takes up much of their time, Becky & Rob still make time to exercise their own creativity. And the store provides the perfect outlet to create & market-test their new creations.
By learning directly from their customers, Rob has been able to create a very successful side business making light fixtures from upcycled bottles. He even teaches a workshop on how to make your own wine bottle pendant light.
But to achieve Big Dreams requires preparation and hard work. Here’s Becky’s advice:
“Do everything you can to prepare yourself for success. Learn the business of what you want to do. Seize opportunities to network with people in that field. Be ready so that when the opportunity is before you, you can grab it.
“Opportunities don’t just fall in one’s lap, they are the manifestation of all of your preparation coming together in a moment, a place, a vision. So, don’t wait for what you want, create it. And here is the best piece of advice that, if not followed, will cause all of your preparation to be wasted. Believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to take a risk.
“As women we can sometimes be averse to taking risks. I have certainly been that way all of my life. It surprises me to this day that I own a store…a real place with people and stuff in it! It was a risk for me to open the store. As we are approaching our 5 year anniversary, I am so grateful I did take that risk.
“Nothing makes me happier than to see young women who are empowered to create the life they want for themselves. If you have a dream, get it girl!”
Just like the steps leading up to the tree house in their kids’ section, Becky & Rob are climbing towards something delightful. And because they have crafted a true community space, we all get to join them in that climb.
You can find Heirloom in Claremont, CA at the Claremont Village Square on 175 N Indian Hill Blvd #100a. When you stop by, say hi to Becky & Rob… and keep your eyes peeled for some of your favorite Handcrafted HoneyBee products too!