It’s warm and cozy and full of heart.
Walking into Heart’n Home Creations in New Hamburg On., really is like walking into a second home.
The owner of the shop, Esther Alexy, is eager to greet customers along with her two cats, Mattie and Booboo, who make their rounds, longing for a quick chin rub from all who enter.
“It is like a home,” Alexy says. “It’s not your typical store. People come in to socialize and sometimes, just to visit the cats. It’s become their happy place, and sometimes just a place to de-stress. I love that this place has become a part of people’s lives.”
Celebrating 25 years this year, Heart’n Home continues to offer a wide variety of fabrics, notions, giftware and home decorating items.
Heart’n Home has a variety of fabrics to suit many sewing and quilting needs from Moda fabrics such as Kansas Troubles, Moda Marbles and Brights, Primitive Gatherings, Whimsicals by Red Rooster, OH Canada line and Basic colours by Northcott, Sweetwater, Nancy Halvorsen, Minick and Simpson.
It also has a large selection of homespuns, kid’s flannels, brushed flannels and polar fleece. The store also stocks wide backs and a wide assortment of quilting kits.
“It really is about listening to your customers and knowing what people are looking for,” Alexy said. “This has become a destination store, but it’s very much about quality customer service. You can’t make everyone happy, but I certainly do try.”
And customers do keep coming back, from near and far.
“Some of the customers were coming in here as children and it’s been so great to see the next generation,” Alexy said. “And our Shop Hops are really popular.”
A Shop Hop is when a group of sewing/quilting stores from various areas, get together and create a passport and choose dates when the hop will start and finish. The customer purchases a ‘shop hop passport’ at any of the participating stores prior to the start of the hop. Customers have a certain amount of days to visit each of the shops and get their passport stamped at each stop. There is usually a “mystery item” that is marked at a special price for your purchase at each shop.
“The biggest shop hop for me is in the summer. People come from all over. It also entices people to discover Ontario and while they are here, they can discover our other businesses and restaurants. It stimulates the community. So much gets lost over the years, so it’s important to have people visit and see the places that make us as a community, unique,” Alexy said.
There have been many changes since the beginning for Alexy.
“A big change has been giftware. We used to carry lots of items, but now we’ve become more specialized. Customers come back because we also have some of those hard to find items like recipe cards and our kitchen line is great.”
Heart’n Home carries a colourful array of giftware and home decorative items to suit any season including framed prints, tinware, yankee candles, votives, boxed legacy Christmas cards, single all occasion cards, braided rugs, lighting, tea towels, pot holders, paper napkins, lamp shades, calendars, mugs and barn stars.
“Of course, Christmas is a busy time and it is my favourite time because people are so happy and wanting to give,” Alexy said.
Alexy was born and raised in New Hamburg.
“I just feel like I’m part of the landscape now. The store just blends right in,” she says.
Before Heart’n Home came to be, Alexy worked as a mechanical draftsperson. “I worked for a company, but they laid me off. One of my cousins, who is self employed, suggested I do this. It motivated me and so I did it,” she said.
And since then, Alexy has never looked back.
“Today, we are busy as ever. We offer packaged quilt kits and that’s what is really unique about this store. It’s become very popular. We do see groups come in for Hop Shops but quilting today is changing. People are busy. If it’s in a kit, they will buy it. But I think it’s also about the fabrics we offer. A quilter will travel if they like your fabrics,” Alexy said.
“Another thing that has become really popular, is called,” Row by Row” which is when customers receive a free quilt pattern which takes place in the summer and anyone can come in and ask for a free pattern. I always try to use a new theme. It’s popular and even customers from the U.S come.”
For the first 16 years, the Heart’n Home was only half the space of what it is today. “I had an opportunity to purchase the building and in 2010, renovations began. Most of what needed to be done was done ourselves.”
And it’s that handmade homestyle feeling that has added to the success of Heart’n Home.
The store was also recently used on the set of Anne with an E, the Canadian drama television series based on the 1908 novel, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. “In August, the whole street was transformed. It was Charlottetown, in 1908,” Alexy said.
For Alexy, having her shop is also a way of being able to give back to the community.
“We’ve had kids come in and help out and a couple of local ladies do as well, just to get out of the house. We made chair pads for the theatre here and people came to help make them. The theatre still has them,” Alexy said.
“It’s a way of bringing the community together.”
Today, Alexy is happy to continue to offer her Heart’n Home. And her cats are always keen for a quick snuggle.
“For me, it’s the people that lift my day,” Alexy said. “That’s what it’s all about.”