Leather crafter loves the old ways and his new nontraditional career
Somewhere between a romantic and a salesman is Michael Nolan and his urge to get his leather business off the ground.
Nolan and his wife, Shannon, came to Powell from Portland, Oregon, in 2019. They helped Shannon’s aunt through the final stages of her life and decided to stay. Michael had been in middle management sales in the automotive industry, and Shannon was — and still is — an accountant.
For years, up until a serious shoulder injury made it impossible, Michael’s hobby had been blacksmithing.
“I’ve always had a penchant for old Americana,” Michael said. “I like to go back to Colonial times. There’s a certain confidence that comes with self-reliance.
“I love those times with: Need a tool, make a tool.”
When blacksmithing and the heavy lifting involved was out of the question, Michael fell back on making leather goods, another passion. The automotive industry eliminated his job, which forced Michael’s hand to finally form Gridwerk Trading Co.
Custom designs and training at Dollywood
Before the business was up and running at full speed, Michael had the opportunity to spend a summer at Dollywood with master leather crafter Glenn Donly before he retired after 32 years.
“No one had a bigger influence on me than Glenn,” Michael said. “He still had the ‘mountain man’ techniques, which I loved to learn.”
Michael said his custom designs set him apart from the other leather crafters.
“Some people will download a design off the internet and use that,” Michael said.
“Everything I do is from my own pattern. That helps me be able to do some custom work.”
While his website, Facebook presence and Etsy site are driving some very good traffic, appearances at craft shows and other sales help to get the word out. Tote bags, wallets, purses and leather journals have been the big sellers.
Michael said after a Facebook post advertising the business, traffic to his Etsy site went up 2,569%.
And while you’re at it, pick up some Ugly Dog cookies
After years of going off to work and punching a time clock, Michael is finally his own boss. A shop in the backyard is his domain to make the magic happen.
“I’ve had so many things happen that have allowed me to get to that point,” Michael said. “Not being in a traditional work role is nice.”
While her accounting duties are done remotely, Michael said his wife also has the entrepreneurial spirit. Hers has manifested itself with dog cookies.
Shannon has established the foundation for Ugly Dog Cookies, and has plans for a launch.
“When we go to markets, the sales for the leather products and the dog cookies will be similar,” Michael said. “That convinced Shannon to give it a try.”
The basis for the cookie is a very simple recipe with no preservatives.
“There will be pumpkin and oats in one cookie,” Michael said. “That’s all, no salt, oils or anything. She’ll have peanut butter and applesauce. That will have eggs and oats with it, but that’s it.
“It’s a recipe she has been using for years. Family members finally convinced her to try to market it.”
For more information on the leather products, go to gridwerk.com, or to the Gridwerk Trading Co. site on Etsy. Michael said the Ugly Dog Cookies Facebook page would be live soon.
WORDS OF FAITH
Decluttering our house, thoughts turn to justice
John Tirro, Shopper News
As I write, I’m up in Connecticut, visiting my mom and sister and her family, helping pack the last shelves of books in the house where I grew up. Dad passed eight months ago, and it’s not time to sell the house, but it’s close.
Each time I visit, the house is a little emptier, as Mom goes through treasures, deciding what stays, what goes to family or friends who might appreciate or benefit from a gift in love — a delicate bowl from an Acoma artist in New Mexico, a lamp, a clarinet — and what gets one last look and a trip to recycling or the trash.
Clearing one bookshelf, we found a huge, bound copy of Dad’s dissertation. That stays. “Giovanni Spataro’s Choir Books in the Archive of San Petronio and Bologna” (I wonder how much Dad loved this obscure, Renaissance composer and how much it was simply a legit way to get a grant to live in Italy for a year — a question I’ll never get to ask, but either way my early memories include reading Thor comic books as a 4-year-old on the floor of an Italian villa. Pretty amazing.)
Various outdated travel brochures, pitch to the pile.
A “Happy Eighteenth Anniversary” sign I made out of a board with a hammer and chisel, not sure what to do with that, so I put it in a box, figuring Mom can decide sometime when I’m not looking.
