2018-12-12

Luck of the draw?

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>Robyn Howell in front of one of her paintings at her store, Going Coastal, in Chester.</p>
  • <p>FACEBOOK PICTURE</p><p>Jeremiah Jamieson creates custom furniture from reclaimed, barn and new wood.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>The interior of the Going Coastal store in Chester, where shoppers will find an array of Nova Scotian-made crafts and art work.</p>
  • <p>FACEBOOK PHOTOS</p><p>One of the kitchen cabinets created by Going Coastal.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>Mugs by Amy Noel, some of the Nova Scotian pottery items sold by Going Coastal.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>Coastal-themed wreath among Going Coastal&#8217;s Christmas display.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>Robyn Howell and Jeremiah Jamieson opened their Going Coastal retail shop on Chester&#8217;s Queen Street in 2013.</p>

Like the furniture and cabinetry they make from old barn wood, Robyn Howell and her husband Jeremiah Jamieson have reclaimed the foundations of their lives to create a growing business and a cottage industry lifestyle on the South Shore that many may see as enviable.

"People say, 'Oh, you're so lucky.' We work really hard to be lucky and have this kind of lifestyle," Howell told LighthouseNOW, putting things in perspective.

Hailing from Newfoundland, Howell is a painter by passion and training, while Jamieson is from Halifax and a general contractor by trade.

She creates abstract-style paintings and produces home decor crafts and he builds custom-made furniture and cabinetry in a workshop attached to their home in Robinson's Corner.

And ever since 2013, they've been showcasing their work under the name of Going Coastal in their own retail space on Queen Street in Chester Village, across from the landmark Fo'c'sle tavern.

With a four-year-old girl named Grace-Sea, it's easy to appreciate their commitment to the area.

"We really want to stay in Chester and raise our child here," insists Howell.

Howell came to this province to attend Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University in Halifax, from which she graduated in 2003.

Jamieson had spent a number of the summers as he was growing up in the Chester area.

Howell says she fell in love with Chester when the two of them were in the village for an art fair.

After her working in the restaurant industry in Halifax "for a long time," she says she and Jamieson decided "to do something different with our lives.

"We moved to the South Shore and within three years we opened our business."

They had started off doing projects for friends and family on the side.

Howell went on to manage the former Trilogy Gallery in Mahone Bay, as well as show her art in other venues, while Jamieson began selling his custom pieces online, and producing for family and friends.

"And it kind of grew into a business," says Howell.

The furniture side of things is their "bread and butter," while in the summer and at Christmas time in particular the art side is the icing on the cake.

When the Hibiscus women's clothing store vacated its premises on Chester's Queen Street to open a shop in Mahone Bay, they took over the premises.

"We totally remodelled the inside of the space and painted, and took out a few half-walls, and what not, to make it more of a gallery space."

A number of the artists who had showcased at Trilogy followed Howell to her new place of business.

"It's family owned and operated and we represent up to 30 artists. We're fully hand-made in Nova Scotia," Howell declares.

The consignment shop boasts a wide range of Nova Scotian artistry, including paintings, carvings, pottery and textiles.

The burlap wreaths are made by her sister-in-law.

Howell says every year she holds at least one to two open calls.

"We're bringing in new art and changing things up every year."

The store is open five days a week in the busier seasons, until just after Christmas, when it operates just two days weekly.

"The off season gives me the chance to catch up on my end of the business," says Howell.

"For me, I'm a painter by trade. That's what I studied and I love to do it. In the off season I paint and I just slowly pull out work throughout the season and put it in the gallery space."

She'll also help her husband with painting and furniture design.

Their furniture is created in their workshop attached to their home, since the couple found that "easiest with a four-year-old in tow," according to Howell.

They work long hours, juggle parenthood and deliver their own orders, with Grace-Sea often coming along for the ride.

"So it's a very big family business in that it's the three of us and we're doing it all day long."

Jamieson will sometimes bring in other contractors and builders on different projects, "but mostly it's just him," says Howell.

He produces a range of commissioned, custom-designed furniture including beds, tables and end tables, as well as kitchen cabinetry out of barn and other reclaimed wood as well as new wood.

He also produces stock for the retail store.

"We're doing alternative things to other people," suggests Howells.

For example, she says, they'll do kitchens in barn wood, "Where most cabinet companies won't.

"We really just work with the client and come up with something that they want and nobody else has seemed to be able to offer to them. We work with them to get what they need."

Their store also channels customers to the custom-order side of their business.

"It really inspires people to say, 'I love that, but I want it in this colour. Can you do kitchen cabinets like this?...So it's everything down to colours and finishes are all custom."

When LighthouseNOW visited the store recently, Jamieson was working on two maple hardwood tables and a barn wood table, all of which needed to be done and out the door by Christmas.

One of the tables in the store had sold and was bound for Halifax the next day.

"We're busy," Howell stated simply.

The couple sells throughout the Maritimes, and with a prime location in Chester Village, the two also pick up a lot of the tourist trade and ship items all around the world, according to Howell.

She sees the business and its online presence growing in time. And given the pace of development, Howell says they're anticipating the retail outlet being open seven days a week next year.

But they're determined to keep things manageable and intend to bring another employee on board to help ease the load.

The artist and builder are happily creating exactly the kind of lifestyle they want.

As Howell put it, "We're a very small-based family business that are loving what we're doing here on the South Shore."

Small wonder people tell them they're lucky.

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