Richard and Wilma Blackburn first met as preteens in Columbia Station. Despite a shared interest in getting better acquainted, their self-described shyness and other factors prevented it from happening.
Following high school, they lost touch for more than 30 years.
Reunited through Facebook and mutual friends in 2015, the pair is set to be married this summer and on May 25 will open Blackburn’s Country Barn and More at 132 West Herrick Ave., Wellington.
“We do everything by hand, (both) wood and metal,” said Richard. “We re-purpose items and also do a lot of customization. We work on signs, dressers, cabinets, little hutches, and the larger wooden doors you find in older homes. A lady asked us to take a look at her baker’s rack. I traveled to her place in Homerville and finished the rack with that old-timey look that’s very popular right now. She loved it and has ordered six more products from us.”
“If you go on Pinterest, and get an idea of a design you like, we’ll work with you or even make a house call,” said Wilma, a self-taught graphic designer. “It will be a piece you love within a budget you’re comfortable with. Going to many custom designers isn’t affordable for most people. We’re not going to be like that.”
The couple had been running their business in Elyria but chose to move to Wellington when their building was sold. Most of their customers are from southern Lorain County.
“Wilma was also putting her items in other stores,” Richard said. “We started talking and I said she needed to have her own store. The first store in Elyria was kind of a stepping stone. Wilma and I were in Wellington getting ice cream one night and we saw the property as we walked by.” That was it — they were in love with the location.
Wilma is confident she and Richard can compete with larger chain establishments.
“I get really sick and tired of going into a big box store and seeing low-quality products all made in China,” she said. “Sorry, but I’m sick of that. With us, you’ll get a quality item that will last. It’s going to look great. Nothing will go out of this store unless it’s quality.”
“You’ve got to have hardcore dedication and a genuine relationship with customers,” said Richard. “Then you have to build a quality product. When you go to IKEA, everything falls apart within a year. Mine won’t do that.”
After such a long time apart, Richard and Wilma weren’t about to let the chance to reunite slip through their fingers.
“For 35 years I was just living my own life but I never forgot about Wilma,” Richard said. “I left Columbia Station when I was 16, as soon as I got my driver’s license. I had tried to track her down but had no luck. On Facebook, a girl we grew up with found me when she was on the phone with Wilma at the same time. I jumped on it. I wasn’t letting this girl get a way again.”
“I grew up on a 100-acre farm,” Wilma said. “Richard used to ride dirt bikes behind our property. I was so shy I couldn’t even look at him. I had the biggest crush probably since sixth grade. Now, 35 years later, here we are. We never even dated back then.”
Crafting parties will also be offered by the Blackburns.
“I’m eager to work with the community,” Wilma said. “I think Wellington deserves that. If we can get all these shops filled downtown with quality, affordable businesses, it will serve everyone well.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.