I bring all this up, because it’s got me thinking about God‘s provision and this strange time we’re in as a nation, as a world.
Whether you think we got here justly or unjustly (or, as seems likely to me, a mix of the two), goods are clearly not evenly distributed. Nations that developed gunpowder, gas, and rationales for using them to roll over other people — generally by deciding those others weren’t fully people due to looking and believing differently — did so, and the resulting fires have literally and figuratively raised the temperature of the world, leading recently to four November tornadoes in Connecticut and rightfully angry protests everywhere.
Most don’t know, but the Bible was almost entirely written in and about such times, so much so that I debated for a while whether to take the word “almost” out of this sentence.
Whether Israel in Egypt or under Rome or anyone experiencing any kind of degradation, God uniformly takes the side of those on the bottom. It’s a Yertle the Turtle situation. The higher you stack the turtles, the more surely they fall, and the one on top has the hardest landing in the mud (Psalm 82, Isaiah 58, Micah 6, all of Exodus, all the Gospels).
Here’s the thing. We can do this the hard way or do it from love, like my mom, looking at a beloved husband’s musical instrument, thinking, “who could use a clarinet?”
As winter approaches, what in your care is it time to give away? (See also, Matthew 24:45.)
John Tirro is pastor of music and campus ministry at St. John’s Lutheran Church. Info: sjlcknox.org.
Halls Flower Shop adds holiday gifts and décor to its traditional merchandise
Ali James, Shopper News
Halls Flower Shop has been a family-owned staple in the area since 1964. The tradition has continued since Buddy Coomer purchased the business in 2019 and his daughter Andrea Taylor took over management for her family.
While the Halls Flower Shop has been a go-to for sympathy flowers, Taylor said the store’s merchandise has evolved since her family purchased it.
“We offer delivery for fresh arrangements and holiday gift baskets, as well as floral arrangements for weddings, special events, and corporate luncheons,” said Taylor.
“When people come in to buy flowers or little trinkets or gifts, we want to make sure we are offering things that partner well with flowers. We are finding ways to cater to the community.”
Fresh inventory is always on hand. “We buy regularly and have a delivery almost every day, if not every day,” she said. “We really pride ourselves on our maintenance and the way we care for our flowers.”
Taylor suggests keeping flowers and greenery indoors, out of freezing temperatures, and to keep an eye on their water. “When it gets murky or you see leaves in the water, go ahead and change it out,” she said. “Add fresh food or drop by for a fresh food package.”
While Valentine’s and Mother’s Day are Halls Flower Shop’s busiest holidays, their busiest time in fact starts now and runs through May.
Greenery dries out nicely at this time of the year. Taylor recommends decorating with eucalyptus and seasonal greens that will hold well during the holidays.
“We do not introduce Christmas in the store until Thanksgiving when we have poinsettias,” she said. “If they want silk arrangements, we have two lines including a home décor option.”
Halls Flower Shop has already started to receive their Christmas greens and wreaths. “People are welcome to come in and grab holiday gifts and décor,” said Taylor. “We can make arrangements if they are having a Christmas party or event, or sometimes they just need an accent to refresh their wreath.”
Because of the supply and demand issues with which many businesses are grappling, once the Halls Flower Shop sells out of a particular piece of décor or accessory, they will not be reordering.
So far this year, Taylor has seen a rise in popularity in brassy gold finishes, dried cranberries and oranges.
“People really seem to like a bit of the woodsy with pine cones, lots of greenery, rustic bells, wooden elements and log garlands, too,” said Taylor. “When we have something a little different and modern it goes quickly,” she said, pointing to the flocked ornaments.
“Candles and hand soaps especially for teacher gifts, and anything under $20 for gift or ornament exchanges sell out fast.”
Doing less for holidays? Try these ideas
For people wanting to scale back this year, Taylor suggests adding a front door wreath, dressing up a fireplace mantel and instead of putting up a full tree, filling a favorite Christmas container with decorations.
“We do have people who are planning ahead with orders for Christmas centerpieces, but we haven’t got a lot of orders yet for larger holiday parties; people seem to be waiting to see.”
