Laurie Hagey is making an important contribution to the rebirth of downtown Fort Dodge as a shopping destination. She has opened LilyGrace on Central, 521 Central Ave. Owners of small specialty shops are increasingly selecting the city's historic commercial venue as an ideal location for their enterprises. Hagey said she sees that as a trend that's is likely to continue.
"I'm excited about being a part of downtown," she said. "I remember when downtown was the place to go for everything. I love the idea of being part of ... having shops come back downtown. I think small businesses like mine - the unique, artsy - that's going to be the future of our downtown."
That LilyGrace would be part of that type of transformation is especially fitting because repurposing is at the heart of what the store offers.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Laurie Hagey, right, owner of the recently opened LilyGrace on Central, 521 Central Ave., shows Kellie Guderian, center, and Jessica Martens a copper pot available for sale among the many, “recycled, reimagined and remarkable,” items in her store.
"It's home and garden decor," Hagey said, explaining the focus of the business. "We recycle and re-imagine old things and give them new life. We love junk. Anything vintage. Anything that's chippy, rusty, old and worn-out. We think these things still have something to share with us."
Hagey and her partners - Marty Cromwell, Mary Ann Foster, Robin Rongved and Margo Wardell - search out vintage items and re-imagine how they can be converted into stunning, highly unusual decorative pieces.
"We re-imagine them, repair them, repurpose them," Hagey said. "Whatever they need to move on to the next family, that's what we do. ... Mostly, everything we have used to be something and now it's something else. ... These are pretty much one-of-a-kind items."
Hagey said the search for items to undergo this creative process is a big part of a typical week for her and involves going to auctions, garage sales, estate sales, flea markets and just about anyplace else where old things with potential for a second life might be found.
"We love the hunt," she said. "We search for things that are unusual or unique or things that we see something else in."
LilyGrace is only open three days per week - 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturdays. Hagey said this is so the other days can be used to search for potential merchandise and turn the treasures thus discovered into items customers will find hard to resist. The store includes a 1,000-square-foot retail showroom on the building's main floor and a workshop and storage on the upper levels.
Each Thursday evening is Do-It-Yourself night at LilyGrace. The goal is to help people unleash their creativity.
"We have a workshop," Hagey explained. "We invite people to come in and we'll all make something together."
These events can accommodate about eight people. Reservations are encouraged. The focus will change from week to week. At the first DIY night after the store's Nov. 3 launch attendees produced Christmas ornaments. Details regarding upcoming DIY sessions will appear regularly on the LilyGrace website - www.lilygraceoncentral.com.
"We want LilyGrace to be a place where people ... can come and find that creative spark, learn new skills, make new friends, take some risks, do things a little bit differently than they've done before," Hagey said. "Whether they purchase something that we've already done or they let us help them figure out how to do something they want to do."
She stressed that part of the service at her store is helping people imagine what something can be. People are welcome to drop by to discuss ideas they already have or use the resources at LilyGrace as a source of inspiration. If the items currently for sale aren't precisely what a customer seeks, there is a large stock of home decorating and crafting books and magazines that can be browsed. Hagey and her partners stand ready to assist.
"We've probably either done, have it or will find it," Hagey said.
The message for anyone contemplating a visit to LilyGrace is a welcoming one.
"The coffee is always on," Hagey said. "We have cookies. I absolutely promise you will see something that makes you smile."
Meet Laurie Hagey
Hagey has spent much of her life in Fort Dodge. She is a graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High. Her career has included employment at The Messenger, being a real estate agent, work on an Arabian horse ranch, 14 years with United Way, marketing and development for Friendship Haven and two years at the Humane Society of North Central Iowa. She and husband Larry Hagey have two adult daughters and nine grandchildren. They also have four dogs.
The name of the store is a tribute to two of Hagey's favorite canines - Lily and Grace.
Hagey said she enjoys being in business for herself and is thrilled by the initial success of LilyGrace.
"The response has been fabulous," she said. "We could not have asked for better. ... It's extremely satisfying. I absolutely love it when people come in and get excited about ideas they've had before or see something that they've not ever seen before or find something that makes them happy and they get to take it home. That's really satisfying. It's really gratifying."
Contact Terrence Dwyer at (515) 573-2141 or email@example.com