NEW BEDFORD, Ohio – Everyone has a story. Every grandparent, every child, even every farm.
Take the little woman with the cherubic smile who splits her time between making chenille pigs for children and pruning Christmas trees to perfection. Who would guess this lady tucked back a quarter-mile gravel lane in Coshocton County was once a fashion designer in New York’s spirited Greenwich Village?
Theresa Scheetz’s story has many colorful chapters, but she never anticipated one of them would include farming.
From the start. Theresa was born with that creative spark.
At 5, she was knitting and designing her dolls’ clothes. By the time she hit 18, she was enrolled in Parsons School of Design in New York and on her way to making a name in the fashion world.
But after a few years, it felt like that creative spark was being smothered by a cutthroat industry, so she packed her bags and headed north.
Theresa moved to upstate New York and started an antiques store with her brother in the Catskill Mountains. To make ends meet, she worked as a seamstress, waitress and other odd jobs. Her creative spark came back to life, though, as a pastry chef at a four-star restaurant. She spent almost five years dreaming up seven-layer tortes filled with chocolate mousse.
But then she met Don Scheetz, from way out in Ohio.
He was in New York visiting his best childhood buddy, who was originally from Coshocton County and happened to be Theresa’s neighbor. They met, she fell in love with his red hair, and after realizing they were both crazy – “but in a good way” – she moved to Ohio.
That was 15 years ago and they’ve been able to feed off each other’s creative vibes ever since.
Full force. Maybe they clicked so well because Don’s a lot like Theresa. His free spirit kept him jumping job to job, from oil rigs to hogs to blacksmithing. But once the couple fell in love, they rented Don’s grandmother’s farm in New Bedford, Ohio, and settled into life.
Shortly after the couple moved in and began cleaning the fields, that itch came back, this time full force.
As they stood in a field, Don took down the fence’s barbed wire and began neatly winding it in a circle around his arm.
“Wait,” Theresa exclaimed. “It’s a wreath!”
By the next year, they were setting up booths at craft shows and selling out of barbed wire wreaths.
Quickly, they added to their selection. They made wreaths from corn tassels and grew gourds that they made into bird houses, and spent more time at shows.
In the meantime, they planted Christmas trees. They had the land and figured there was no reason to let the space go to waste. Plus, Don’s parents had a Christmas tree farm nearby and he knew trees.
As the years went by and the trees slowly grew, so, too, did their burgeoning craft business.
Don built wooden bird houses shaped like churches and Theresa made beaded jewelry and designed unique quilting patterns. They cut shapes into tin and made Christmas ornaments. They painted gourds, carved gourds, stuck lights in gourds. They scoured the farm for old fence posts and dead tree trunks and made one-of-a-kind crafts.
Ready. Four years ago, the trees were finally ready for Christmas.
Don and Theresa figured they’d just set up a little tent outside, bundle up and sell their trees in the field.
But there was this little brick building sitting there. It used to be a garage, next to the farm house, next to the tree fields. And as they got thinking about all these people driving back the long, narrow lane for their Christmas trees, a plan took shape.
What if they turned this garage into a rustic craft shop? They could put in a big wood stove and set up chairs, make fudge and pop popcorn, let the barn cat curl into customers’ laps, and encourage them to enjoy the season before they headed home with the trees. And then maybe the people would browse the shop and buy a few homemade crafts, too.
There it was again, that creative spark.
‘Shop open.’ That’s just what Don and Theresa did.
They opened their craft shop, they kept planting and selling Christmas trees, they put a cardboard sign at the end of their drive saying “shop open” and curious Amish country tourists rumbled down the lane.
It’s been several years now, so to keep things interesting, Theresa is always thinking up new ideas.
This year she is working on scarf and mitten sets, rag rug stockings and ornaments, chenille hobby horses and jewelry. She also plans to start selling antiques.
Pottery, carved Santas, walking sticks, and hand-painted gourds come from other crafters in the community.
The Christmas trees add another dimension to the shop. Theresa uses the trimmings to make wreaths, centerpieces and garland. But, even here, her creativity doesn’t go to waste. Last year, one of her wreaths was selected to decorate Gov. Bob Taft’s front door during the holidays.
The fields. When Theresa, 59, isn’t dreaming about a new project and Don isn’t driving trucks with his off-farm job, they’re busy in the field.
Like with everything else, they try to be a bit different with their trees.
They only grow firs – Canaan, Fraser, Turkish and Concolor – and they like them to look natural, not pruned into a perfect triangle.
Most people choose to cut their own, Theresa said, but for those who don’t, they have a cut-tree lot with white and Scotch pines, too.
An ending. So far, the plan for having customers stop in the shop after picking out a tree is working. Before they head back out the rambling lane, they snack, relax, and marvel at Theresa’s creations.
This is just what she’s always wanted, she says. A place to call her own, a place to let her creativity take over, a final chapter to her story.
(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 23 or by e-mail at email@example.com.)
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Get the details
* Fence Row tree farm
and craft shop
32332 state Route 643
New Bedford, OH 43824