Taylor said that she purchased most of the store’s merchandise back in January. “I love seeing things that I bought at the market coming to life in the store,” she said. “You kind of forget about it until it arrives.”
Regular customers may not know that much of the furniture in Halls Flower Shop is also for sale.
Saori weaving can unlock the creativity in all of us, Powell teacher says
Al Lesar, Shopper News
There is yarn and there is the imagination.
Sherrie Wilson doesn’t believe in parameters.
Wilson grew up in South Knoxville and graduated with a degree in computer science from the University of Tennessee.
“I’ve always loved puzzles,” Wilson said. “That’s why I enjoyed computer science. But I was always better with the ‘people’ end of things. So, after about seven years, I looked for something else.”
While in Mississippi for 17 years and Texas for 12, she tried substitute teaching, being a choir director, an art director, and then jobs in retail.
None of those really scratched the creative itch she has had.
“I always enjoyed needlework,” she said. “I’m a fourth generation sewist, is what they call it now. Whether it’s quilting, spinning yarn or weaving, I loved it all.”
Several years ago, while in Houston, Wilson found her way to Saori weaving.
“Saori weaving is weaving in the moment,” Wilson said. “It’s self-innovation through weaving. Whatever you do, you will have beauty.”
Hills are home
Three years ago, through the urging of her husband, Wilson opened the Understory Saori Studio in Houston. The primary function was, with four looms, to stage classes to teach the art.
Then the pandemic hit. Personal interaction was interrupted.
Wilson’s parents were getting older and needed someone to help. Wilson and her husband made plans to move back to East Tennessee, but then her husband suddenly died. She was forced to make the trek to the house she secured in Powell by herself.
“Houston was not my home,” she said. “The hills are my home.”
Since arriving in May, Wilson has been working to come up with a plan. She has re-created her studio and is in the process of organizing classes and getting the word out.
“My focus is to see through the eyes that shine,” Wilson said. “See the beauty in the small things. See the beauty in the unexpected.”
Unlocking creative talent
Years ago, when she was making a fabric dollhouse for her now three grown children, one of her children’s friends said it looked like a tree. That friend said the “understory” of that tree in the forest are leaves and plants.
For some reason, the term “understory” stuck. That’s how the Understory Saori Studio got its name.
Wilson’s plan is to teach classes of as many as four people, two hours at a time. The cost of those sessions is $30, plus $4 an ounce of materials used.
“What I want to do is to teach people to love weaving,” Wilson said. “Everybody has creative talent. No matter what they do, when they finish it will be beautiful. My biggest enjoyment is to hear people laughing out loud when they finish.”
Wilson said a two-hour session will usually yield a masterpiece worthy of hanging on a wall or displaying near a pillow.
“I won’t tell you what to do,” she said. “These are student-directed classes. I’ll show you how to use the equipment, then see how comfortable the student is with the techniques. It’s all up to your creative mind.”
For more information, or to enroll in a class, contact Wilson at: [email protected]
Most Farragut residents favor single-family homes on Boring Road land parcels
Nancy Anderson, Shopper News
Dozens of people gathered Nov. 15 at Farragut Town Hall to voice their preferences for use of four parcels of land near Boring Road and Kingston Pike.
Mayor Ron Williams and Alderman Ron Pinchok made a brief appearance.
The meeting was sponsored by and attended by several members of the Town of Farragut Comprehensive Land Use Planning Steering Committee (CULP Steering Committee).
Community Development Director Mark Shipley said the Town of Farragut wanted community input on what should be built on four sub areas of land.
“We’re trying to get community input on an area of land that’s basically behind Ingles Markets and Boring Road and a section of Kingston Pike itself. We’re showing them realistic but different visual representations of what might be going in there.
“We have options for each of the sub areas from commercial to residential. I think that will generally give us an idea of what they want to see, then that will guide us in terms of zoning and ordinances,” said Shipley.
