BEDFORD, Pa. — Retired from the Bedford School District, Tammy Welsh hit the ground running. She opened her own “retro” shop in the quaint town of Bedford.
There, she sold antiques and repurposed merchandise, some on consignment. Her storefront was very attractive and, in the summer, she planted flowers in unusual containers to liven up the site. It earned her a Garden of the Month award from the local garden club.
Finley Bee, as her store was called, was named after her granddaughter. The scenario seemed a dream come true. However, this granddaughter lived a couple of hours away and would often call to ask Grandma to come and make playdough. So, Welsh looked for something less confining than retail and tried being a vendor in various local resale shops. She even found a barn to rent and invited other vendors to join her.
But, the rent kept going up until the owner was charging her $2,000 for one weekend a month.
“I knew I could do better,” she said.
Welsh sought help from her adult son, Seth Roy, and the two went in search of a building to buy. They found an old barn, worn by the years, but at a great location along a road leading from Bedford. It was part of an estate once owned by Joe and Martha Dishong. The family had sold off most of the 100 acres with only 11 acres and the barn remaining.
The former owners had received offers to buy the barn for the wood, but the barn stored too many memories of fun times and hard work for their family, and so they didn’t accept.
But Welsh and Roy envisioned the old barn as the perfect spot for their crafty idea and saw that it had plenty of room for parking. They made a reasonable offer and thus became the owners of the new Finley Bee.
Roy was amazed that the builders they hired, a group of Amish men from Sinking Valley, did the major barn renovations in just 10 days. They tore off the siding — incidentally relocating thousands of wasps — and added a new barn roof. The builders also carefully carved out small spaces in the interior for each vendor’s space.
The barn was surrounded by tall grass which had to be burned off. An extremely wet spring and summer soon got the grounds back in shape.
Electricity was installed, and then the new owners saw a need for a small eating area. So, Christy Oberman, owner of the Woodbury Café, located in a nearby small town, asked if she could provide the food for Finley Bee events and activities.
“She does a marvelous job,” Welsh said. “Everything is made from scratch.”
Oberman provides fresh baked goods, homemade pizza and sandwiches.
Welsh and Roy both know they will eventually have to add restrooms to the site, but for the first summer the new Finley Bee was opened, they got by with portable toilets.
Meanwhile, Welsh and Roy got busy cleaning out the inside of the barn. It was full of hay bales and file cabinets full of papers. They discovered a deed dating back to 1845 and a permit for an addition in 1944.
The site meant something to the community. Every day someone would stop by the barn who remembered visiting the Dishongs and playing in the barn, or buying cider fresh from the press once located there.
Now Finley Bee houses 29 separate artisans, antiques dealers or repurposers. The handmade artisan items range from carved duck decoys to quilts, goat’s milk soaps and jewelry. There are pieces for gardeners and knitted items for winter wear. Artisans include furniture builders, knitters and leather crafters.
Vendors are carefully selected and juried.
“We wanted only top quality products to be sold, at reasonable prices, but still have each person make a profit,” Welsh said.
Besides the food at the cafe, Welsh and Roy added a small farmers market offering their own vegetables as well as other local produce.
“We call it Eden’s Shed after my grandson,” Welsh said.
In May, they held a grand opening. Roy could not believe how many people arrived. They came from surrounding towns and cities, and from as far away as Maryland. Visitors in the area stopped by to see the new venture.
“The people stayed most of the day,” Roy said.
They even sold flowers and some seedlings. The barn’s sale hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the second Saturday and Sunday of the month.
Advertising for Finley Bee is done primarily online by Welsh’s daughter, Ashley Bankes. Bankes features each new vendor on Facebook.
Welsh and Roy know a local beekeeper that they purchase all their honey from. Keeping with the name Finley Bee, they sell both honey and products created from honey, such as candles and melting wax, under their label.
Their Finley Bee label’s primary scent is “coffee and honey,” but that changed with the Christmas holidays to “honey and spice.”
Ashley Bankes’ husband, John Bankes, and Seth Roy’s wife, Hannah Roy, are also involved in the business.
Seth Roy said they feel that giving back to the community is important. Therefore, each month they ask vendors to donate one item for a community table. One hundred percent of the sales from this table goes to a local charity chosen by the vendors. In the past it has been a nursing home, a local breast cancer charity, a humane society and once, a young missionary.
A Christmas open house, known as “Shopping Under the Stars,” was held at Finley Bee in late November and brought in hundreds of shoppers. Each carload was charged $10. Roy bought large Christmas trees and spread the pines throughout the building, adding hundreds of twinkling lights to provide a “starry” atmosphere. They brought in a local musician to play holiday music and hired a caterer to provide homemade soups, breads and cookies.
While Welsh and Roy work at the Finley Bee barn daily throughout the season, at least one other vendor also typically stops by on any given day to work on his or her individual booth or artisan products. It is a viable business they have created in their community. They have not only saved a barn, they have created a marketplace that attracts customers and local participation.
After the second weekend in December, Finley Bee will close until April.