Renovations at Walnut Creek boutique nearing finish

Renovations at Walnut Creek boutique nearing finish

Image Credit: Melissa Herrera

Change is happening in good ways to a contemporary boutique just east of Walnut Creek. Revamping two separate buildings into one complex can be a long process as stacks of blueprints, sweat and tears go into any long-term revisions.

“Weary has been a common word recently,” said Tonya Schlabach, owner of bfearless boutique. “But our theme has become ‘it’s gonna be great.’”

But to get to this major renovation point, there were miles to walk. Nearly 10 years ago, Schlabach turned her vision into reality by opening the specialty shop called bfearless.

Along with her husband Dave and brother-in-law Tim, the trio has worked together to turn a pair of buildings they own into a new destination.

Schlabach’s husband and mother-in-law acquired the building in the early 1990s and opened Homespun Treasures, transitioning a decade ago into the boutique store it is today. Along the way they acquired the gift shop next to it called The Peddler. As bfearless grew, they began to run out of space.

“We always talked about needing bigger offices and more storage. The back room kept getting smaller because of growth,” Schlabach said.

Change can be painful, and they’re feeling the squeeze right now as the business continues to be open throughout the renovation. Working with several companies, they began by tearing down a house in May that had been purchased next to The Peddler, and by August most of the staff had been kicked out of their offices and moved into one big room together.

“It’s been a painful process,” she said. “But I’ve seen so much growth in our team. They’re so good. They’ve pivoted and stuck with us.”

Her vision for the combined buildings and bigger complex is to create a feeling people take with them when they visit.

“One of the things we’ve talked about is that when people walk in, we want them to feel like they belong,” Schlabach said. “Everyone wants to feel like they belong somewhere. We want to create an environment like that — a place people enjoy the feeling.”

Working with local companies like S. Flynn on design has been eye-opening for Schlabach, showing her how to use what you have around you and revitalize it.

“I’m kind of a make-do sort of person. We didn’t have a lot growing up, and so you used what you had and made it better,” Schlabach said. “S. Flynn really opened my eyes to what’s out there, even how we are doing stucco art in the front of the building. I never would have thought it would be so amazing.

“There are so many people in our area who don’t realize they’re artists. People just think they go to work, but they’re artists.”

Schlabach is an artist herself and sits on the board of Holmes Center for the Arts. Her greatest wish is for all art forms to be valued. She said there are good things on the horizon with the HCA expanding.

An eye for the arts and a creative vision for the future are clearly visible in the way Schlabach runs her business. She said she has grown in the way she handles different aspects of running a boutique.

“I’ve grown a lot in how I manage employees. It’s a big part of running a store,” Schlabach said. “There are a lot of good people who don’t realize how good they are. I want them to feel valued in our business.

“I’ve mellowed my expectations for the way I think things should go. Being angry or aggressive doesn’t get me anywhere. I’ve learned to ask more questions instead of accusations.”

Staying current with fashion trends is a full-time job. Pair that with a rural area that in the beginning was running at least a year behind on trends.

“There can be a mixture of things to stay ahead. We go to shows, but you just have to watch what’s going on,” Schlabach said. “Now we have social media, and there was none of that when we started. Because everyone sees what is posted, they want to wear that right now. It’s so different than it was years ago.”

There has been an influx of boutique-style stores emerging in the area within the past decade. Not unlike the furniture store boom, the area seems to have enough tourism to support it and locals that keep the business growing. Maintaining a base of local clientele that trust the product and keep coming back to shop at bfearless is vital.

“We like to be unique and have things that other people don’t have. Sometimes it takes time searching those things out,” Schlabach said. “I’m an Enneagram 4, and I want to be unique. I’m not here to copy. I’m here to inspire. I’m here to be different and not be afraid. I want to nudge people into trying something different.”

The process of transforming the building should be complete some time next spring, barring any major hurdles. When done, there will be new offices, dressing rooms and plenty of storage space. After the bfearless renovation is done, they will do some repairs and upgrades to the existing Peddler building. Each step of the way builds character for the company and its people.

bfearless will hold an open house called Christmas Shop & Social Nov. 10-12. Hours will vary for the event. All information can be found on their socials. The bfearless address is 3147 state Route 39, Millersburg.