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From Concrete and Plaster to Brick and Mortar: Fishes and Loaves comes to life!

From Concrete and Plaster to Brick and Mortar: Fishes and Loaves comes to life!

You know the Meyers-Briggs style personality tests?  They are questionairres - usually completed as part of a team building session in the workplace - that spit out a series of letters corresponding to a personality type that help you identify your strengths and weaknesses.

I am a huge fan of these persoanality tests.  With work colleagues, they can help build diverse teams, facilitate better communication, improve conflict management, and create an environment of productivity and cooperation. 

I contend that personality tests are essential tools for every marriage as well.  Like workplace relationships, being aware of your and your spouse's strengths, weaknesses, dispositions, and let's just say "quirks," is not only fascinating, but vital for living and successfully functioning with that person for the rest of your life...

...or creating and building a business with that person for the better part of the past year...


My husband, Nate, is a classic INTJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judgement) personality.  A mechanical engineer brainiac by trade, he is analytical, pragmatic, and logical.  He lives and breathes in the black and white, approaching every situation with calculated actions to reach predictable goals.

I, on the other hand, feel like I live in the gray matter!  As an ENTJ (Extroverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judgment). I am bold, imaginative, and strong-willed. I love a good challenge and push past logic at times to achieve my goals. 

So you can imagine the initial skepticism my INTJ husband had when this ENTJ broached the idea of starting this business. 

But here we are, about fourteen months later.  Obviously, my idea wasn't too far beyond logic for Nate...or maybe my stubbornness, ahem, strong-willingness got the best of him.

Its been a long and tiring fourteen months and an especially grueling summer. We've faced challenges and had many learning experiences, both in the upfit of the retail space and about each other. We've turned a shabby commercial shell into a warm and inviting shop; a place we hope you love to shop in and inspires you to create a warm and inviting home.  Personally, while there was more bickering and frustration with each other than we'd like to admit, we have also come to appreciate and emulate each other's personalitiy traits. 

ENTJ's are all about efficiency and making quick decisions. Nate has taught me to be more patient, especially in situations that are out of our control.  And I knew I was cracking Nate's logical, perfect-plan, INTJ shell when he told me I inspire him to take more risks without knowing the outcome.  

As we open our doors this weekend, we're sharing some of the chaos from the past three months and the beautiful result.  We hope you can visit the space and shop in person soon!


We closed on our commercial lease space at the end of April.  Our son, Caleb, (still in his school uniform) didn't waste any time diving right in with Dad, taking preliminary measurements for the backroom workshop.

Fishes and Loaves - Renovation We had a little fun testing out wall paint colors after Saturday afternoon soccer practice.  Little did we know the majority of our weekends for the next twelve weeks would be spent in a construction war zone!

Comparatively, as a retail startup, our budget was extremely low with razor-thin margins. In many ways, we knew seeing our vision come to life in our budget was pretty crazy.  However, for several reasons, Nate and I felt like it was the perfect time to take the risk and dive right in. 

For entrepreneurs, success is never a guarantee, and while we were all about taking the risk, we also did A LOT of research and planning before the final go-ahead.  We wrote a business plan that included a lengthy financial analysis that projected all foreseeable startup expenses as well as a budget and profit projections for the first 18 months in business (This is how we spent the majority of weekends last summer!)

Working with limited funds forced us to be very thoughtful and prudent in our design and renovation decisions.  Like I mentioned above, we lost many weekend hours, but saved thousands of dollars by painting the space ourselves.  We thought, "It's just a 2000 square foot rectangle. How hard could it be, right?"

Luckily, Nate has a lot of experience painting and I caught on quick. We started out with the wall above the lighting grid. That grid had to stay so we decided to bring the ceiling paint color down onto the wall to meet with the grid and give that space a more seamless look.  Thankfully, the ceiling color went with our color palette and was in good condition.  We were easily able to color match it with the help of a special color matching tool from Sherwin Williams.  The lucky winner was Sherwin Williams' Aged White.

My husband makes it look easy, but there was nothing easy about balancing on a ladder 15 feet above the ground and wiggling in between each grid and lights.  I couldn't go up that high, so I was in charge of refilling the paint brush and handing if off so Nate didn't have to go up and down every five minutes.  That was a fun 20 hours!

