Starting small but open to some big possibilities

November 2023

Ashley The Happy Hooker: Not your grandmother’s crochet

In the heart of Thunder Bay, where the spirit of creativity thrives, you’ll find Ashley Gibbons, the talent behind “Ashley The Happy Hooker.” This isn’t your grandmother’s crochet; it’s a vibrant, contemporary twist on a timeless craft.

“My grandmother first taught me how to crochet when I was a child,” said Ashley. “I had a hard time grasping it and lost interest in crocheting altogether.” Like many of us, her first encounter with crochet wasn’t exactly love at first stitch. In her teen years, Ashley picked up knitting and gradually started to understand the intricacies of crocheting. But it wasn’t until she was expecting her youngest child that she truly became “hooked” on crochet. “I haven’t looked back since,” she exclaims, her passion is evident in her creations.

One of the hallmarks of Ashley’s business is her dedication to crafting custom and personalized crochet items. “I began my business as custom orders only. One of my most touching, memorable pieces was a crocheted rainbow baby blanket embroidered with a poem to memorialize a sibling angel baby”, said Ashley. It’s these heartwarming stories and the deep connection with her customers that make her work all the more special.

Establishing a business, especially in a close-knit community like Thunder Bay, comes with its fair share of challenges and triumphs. “The pandemic was a massive challenge, but the setback also presented opportunities to adapt and grow”, says Ashley. Harnessing the power of online platforms she embarked on incredible projects, like collaborating with Love Across the USA, a global network of makers creating large-scale public wall murals known as “Yarn Bombs.” Ashley was part of the team behind awe-inspiring crocheted murals, including a 40’ x 20’ mural of Kamala Harris in Washington D.C., a 12’ x 16’ mural in NYC, and a 30’ x 20’ tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Dallas, Texas.

Ashley moved to Thunder Bay in July 2017. At the time, she hadn’t yet ventured into the world of handmade business. The transition from a bustling life with a full-time job and college courses to being a stay-at-home parent in a new city was a significant shift. Crochet became Ashley’s anchor, a way to stay motivated, find purpose, and boost her mental well-being. “I crocheted my girls lots of pieces,” she recalls.

“I was approached by people while I was at the gym for custom orders, and like they say, the rest is history.” Thunder Bay became the backdrop to her creative calling.

Keep an eye out for the joyful creations of Ashley The Happy Hooker; they’re bound to bring a smile to your face.

Ashley will be at The Craft Revival and the Year End Shop Local market on both Saturday, December 16th and Sunday, December 17th from 9 am-3 pm at the CLE Coliseum.

Marvellous Makings:

Where home cooking meets great catering Melissa Faiers has turned her love for cooking into a successful business, “Marvellous Makings.” She shared her culinary journey with me and the unique aspects of her catering and pre-made meal business.

Melissa’s passion for cooking was cultivated in her childhood. “I grew up in the kitchen with a mom and two grandmas who all cooked from scratch,” she recalls. Those early kitchen experiences set the stage for her lifelong love of cooking. As a wife and mother of four, Melissa discovered the joys of preparing meals from scratch, not only for cost savings but because she found it more satisfying than convenience food. When she and her husband decided to homeschool their kids, Melissa looked for ways to generate income while still being there for her family. Catering was a natural fit. “It’s really become a family business,” she says, with her husband now heading up the grilling and BBQ side of their venture, “Spit Fire Grill & Co.”

Marvellous Makings doesn’t stop at catering; they also offer pre-made freezer meals that bring the convenience of home-cooked dishes to busy individuals. Melissa’s inspiration for this came from her oldest son, who often found himself in places with limited food options while travelling for work. Recognizing the demand for high-quality, ready-to-serve home-cooked meals, Melissa and her family decided to make these culinary delights accessible to everyone.

Melissa has catered countless events, each with their unique challenges. From baking 200 sugar cookies with bear faces to preparing 60 dozen baked goods in a sweltering summer, she’s faced memorable moments. This summer brought a new level of fun when her husband joined her for BBQ-style events, and she looks forward to creating more unforgettable memories, especially with their new Pig Out roaster designed for onsite pig roasting.

Melissa was selected to participate in the CEDC’s Starter Company Plus program in 2023, a valuable learning experience for her entrepreneurial journey. The program helped Melissa purchase a brand-new giant freezer and create a user-friendly website for easy meal ordering.

As the holiday season approaches, Melissa is excited to share her Christmas baking boxes, featuring 10 of her family’s favorite Christmas treats. These boxes are filled with love and tradition, offering a taste of home during the festive season.

Twigs In Bloom: Where community artistry blossoms

In the bustling town of Nipigon, a unique gem has taken root. Twigs In Bloom, owned by the dynamic Candace Hetz, is not your everyday store – it’s a delightful blend of retail therapy, local artistry, and a warm coffee haven.

“I’ve always had a thing for home decor,” Candace begins, “Even when I was young, our house was constantly changing on the interior. There was always a new colour or pattern to play with.” This childhood fascination with home decor laid the foundation for Twigs In Bloom. Candace’s mom had once ventured into running a gift shop, but the whirlwind of life as a mom of three and wife to a busy husband led to its temporary closure. However, after her four children began attending school, Candace and her husband seized the opportunity to combine their love for education and home decor. “Having a good education for my kids is very important to both of us,” Candace emphasizes, “but we also both have a love for home decor, plants, and seasonal things. We also wanted to be a part of our wonderful little town.”

But that’s not all – nestled within Twigs In Bloom is “A Cup of Joy” Coffee Shop, a delightful venture by Candace’s daughter, Austen. “My oldest daughter, Austen, has opened an ice cream shop named ‘Ta Da’s’, now run by her younger sister, London. Ta Da’s is open from June through August”, says Candace. Visitors can indulge in a variety of coffees, teas, and lattes. Austen’s seasonal lattes steal the show, with the cinnamon bun latte as the crowd favorite.

Twigs In Bloom isn’t just about the Hetz family’s passion; it’s a canvas for local artists and artisans to showcase their talents. Candace beams with pride, saying, “We have many amazing and talented folks in Nipigon and the surrounding communities.” The store proudly features a wide range of locally crafted products, including beautiful knitwear, local photography, woodworking, natural wax melters, soaps, adorable crocheted plushies, quilted home decor, beaded jewellery, and local agates. Candace’s mom contributes to the store’s aesthetic with exquisite home decor items, while Candace herself brings in lush tropicals, houseplants, succulents, and air plants. Seasonal plants and a variety of ceramic pots complete the captivating collection.

As the holiday season approaches, Candace extends a warm invitation to experience the magic of Christmas at Twigs In Bloom. It’s the kind of place that can truly ignite your Christmas spirit and you’ll leave with “A Cup of Joy” in your hands!

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