A grandmother remembered

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Monica Tiffany (right), pictured with her mom, Sandy Weller, is working to infuse more homemade items into McGregor Mercantile, the store she owns with husband Paul. Her grandmother, whose kitchen hutch they’re standing in front of, is the inspiration for this goal. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

Monica is pictured with her late grandma, Elizabeth Moore, whom she described as a natural crafter.

Many items at McGregor Mercantile, including Sandy’s crocheted wash cloths, have been labeled with a tag bearing the letters “MM,” for “Mercantile Made.” (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

As you peruse the items available at McGregor Mercantile, you’ll find an increasing number have been labeled with a tag bearing the letters “MM,” for “Mercantile Made.”

“Our focus this year is on handmade items,” said Monica Tiffany, who opened the downtown McGregor store with husband Paul in 2016. “We want as little ‘made in China’ as possible and more ‘made in McGregor, Iowa.’ That makes it more special to me.”

The inspiration for this goal is Monica’s maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Moore. 

“When we were adding more of the home decor, I always kept saying, ‘grandma would have loved the store.’ She would have been perfect to work in the store,” Monica remarked. “This is a way to remember her, to honor her.”

Monica characterized her grandma, who passed away over 10 years ago, as a natural crafter. Before the days of the internet made searching for new projects as simple as a few clicks or the swipe of a finger, she could often be found at the library, searching through books for ideas. Bored was never in her vocabulary.

“She would always be making things,” shared Monica’s mother, Sandy Weller. 

Projects ranged from quilts to corncob dolls and tin men made of cans.

“As a kid, maybe I thought they were cheesy,” Monica admitted, “but, now, they’re so precious. She had a good eye and was very resourceful. Nothing went to waste.”

Just like her grandma, Monica is crafting unique items of her own. In 2017, she began chainsaw carving, transforming pieces of wood into mostly bears, but other animals and some plants, too. Today, Grizzly’s Chainsaw Carving has attracted countless customers to McGregor Mercantile, and Monica has shipped pieces around the state. This year, she hopes to continue growing that aspect of the business.

Another area that’s grown is McGregor Mercantile’s paint class offerings. Most weekends this winter and spring, the work space in the back of the store has been filled with people creating their own home decor projects—everything from barn quilts to farmhouse style benches. 

“There are a lot of classes in the area, so I wanted to come up with unique things, functional things you can take home and use,” Monica said. 

Paul takes care of assembly, while Monica instructs attendees on how to paint the pieces. It’s fun, she said, and gives people the courage to tackle projects they might not try on their own.

The couple is remodeling the classroom space to improve the flow, and plans to continue holding classes throughout the year.

If people are unable to take the classes, but would still like the finished project, Paul and Monica have made some of the furniture and home decor items to sell in the store. Paul has also crafted some unique hutches, which can be seen displaying items throughout McGregor Mercantile, that are now for sale.

Even Monica’s mom has gotten in on the handmade trend. She wanted to complement another local business, Waterville-based Paint Creek Soaps, whose products are available at the store.

“I saw the soaps and thought ‘these would be so cute with a crocheted wash cloth,’” Sandy noted. So, utilizing skills learned from her mother, she made the contribution.

“It’s a simple thing she can add to the store,” Monica said.

As she looks around the space she and Paul have worked so hard to develop, Monica said it’s hard not to think of her grandma. Her kitchen hutch proudly sits in the middle of the store (but is not for sale) and her spirit inspires many of the items that surround it.

“I know how proud she would have been,” Monica said.

To learn more about McGregor Mercantile’s handmade items, check out their spring open house this Friday and Saturday, April 5 and 6.

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