by | Nov 24, 2020

Fulton business helps employees shine

If you ask Barbara Reid how long it takes for a dream to become reality, she will tell you “about six hours.” But it was six years ago when Barbara and fellow special education teacher Phyllis Swiney were thinking about their impending retirements and taking life at a slower pace. But God had another plan for the friends.

That spring, while attending a wedding in Tennessee, the ladies found a thrift shop they loved. Workers in the store had various levels of disabilities and made a living by working there. Barbara and Phyllis loved seeing those with disabilities employed — but it inspired them to take things further.

Several months later, the friends took their husbands back with them specifically to visit the store and talk to the owner. That trip birthed what is now a co-founding of Re-Made For a Purpose, an eclectic boutique in Fulton. The ladies’ goal is to employ and empower adults with disabilities to utilize their unique talents by creating a quality place of employment for their employees.

“Our husbands will tell you they took two exhausted old ladies to Tennessee and brought back two giggly teenagers,” Barbara recalls. “When we left the thrift shop in Tennessee, the owner told us to ‘Dream big because we have a big God.’ So we did. During our trip home, we came up with an entire business plan.”

With no funding, the duo needed to find an affordable small storefront. Once they had a location in Fulton’s Brick District, friends and family began offering to help clean up the store, make repairs and give the place a fresh coat of paint.

Barbara and Phyllis can share many instances where they know God has blessed the business.

“We were in Lowe’s and happened to have T-shirts on with our shop name,” says Phyllis. “The paint representative saw us shopping for paint and asked about Re-Made. Before we knew it, we were getting the best quality paint at sale price.”

The two friends count pennies to make sure nothing goes to waste. “Once, about a week before the rent was due, I told Barbara, ‘I think we’re going to be splitting the first month’s rent.’ The day before it was due, we received a check from someone for the exact amount we needed. And they had no idea of the amount we paid. God is so good.”

The charming 1,200-square-foot shop comprises several quaint rooms and offers home decor and small furniture items as well as a select offering of high-quality women’s and juniors clothing, shoes and accessories. Items come and go quickly, so the shop always has fresh options.

“We loved everything about the Tennessee store we’d visited,” says Barbara, a member of Callaway Electric Cooperative. “But what we didn’t see was those who were employed being the face of the store. We knew that’s something we wanted for this place.”

When you visit Re-Made For a Purpose, you are immediately greeted by an employee. The shop has 10 employees who work up to 12 hours each week. “They are the face of Re-Made,” says Barbara, pointing out the numerous pieces of art and signs which have been stenciled or painted by staff. “They’re the ones running the register, helping customers, hanging and tagging clothing. They even run to the bank or the print shop if we need them to. They do it all and we just assist them if they have a question.”

Antique fireplace mantels, worn wooden shelves, old suitcases and vintage tables are set with finished work by the staff as well as small store-bought decor which has been donated to the store. Out-of-style artwork might become a new work of “heart” with quotes painted on the glass or screened over an image. Cabinet doors become the base for “Welcome” signs, favorite quotes or scriptures. Pages from discarded hymnals and torn books are strategically cut to become a charming cottage in a scene or country church with a steeple in newly framed art. Antique buttons, wooden thread spools and small perfume bottles magically turn into the perfect base for little Christmas trees. Ornately framed mirrors become the backdrop for scenes stenciled over the mirror. Old frames become new homes for gently loved pieces of a quilt.

“We’re blessed to have people who donate quality items our staff can rework into something new for people to love,” says Barbara, noting they’re currently in the process of purchasing the building. “We can usually find a way to bring new life to most items.”

She adds people follow the store on social media to see new items that show up daily. “They’ll tag us if they see an idea they think we’d like to try,” she says.

Normally open all year, the shop closed from March to mid-May when COVID-19 hit. The workers were glad when the shop could open again, but none more than Zane Miller, who has worked at Re-Made since opening day.

“I’ve worked here since the store opened in 2015,” says Zane, 26. “I paint, stencil, work checkout and help clean, like sweeping and washing windows. But greeting people is my favorite thing.”

It’s a rare day to see an employee at Re-Made For a Purpose who isn’t smiling and having a good time while they do their job. They’re excited to be employed and happy when people love their store as much as they do.

“Some jobs are hard to find for people with special needs,” says Courtney Nelson, 30, an employee with Re-Made since 2017. “I can proudly say I do work and support small businesses in our community.”

The building has apartments above the store which helps offset payments. Eventually, Barbara and Phyllis hope the apartments will be home to some of their employees who are able to live on their own with minimal supervision.

With 68 years of education behind them, Barbara and Phyllis hired former students to work in the store. This gave them a chance to showcase the numerous gifts and abilities every worker brings to the Re-Made team.

A scripture on their front door is the root of what the ladies based the business on: “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me …” — Psalms 138:8. That purpose is quite evident through the joy you see on the face of every employee at Re-Made.

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