Life-long goal comes true for shop owner
Nurse retires uniform to realize dream
By MARILYN KURZAWA
Fulfilling a dream seems to be a theme with entrepreneurial women who own their own businesses. Rena Fox is no exception. After 20 years as an emergency room nurse, working at Lake Shore Hospital (now TLC), Tri-County Hospital in Gowanda, Women and Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, and then at incarceration centers in the region, Rena exchanged her nurse’s uniform for real work clothes as the owner, creator of rustic decor, and developer of others’ talents at Rena’s Rustiques.
In January 2017, when Rena started filling her shop at 3375 Main Road, Sheridan (Route 20) with her own creations, she knew that she was on the right track to achieve a life-long goal of doing the work she loves. Her shop is filled with unique, one-of-a-kind creations that fall in the category of rustic home decor. Each piece is designed and created from recycled or repurposed materials, and each one is a found treasure to its purchaser. The only other creator of works in the store is her son Brandon who is a welder and displays pieces made with iron. Rena carries no other items on consignment.
The grand opening of Rena’s shop was on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2017, only three months after she started redesigning the shop to make it her own. In addition, she uses the space that once was a greenhouse as a painting studio where she holds fun-filled paint nights for anyone who wishes to come and learn to paint on wood or occasionally on canvas, or to improve their skills as a painter/creator.
All of the wood that is used in the painting studio comes from used shipping palettes, another example of recycling/repurposing materials. Since the palettes are large when Rena receives them, she said, “I spend a lot of time cutting them to the sizes we need for each individual painting class. I do have a helper who works with me to cut the boards into the right lengths, but we basically do all the work to create the durable wooden surface that our painters love to work on. Each piece becomes theirs to keep, along with the memories made as they work.”
One night Rena’s husband, Robert Link, was listening to the women who were painting, both as they worked and as they left the studio.
“Do you know how much laughing went on during their time here? Aren’t you glad that they can have so much fun here, with your help as an instructor, and go home inspired to do more?” Rena replied, “I know that they seem happy to be here, but I never thought about my role in that until now. It’s pretty satisfying!”
When the shop isn’t open, Rena can be found working to create the many items in her store. I found a beautifully refinished small dresser that Rena had also “distressed” to make it look well used but very attractive. The store is filled with signs of all shapes and sizes that have sayings and words of wisdom. All are made from wood that comes from anywhere she finds it. A broken chair with no legs was beautifully repaired and painted and awaits a clever buyer who will find a unique stand for it. A Christmas-themed snowman was part of a stake to be placed in the ground, and his scarf was made from a torn shirt that Rena rescued for this purpose.
“Sometimes I find discarded furniture or usable items at the side of the road, and other times I pick up things at garage sales or thrift shops. All of the ‘aprons’ (actually large shirts) used by the painters were purchased at the Salvation Army or other thrift shops. My friends also bring in items they think I might be able to use. Each of the items I find can have a second life. It’s just up to me to figure out what that might be,” reported Rena.
“At this time, we are doing all of the inventory control by hand, so each item has a unique number that we keep track of. At this time, I have logged over 1,000 items since we opened less than a year ago. I made almost every single piece, so you know how I spend my ‘spare time,” laughed Rena. “This is truly a labor of love. I don’t think that I ever knew how much time I would spend working, but this is a job I love, so it’s really not ‘work’. I miss my husband, I miss my kids, I miss my grand babies, and then I think, I’m finally doing what I love – creating, teaching, inspiring, and now I’m thinking, this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.”
Being with Rena inspires others to think creatively, dig in and give new life to discarded items.
Rena’s painters have written great comments on Rena’s Rustiques Facebook page.
One said, “You don’t have to be an artist to do this [paint with Rena]. Rena walks you through the whole thing step by step and even helps you out when you are stuck.” Another one added, “I had such an amazing time! She makes you feel like a real artist. I went with a huge group and she made sure that we were all on the same page before moving on to the next instruction.” A third person said, “I think Rena was put on this earth to make others shine.” What wonderful praise to provide…or receive.
Rena also uses her painting studio and her talents to help the community, especially fundraisers for those who have had medical issues. She likes to concentrate on this area as nursing was her career before opening this store. She has hosted painting parties for several events designed to assist families with medical expenses or to increase the funds for scholarships.
“I provide the space and the instruction for the project the organizers choose. They pay for supplies and do all of the legwork involved in advertising and sponsoring an event,” explained Rena. “We can have from 10 to 60 people for any painting event, so all people have to do is call to make arrangements for them.”
Painting parties have been held for children so long as a parent is with them; for birthday parties and wedding showers; and for the simple joy of painting with friends and having a great time. For each event, people bring their own beverages and snacks, but once they arrive at the large, well-lit studio, all else is provided. Rena also advertises specific painting evenings that people must register for in advance. Her website, www.renasrustiques.com has information about the events she sponsors and about how to register.
When asked about her goals for the shop and the studio, Rena showed a corridor filled with the beginnings of a rustic wedding decor addition to her business.
“I will have items for people to rent or buy for a wedding, mostly made from burlap, wood, mason jars, palettes. I can also help with the decorating or do it all myself,” stated Rena.
It would appear that this woman has no end to the possibilities for extra work for herself!
Next time you drive down Route 20 in Sheridan, be sure to look on the south side of the road to find Rena’s Rustiques. A quick tour of the store will leave a visitor amazed that so much was created by one woman. It is a treasure-trove of rustic decor, and the owner is one of the friendliest and nicest people you will meet. Also visit her website or Facebook page (Rena’s Rustiques) to learn what is next on the calendar for a stress-reducing, fun-filled evening of painting and self-expression. A visit to Rena’s will help you understand what it means to fulfill a dream and make life interesting and rewarding.