While preparing to host a holiday party for her book club, Meli Bernas racked her brain trying to come up with gifts for attendees.
Little did she know at the time, but the gifts were already resting on the bookshelf.
“I created these little trees that I made out of book pages,” Bernas says. “I had some left over that I sold on the neighborhood Facebook page, and it took off from there.”
Now, it’s just four years later and Bernas has turned those successful handmade Christmas gift creations into her own business. She brings new life to old stories at her Pretty Pages shop, where she upcycles pages from books to create exclusive home decor and gifts that you won’t find anywhere else.
“If you are a book nerd, I’m your person,” she says. “One of the most popular listings is whatever book is really special to them and making a wreath from it. I get people who bring sheet music from their wedding. I get to do very cool custom work and one of my favorite things about doing this is getting to do new things.”
Pretty Pages is one of the 10 new 2021 Batavia Boardwalk Shops that will be open through Dec. 19, 2021. With their own personal tales of how they’ve become business owners to the wares that they are selling, the mix offers an ultracool shopping experience, especially to those looking to interact with and support small local businesses.
“The eight tiny businesses that opened up last year in May helped to attract more visitors to our community and around town to shop our already existing small retail, restaurant and service businesses,” says Jamie Saam, Boardwalk Shops manager. “We are optimistic that this year will be a huge success yet again with some amazing new businesses including floral shops, home decor, a vegan bakery, artists and more.”
This second year of the Boardwalk comes on the heels of a tremendously successful first year — six of the first eight businesses have proceeded to move on and open their own brick-and-mortar locations in downtown Batavia.
“It’s been fun to meet all the people,” says Maria Pensinger, co-owner of Mojo Re-Creations with her mother, Joette Callarman. “I’ve always needed a creative outlet because my brain doesn’t stop. Meeting all these people, I’ve got so many friends now that are lifelong friends. It’s so awesome to meet people that are like you and so many people are as nutty as we are.”
Pensinger bought a pair of handmade mittens over 10 years ago and figured out how to make her own. It led to designing handbags, and suddenly Mojo Re-Creations was doing business. “Sometimes we’ll design a pattern but usually we’ll design our own stuff,” she says. “We do a lot of tweaking and we customize in shop.”
In addition to handbags, shoppers will find zipper pouches, dog collars and more at the Mojo Re-Creations Boardwalk Shop.
They’ll find rare plants and original artwork at CatTalpa Manor as owner/artist Abbey Estes collects and sells rare and unusual houseplants. “I really never expected to be a shop or have a business side of it, but it’s really been interesting to talk to everyone else,” Estes says. “I just never saw myself as a business; I’m an artist and a plant lover.”
Now she’s devoted to sharing her knowledge and love of plants with the public. “The last couple of years there has been such an influx of rare plants that the market has blown up,” she says. “I discovered these funky plants that I didn’t know that were out there and I want to hopefully make them a little more accessible to the general public.”
Estes is as crazy about plants as she is about cats, so she’ll let her customers know which ones can coexist. “I will have pet-friendly plants, so there will be cat stickers on a lot of plants,” she says. “I also collect quirky cat-related things, weird cat mugs, cat plates and a lot of vintage things. In my kitchen I made a chandelier out of old piano keys so I like to take old things and make it something new and I’ll have stuff like that in the shop as well.”
Located at the corner of Wilson Street and Route 25 (114 E. Wilson St.), the Batavia Boardwalk Shops are open Fridays (10 a.m.-7 p.m.), Saturdays (9 a.m.-4 p.m.) and Sundays (noon-4 p.m.).
The 10 new shops opened May 28. Get to know them here!
Owners Cortney and Graig Kinzler make handcrafted stone coasters and wood signs that feature Chicago-themed art, vintage images, pop culture and humorous home designs, as well as T-shirts, hats, stickers and more of their designs.
Sarah Stupegia has combined her love of gardening, foraging, sustainable living and holistic wellness to create body care products that give bodies and the planet the respect they deserve. She also shares her expertise and passion through workshops and special events.
A stay-at-home mom who calls herself “a crazy plant lady and a crazy cat lady,” Abbey Estes is the mother of two toddlers and a longtime artist who feels drawn to care for and distribute rare plants, and to make original art.
Facebook: CatTalpa Manor
Emily Velazquez is a graphic designer, illustrator and crafter who decided it was time to build her own brand with stickers, stationery, clay earrings, pins, plant hangers and other handmade goods that she’s thrilled to share with the Batavia community.
Founded last year in the midst of the pandemic, owner Gerrit Husar’s flower farm specializes in sustainably grown, fresh flowers and floral design. Husar hosts workshops and frequently posts about different types of flowers and the adventures of growing both his business and garden.
Fox Valley Gallery of Wood
What do you get when you take four woodturners from the Fox Valley area looking to sell their objects? The Fox Valley Gallery of Wood. Partners John Dillon, Rich Hall-Reppen, Andy Kuby and Rich Nye stock bowls, spoons, utensils, jewelry, vases, pet urns, wall hangings, bottle stoppers and more.
Daughter-mother team of Maria Pensinger and Joette Callarman started making and selling mittens at craft shows in 2010. Today they make a variety of handmade products, including handbags, zipper pouches, wallets and more, combining their creativity and handiwork into their sewing machines.
Last year, owner Jo Colagiacomi launched her vegan bakery, which is highly influenced from her upbringing in Staten Island, New York. Heck, even her mom, Diane, helps her make delicious baked goods with a focus on sustainability and local ingredients.
Calling all bibliophiles and those who love them. Meli Bernas has always loved to design, be creative and read, and she’s combined those attributes to create home decor and gifts made from upcycled book pages and sheet music.
Jillae and Wesley Dalmolin believe that good, healthy food should be available everywhere, and they’re doing their part by bringing organically grown produce, herbs, honey, chicken and duck eggs, jellies, jams, beeswax candles and bars, soap, vintage farmhouse decor and more to Batavia.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the June issue of Kane County Magazine.