The area from commercial along Kingston Pike to agriculture along Boring Road was divided into four sub area maps mounted around the room. Community members then filled out a survey indicating their top three choices in each area. Choices including single-dwelling homes, multi-dwelling homes, such as townhomes, apartments, and commercial retail.
Sheila Shreyer and husband Don filled out a survey for Sub Area B, which is north of Ingles Markets and east of Village Green, indicating they would like to see single-family homes rather than commercial retail.
“It seems to me they want to build more and more stores when there are so many vacant ones already. We don’t want to see more retail,” said Sheila Shreyer.
“We want to see more single-family homes, because we have enough traffic. I don’t want to see too many apartments which just packs in people,” said Don Shreyer.
Sub area D is undeveloped land along Boring Road to Village Green.
Kate Sultan of Farragut said she would like to see a mixture of residential options, including apartments, single family and attached singled family. She echoed other community members, saying there was enough retail space.
Developer Doug Horne was on hand to lobby for his parcel of land (area B along Boring Road) to be zoned for six to eight units per acre. It had been cut down from 12 by the Planning Commission and he wanted to make sure it wasn’t cut any further.
“We need that to be zoned for at least six to eight units per acre. We can’t go below that; the land is too expensive. We want to allow for more diverse housing. These are not starter homes, but they do vary in price,” said Horne.
For this old story, Lord, we’re thankful
Leslie Snow, Shopper News
At first, I didn’t get it. It seemed like my brother-in-law was calling to tell me a story that wasn’t a story at all. “You’re never going to believe what happened tonight,” he exclaimed into the phone.
“What?” I answered with a smile, expecting something remarkable like a knock on the door from the Publisher’s Clearing House or a chance encounter with Peyton Manning.
“I went to Yassin’s Falafel House to pick up something for dinner and I ran into Zack and Olivia there. They were getting dinner too.”
“Uh huh,” I said, waiting for the rest of the story, but that was it. That was the whole story. So, I asked him about his day as a way to redirect the conversation. I didn’t comprehend the significance of a chance encounter at a restaurant.
“No, no,” he said, pulling me back to the conversation. “You don’t understand. I was in the parking lot, and I heard someone call my name. I turned around and there was Zack and Olivia. I couldn’t believe it! We compared carry-out orders and I gave them both a big hug. It was unbelievable.”
I felt sure I was missing something, but I couldn’t imagine what it was. Floundering a little, I offered up a “That’s great, Chas!” hoping it would satisfy him. But it didn’t.
“Leslie,” he said, sounding exasperated, “I just ran into my nephew and his wife. I had a random encounter with family members in Knoxville. I lived in Nashville for 10 years and that never happened to me. I’m so glad we moved here. I get to see my family all the time now. Even when I’m just picking up dinner. It’s incredible!”
I laughed then and said all the right things. “That’s great, Chas! What a happy accidental meeting. And I’m so glad you moved here too.”
And then, like people sometimes do, he told the story again with more detail. And this time, I knew I was supposed to ooh-and-ah in all the right places.
The funny thing is, I hear this non-story all the time now. Just yesterday Zack mentioned what a treat it was to run into his uncle at a restaurant. Chas talked about it last Sunday when he came over to have brunch and to watch the Browns lose. Nothing special happened, but I understand now why the story is worth telling.
Zack and Olivia lived in State College, Pennsylvania, for six years while they worked on their graduate degrees. They made friends there, but family was a 10-hour drive away.
Chas and Shelley spent years in Nashville but never had family closer than a three-hour drive. And while three hours isn’t a great distance, their visits were mostly for holidays and birthdays. There was never a spontaneous “Do you want to go out and get ice cream tonight? Or see a movie?”
Now I understand why Zack and Chas like to retell the story of their chance encounter at Yassin’s. I know why they laugh and hug every time they tell it. They’ve both missed being around family.
They’ve missed being with people who know their history and get their jokes. They’ve missed the comfort and safety of being around people who know them and love them without reservation.
This Thanksgiving, when we’re all gathered around the dinner table together, Chas will probably tell the story again. And I’ll be very happy to hear it.
Leslie Snow may be reached at snow [email protected]