HARCOURT - For Angie Lambert, opening her new business in Harcourt means going back to her roots.
Lambert purchased the former Blue Willow Tearoom and Country Treasures gift shop property just east of Harcourt earlier this year, along with the lot and farmhouse that are adjacent to the building. When the purchase was final, and she walked through the doors for the first time in more than a decade, memories of the former shop and the many good times had there came flooding back.
"It was nostalgic, really," she said. "It's the little things that you remember."
-Messenger photo by Emilie Nelson-Jenson
Angie Lambert arranges some repuposed vintage items in the Recycks Shop at The Homeplace Studio and Occasional Market near Harcourt. Lambert opened the business in the former Blue Willow Tea Room and Country Treasures Gift Shop, which her family owned and operated for 25 years before it closed more than a decade ago.
Her mother, Connie Gustafson, ran the business for many years, and her father, Rollie Gustafson, grew up on the family farm nearby.
"Mom had Country Treasures and Blue Willow for 25 years," said Lambert. "And I worked in the kitchen. The farmhouse was always Grandma's house, my dad grew up there."
The Blue Willow became a staple in the Harcourt community until her parents' retirement more than a decade ago.
"They retired and moved on after 25 years here," Lambert said.
Lambert had considered keeping the family business going, but it wasn't a possibility at the time.
"I couldn't even begin to buy it at that time," she said.
The building was sold and repurposed as a church for about three years before sitting empty for the past seven.
"I just couldn't bear to see it deteriorate or have that for sale sign out there any longer," Lambert said.
Lambert was surprised to find the building in good condition with many of the original fixtures and wallpaper still in place, and with a few new coats of a warm purple paint, was able to open The Homeplace Studio and Occasional Market in July.
The name was easy to select, Lambert said.
"The Homeplace, that's what we always called it out here," she said.
The business features Recycks Studio, where Lambert makes her own creations with repurposed vintage items and recycled fabrics, and six rooms for private parties, group meetings and vendor markets, which Lambert said have been very successful.
"We had our first market in August," she said. "They keep growing; our Dec. 1 Christmas market will feature 31 vendors. We've had the Girl Scouts out here for crafts and we just booked a wedding and reception."
The markets are geared toward local crafters and artists who set up and sell their handmade goods.
The Dec. 1 event will also offer Christmas refreshments, kids' art projects with the Southeast Webster-Grand art students and Christmas carols by the Southeast Webster-Grand music department.
"There is just so much local talent, that's kind of how my mom got started here years ago, selling things by local crafters," said Lambert.
Just as Lambert assisted her mother at the shop, she is joined by her daughters, Melanie, 16, and Amanda, 12, who help out during the markets.
"It's fun to be able to share that experience with them," she said. "I was here all of the time when I was their age. We're a new generation working together. We always hear stories of the memories people made here, and I hope we can be a happy place where people can come to make new memories. This is where we need to be; we're bringing back a family tradition. It's like coming home, I've gone back to my roots."