Better together: Three local women team up to launch businesses at shared site

From left to right, Staci Freese (Heirloom Blooms), Stacey Lyman (Red’s Barn) and Mel Engelkes (Shabby Shack) pose for a photo on opening day at their new location west of Grundy Center. (Robert Maharry/The Grundy Register photo)
Robert Maharry
The Grundy Register

GRUNDY CENTER- Megan Hook’s love of the barn on her parents’ property west of Grundy Center inspired Stacey Lyman to revamp it as a tribute to her late daughter, who passed away in May after a long battle with cancer. As of last Thursday, it’s officially the home of three businesses owned by women: Red’s Barn, Heirloom Blooms and the Shabby Shack.


“When (Megan) was diagnosed with cancer, the barn was either going to have to go, or I was going to have to renovate it. She thought ‘Mom, you need to renovate this barn,’ so I said, ‘Okay, we’ll do that.’ And it kind of gave us this project to work on together,” Lyman said.


From there, conversations with Mel Engelkes of the Shabby Shack, which specializes in handcrafted furniture and antiques, and Staci Freese of Heirloom Blooms, which sells flowers, quickly led the three entrepreneurs to conclude that they should open at a common location, with Red’s Barn opening as  a barn store focusing on home decorations sourced from local vendors. About a year later, the dream has become a reality.


“I think it works out great because we don’t all have to take on the whole inventory. Everybody has their own thing, so we each take on our part,” Freese said. “And then it comes together for one big (combination).”


Lyman, Freese and Engelkes knew they were taking a risk by starting a business in the country (the barn is located about three miles west of Grundy Center at 23033 K Avenue just off of Highway 175), but judging by the steady foot traffic on opening day Thursday, the interest has been strong thus far.


Early reviews have been overwhelmingly positive: Lyman’s mother, who was shopping on opening day and admitted her bias, called it “absolutely wonderful.” As Freese put it in quoting the classic line from the Iowa-set film “Field of Dreams,” if you build it, they will come.


“I used to do a barn sale, and it was on the gravel. We had to drive four miles, and it worked,” Engelkes said. “People came.”


Looking forward, the businesswomen have big ambitions for the future of the space, including hosting special events like wedding showers and rehearsal dinners, wine tastings, catering and food trucks, farm to table dinners and live music. Although the COVID-19 situation has put something of a damper on larger gatherings, it didn’t slow up their opening, and it hasn’t dimmed their optimism.


The owners count themselves as friends as well as business associates, and they aren’t afraid to be honest with each other about what they need to do to make things work. In their own words, they’re “three tough women to be reckoned with” and “a small gang,”


“We appreciate it. We don’t take it the wrong way. We just appreciate it,” Freese said. “Because we still have our own (businesses) under one roof, that helps us. Stacey and I team up on some things, (and) Stacey and Mel team up on some things. We’ll probably all three team up on some things yet.”


Perhaps most importantly of all, Lyman knows that if her daughter were here today, she’d be so proud of the finished product.


“I think she’d love it. She would roll her eyes at me, but she would love it,” she said.


The Grundy Register

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Grundy Center, IA 50638
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