Raised in New Jersey, Barbara was the oldest of three girls. Her mother was a kindergarten teacher and her father taught high school and then education at Wheaton College on Staten Island. In fact, Barbara comes from a family of many teachers, so it is not surprising that she would follow that path. She graduated from Wheaton College, majoring in Education.
Barbara’s love is American History and her first assignment was to teach middle school students at an inner city school in Patterson, N.J. As daunting as the task might appear to many, Barbara handled it successfully. She was able to come up with creative ways to hold students’ interest.
Always the teacher, Barbara would take her own children on camping vacations to historic areas and would stop to have them read historic roadside markers.
Barbara’s mother was gifted in needlework. She found an eager student in Barbara and was able to pass along these skills, which are, unfortunately, becoming a rare art form. From her grandmother and high school Home Economics classes, Barbara learned to make clothing.
While teaching school, Barbara began to take some of her creations to craft shows and enjoyed encouraging success. Because hip problems prevented her from navigating the school’s four flights of stairs, Barbara gave up her formal teaching position and began to focus on crafting, sewing and expanding her craft show business. Her sewing skills and her love of history led her into making authentic period clothing for Revolutionary War reenactments.
After her children were grown, Barbara and her husband traveled to craft shows across the United States. At one point they came to work at the Uncle Dave Macon Days in Murfreesboro. Barbara fell in love with Middle Tennessee and recalls making the comment, “I could live here.” The decision seemed right, so in 1999 they notified their New Jersey relatives that they were moving south. It has been a move that Barbara has not regretted.
Barbara sold her wares on consignment in a historic building across from Millers’ Grocery in Christiana. When the shop became available, she took it over and was doing a good business there until the owners of Miller’s decided to open their own gift shop in that location.
She moved to Murfreesboro, near the old Middle Tennessee Medical Center, doctors’ offices and Oaklands Mansion. The space was large and Barbara soon built a group of loyal customers who enjoyed coming by for coffee. She sewed the costumes for the Civil War reenactments and participated as a southern belle in the commemoration of General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s raid on the Murfreesboro Courthouse on July 13, 1862.
When MTMC and the doctors moved to their new location, Barbara needed to make a move. For many years she had participated as a vendor at Lynchburg’s events, dressing in Civil War costume, demonstrating her tatting and selling her crafts. She learned to love the town and when a store on the Square became available, she was thrilled.
On Honey Bunny Mercantile’s Grand Opening Saturday, March 2 it snowed. It is a testimony to her loyal clientele that they came dressed in the beautiful hoop skirted dresses that Barbara had made and walked around the Square handing out brochures to introduce her business. The Chamber of Commerce, of which she is a member, provided a Ribbon Cutting ceremony. It was a memorable day.
If you are looking for Honey Bunny Mercantile, you cannot miss the Civil War dress in the window. Inside the shop is a variety of nostalgic crafts. You will find Barbara, possibly wearing a hoop skirt, sitting at her sewing machine, making a new creation or doing some expert alterations. Ask her to show you her prize 1900 Singer sewing machine that her son found behind an abandoned factory in Prospect Park, N.J.
Barbara is enjoying being a part of the Lynchburg business community. She is looking forward to creating a space where folks can come and visit, adults and children can learn a new craft and everyone can stitch up a few memories.