At The Firehouse, crafters can tackle a craft and take home a project made by their own hands, while leaving the mess behind. Materials are provided, and staff are on hand to offer guidance. For many aspiring artists and crafters, it’s been a dream come true, a way to build confidence and skills, and express something personal. Owner Angel McGhee said that crafters often have a story to tell through their work. Many customers come in with a quote or image in mind that is meaningful to them, or to a loved one. The Firehouse is all about helping people share that story with a unique piece of art that they can feel proud of.
The Firehouse is also an opportunity to make a social connection with others who enjoy creating and crafting. It’s a great location for birthday parties, team building, bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and girls’ nights, or to meet new friends during open studio time. McGhee was inspired to open The Firehouse after spending time crafting and upcycling with her own friends. She had a blast hanging out and helping them make something fun, and then saw them walk away with something that they were proud of at the end. She wanted to see others enjoy the experience of getting hands-on with a project.
“A lot of people don’t think that they’re crafty,” McGhee said, “but they just need a little help and encouragement. It’s fun and relaxing, and people really surprise themselves.”
McGhee’s daydream of a space for her and her friends to craft together with others became a reality almost by accident. McGhee went to an estate sale and saw that an old firehouse was available for purchase. She saw potential in the space, so she and her husband decided to buy it and fix it up. They put in hours of work remodeling the space, and then opened up for business in April of 2018. The Firehouse soon became a full-time job for McGhee, with scheduled classes as well as walk-in studio time, and more than 100 projects for crafters to choose from. McGhee can also help you design a custom plan for restoring or repurposing material, such as wood from a house or barn that has meaning, or an old piece of furniture that needs a make-over.
Business went through the roof when a promo video for a welcome sign with interchangeable, seasonal pieces went viral, with over 10 million views. Customers from around the world reached out to buy the product. To meet the demand, McGhee set up an Etsy shop and began taking orders. The publicity meant more than 25,000 new followers on The Firehouse Facebook page, and it changed the way that McGhee does business. She is still focused on her own community, and providing an experience for people in the Topeka area, but she’s also thinking about what she can provide through online sales to customers at a distance, to help them experience the fun of crafting, too, or give them an opportunity to buy beautiful décor for their homes.
The Firehouse just had a very busy fall, with a move into a new building with more space for classes and retail. They’ve added a line of self-leveling, resin paint that is easy to use, and shows no brush marks, at a reasonable price. The spring brought challenges, with the COVID crisis and stay-at home order, but The Firehouse rose to the occasion, showing creativity and flexibility during a tough time.
“It would have been easy to close up,” McGhee said, “but instead we thought through what we could do, how we could make it work.”
One adaptation was DIY projects to go. McGhee says they will continue to offer these kits, because people love them.
“I can’t even tell you how many kits we’ve put together,” McGhee said, “and people were so grateful to have something easy and fun to do at home.”
McGhee said that she has been inspired by seeing how local businesses support each other through a tough time, and by the customers who went out of their way to support The Firehouse and other local businesses, to make sure that they continued to thrive and would be sticking around.
“Our community is really conscious of supporting local business even in good times,” McGhee said, “because they see that we put our heart and soul into a company, and that we want to create an experience and provide a real value for our neighbors.”
McGhee said that Envista embodies that investment and caring for community perfectly, which is why she chose to work with Envista for her personal and business finances.
“I grew up in a small town,” McGhee said, “so it means a lot to me that when I walk into Envista, they know who I am. I’m not just another number, I’m a neighbor. They want to see me thrive and succeed, because local businesses are what make a community thrive and succeed.”
McGhee said that she refers people to Envista frequently, because they make finances easy. They walked McGhee and her husband through what they needed to invest in and build several businesses, as well as their own home.
“It’s a relationship of mutual trust,” McGhee said. “It’s personal.”
McGhee shared that Envista hosts lunch discussions with local business owners, and not just those who are members of Envista. The goal is to bring passionate entrepreneurs together to share ideas and support with each other, because everyone benefits when local businesses band together.
“I really believe that with Envista, supporting local business is not a pitch,” McGhee said, “it’s about how they can help us, about how we can all support each other.”
Check out The Firehouse website to see color photographs of the many crafting opportunities available and learn more about how McGhee and her staff can help you make your crafting dreams come true.