Gravy Home Goods Celebrated for Rural Community Revival and Main Street Revitalization
Joan Fairchild’s skill for repurposing, painting, polishing, and upcycling vintage items to create unique, and oftentimes customized, pieces of furniture, accents, and home décor brings happiness and comfort to her customers’ homes. The growth from a small scale, in-home business to an economic driver and centerpiece of Main Street Jewell has earned Fairchild the admiration of the community, loyal customers and another accolade, Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa (RRI) Entrepreneur Award.
In 2013, Joan and her husband, Grant, discovered an available building along Jewell’s Main Street that Joan felt could become a viable business if they were able to live above the building. The Fairchilds successfully sought a resolution to an ordinance preventing them from living above the store, and in a matter of months, an empty, dusty building in the center of town transformed into a destination boutique for vintage décor shoppers and a new home for the Fairchilds.
When asked about the store, Joan says it all depends who you ask. “Some call it junk, but I consider the items treasure. Our inventory always changes; some days we have several tables, and other days we might have a bunch of dressers,” Fairchild says. “We’re always trying new things and changing what we offer. Since we do custom work and refinishing, it just all depends on what’s available.” A recent popular item feature at Gravy Home Goods was a table made with repurposed barn beams.
With the name ‘Gravy’ for a home goods store, naturally, Joan is often asked about the name. With a smile, Joan laughs and says they were looking for a name that was catchy, but not too trendy, and gave the feeling of the ‘comfort of home.’ “The ideas kept coming back to food, and we settled on ‘Gravy,’” Fairchild says. “Gravy is that layer of goodness that you put over the top of otherwise boring stuff, and that’s what we try to do in our store.”
Perhaps even more interesting than the name ‘Gravy’ is the effort Joan has put forth to grow Main Street in Jewell and support other entrepreneurs. Thanks to Joan’s mentoring and encouragement, six other boutique-style stores have opened along Main Street, which has turned Jewel a destination shop for treasure hunters and shoppers looking for an accent piece or repurposed furniture for their home.
“We don’t compete, we collaborate,” Fairchild says. “We organize road trips for customers and work together to provide multiple destinations for customers to stop along the way, and oftentimes we draw carloads at a time.”
Sarah Thompson, director of the Main Street Jewell program, fondly reflects on her time with the program, which started just as the Fairchilds were completing renovation of the building. Thompson credits the Fairchilds with accelerating the Jewell Main Street revitalization process by encouraging others to open shops in town. “She’s the one who’s responsible for getting all of these other business owners in downtown Jewell,” Thompson says. “They turned an old, empty building into a wonderful store, and that’s just awesome for Jewell.”
RRI is an Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) initiative supporting new and existing businesses through education, mentoring, and financial resources. Since its inception, RRI has helped create $125M in economic impact for rural communities.
For more information about RRI and the next RRI Business Success Seminar, “The Journey to Your Vision,” on September 17 in West Liberty, and the RRI Pathways, a searchable technology that connects entrepreneurs with resources, go to http://programs.iowafarmbureau.com/RRI/.