“The pandemic really shut down my other business,” she said. “I will probably go back to places where I made friends and established connections, but I will be spending a lot more time in the city.”
The storefront not only gives Debbie more space to display her brand, but two offices in the back have been converted into a craft room where she can make custom clothing to order. At the grand opening, Debbie delivered a baby t-shirt of a dazzled cow sticking out her tongue that a woman ordered for a toddler in her family.
“We had this building empty and it was just picking up dust,” Debbie said. “I had a vision for this place.”
Debbie’s husband Brian Schelling himself did much of the renovations to a building that had been vacant for over 40 years. Brian spent about four months cleaning out the old inventory, sealing the walls and roof, installing two air conditioners and repainting.
Brian said the building was once the front of the feed and seed store for the Exeter Mercantile. Working on the building was a trip down memory lane for Brian who looked after food and seeds for his father when he was a boy. Brian said he worked Saturdays for most of his childhood weighing bulk bags of chicken, livestock grain and dog food. He worked there until he left for college. When he returned home, he began working in the commercial hardware section before moving on to farm equipment parts and service and ultimately running the entire operation. He noted that Debbie’s craft studio was once the offices of pest management advisers.
The Schelling family have owned Exeter Mercantile since 1919, when Sid Schelling, Sr. bought out the original owners – all but three of the company’s 105 years of history. Brian noted that the custom clothing made by his wife was also a bit of a throwback to his father’s old shop in downtown Visalia, Schelling’s Men’s and Women’s Ware, which was once used to embroider men’s jackets from letters for high school and college students.
“There’s a lot of neat history here,” Brian said.