Gae Sharp-Richardson said she got her knack for collecting discarded items from her grandfather.
She would go with him to the garbage dump and search for treasures — old dolls heads and various miscellania — that her grandpa would keep in his garage.
"It got to the point where my brothers and sisters would say: This is ugly give it to Gae. This is broken give it to Gae," she said.
Since then her found objects lead to artwork found only in her home studio, but when the Marion business owner moved THE chocolate SHOP a few blocks down Seventh Avenue, she realized she had the opportunity to run a shop with her creative mentality.
Happenstance on Seventh showcases the recycling of discarded artwork and clothing, which is creatively redesigned by shop owner Sharp-Richardson, manager Pam Hyberger and a number of local consignment artists.
Hyberger points to her "lion sweater" as one of her proudest additions to the shop — one that exemplifies the store’s philosophy.
Pictured above, it was previously a gold colored mock turtleneck. She removed the fringes of the turtleneck and cut strips of gold fabric around the edge of the top so that it resembles a lion’s mane.
The shop has been open just over three months. Hyberger said business has been slow since the holiday season, but added that it's fairly normal for a shop in the area.
Sharp-Richardson said the very name of the shop summarizes its appeal and creation.
Happenstance, by definition, is a chance encounter creating a circumstance. For Sharp-Richardson, this was a metaphor for the circumstances that brought her and Hyberger together, both creative women, interested in doing similar artwork and both available to take on a huge responsibility at the same time.
Seventh refers to Seventh Avenue, where the shop is located. Not only is this the site of THE chocolate STORE before it moved, but it also represents the creativity and inspiration that Richardson has had from working in proximity to places like the Campbell Steele Gallery and events like the Marion Arts Festival.
Though they aren’t seeing as many customers as they would like, Sharp-Richardson said she is confident that a store like Happenstance on Seventh, creative and designed to empower women, will catch on.
Happenstance on Seventh customer, Amy Lunemann, said she bought an "infinity scarf" from the shop, which is a long, loose fitting scarf made of vintage t-shirts. She said she loves the idea of recycling old materials to make something new and fun.
"It is one of a kind," she said. "You won’t see other people on the street wearing the same outfit."
Lunemann added that she loved to see the uptown area expand further. As an employee of the Campbell Steele Gallery, she is excited to see creative, one-of-a-kind shops help redefine the area in order to create a unique destination for Iowans to travel to.
"I think it is a great compliment to the uptown area," she said. "I can’t think of another store like that in town."