Fishes and Loaves - Renovation

Once the first phase of painting was complete, the new wall installed.  The wall was designed to separate the front retail area from a workshop/events space in the back. 

Electrical work and pendant lighting installation took place around the same time as the wall build out.  I am a lighting freak and was super excited to pick out the pendants for the space.

Fishes and Loaves - Renovation

Four of these handmade brass beauties from Cedar and Moss were hung over the cash wrap/bar area, a delicate Capiz shell chandelier hangs above a dining room display table, and two round jute pendants plan to bring a natural texture over the large, family-style table in the workshop.

Fishes and Loaves - Renovation

Fishes and Loaves - Renovation

Fishes and Loaves - Renovation

 With the wall up and lighting in place, we could move on to finishing the floor, painting the bottom portion of the walls and the new wall.  Our space was once a flooring retail store that used the floor as sample space for a variety of flooring materials including tile, vinyl, and carpet.  After those samples were pulled up, the bottom floor was an uneven, mismatched concrete.  Our only real option to stick within the budget and maintain the fresh, clean look we were going for was to paint the floor using an industrial-grade epoxy.   And before the floors could be finished, we had to move everything out that we "inherited." This included this marble monstrosity of a coffee table that weighed about 500lbs.  As you can see, I didn't care for this table when it was in the space (Or maybe I was really tired at the end of a long work weekend) and felt no remorse when we dropped it (heaved it off the truck) at Good Will. 

Fishes and Loaves - Renovation

By the third week in July, all of our custom furniture was complete and ready to bring into the shop.  We had three built-in style shelving units made, as well as a 4'x6' display table for the middle of the floor and the cash wrap and bar. 

Fishes and Loaves - Renovation

Fishes and Loaves - Renovation

My original concept for the cash register area was to make it feel like a large residential kitchen island, which it typically the heart of the home. 

Fishes and Loaves - Renovation

The furniture was made out of MDF - medium density fiber board.  This was a less expensive option than going with wood furniture and can be painted to look fresh and modern.  As with the walls, the furniture painting was on us.  But unlike the walls, these pieces required a multi-step process to finish and get looking pretty.  For each piece we had to go through the following steps:

1. Sand

2. Prime

3. Fill nail holes with putty

4. Sand again

5. Caulk edging

6. Paint - two ultra-thin coats (to prevent seeing brush strokes) using a special water-based acrylic-alkyd paint

Fishes and Loaves - Renovation

Fishes and Loaves - Renovation

Fishes and Loaves - Renovation

Needless to say, after a Saturday and Sunday of 50+ labor hours between Nate and I, neither of us wanted to see a paintbrush again.  But our sweat equity was worth it - the furniture - and that super cool barn door - looks amazing and really helped the space start to look like a store!

Fishes and Loaves - Renovation

Somewhere in the middle of all that painting, we also spent a good bit of time measuring for floating shelves behind the cash wrap and bar. This is where it pays to marry a nerdy engineer and someone with a "measure twice (or five times) cut once," personality!

I LOVE the look of open shelving in kitchens and can't wait to style some Instagram-worthy #shelfies.  It wasn't in the budget now, but I'm hoping to bring in some pretty tile work on this wall in the future. 

All kidding about my husband's geekiness aside, he was a trooper and I could not have done this project without him. After working 9-10 hours at his regular job, he spent several hours each evening working at the shop.  He even missed out on MLB All-Star Game festitivies at our Nationals Park in DC to get these shelves done!

The last few weeks before opening were spent merchandising and styling the shop.  It was so cool to see our design come to life and we couldn't be more happier with the outcome!  We worked with many amazing local companies and talented tradespeople including:

Mooresville Realty/ Princeton Communities - Our real estate agents, landlords, and next door neighbors. 

EFC Builders - General Contractor/Project Management

E&P Trimwork Inc - Custom Furniture including built-ins, cash wrap/bar, tables, and barn doors

The Moulding Source/ The Woodworking Source - Floating shelves behind bar;  wood shelves and hook boards

Fast Signs  - Our other next door neighbors took care of all of our exterior signage

Fishes and Loaves - Renovation

There has been a lot of sweat, a little blood, and way too many tears than I'd like to admit, but taking this risk and working together to build something from nothing - despite our differences in personalities - has made our marriage stronger.  We hope our journey encourages you to give it your all in both work and personal relationships!

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