I hope you are enjoying our Featured Vendor Series as much as I am. Everyone has a story and unless you ask, it’s usually the case that we never know all we could know about a person. I just love getting to know more about our Dream Team members.
Today, I’d like to introduce you to Bridget Hoerner, our very own “Gone Loopy” Jewelry vendor!
What I love most about Bridget and her story is her incredible and genuine kindness. She is one of the strongest women I know. Her story is incredible and her faith is amazing. Her love and devotion to family is wider than any ocean and taller than any mountain. This love sets her apart for me, in addition to her huge talent. She is so gifted!
Just like the other vendors we have featured so far, Bridget sums up what we are all learning through these interviews: Perseverance, or never giving up is the key to achieving one’s dreams. Take a look at how one woman set her dream in motion, and opened a store!
Bridget shares this quote as one that has meaning to her. I couldn’t agree more.
Let’s find out more. Below is Bridget, in her own words. Enjoy her story!
Living the Dream,
Even though you express yourself through your work, our readers want to know:
How did you get started? “What’s your story?”
For the first seven years of my childhood, I was abused in every way imaginable by my stepfather. It is important for me to share that so that you all will understand the true lady behind Gone Loopy. I learned that I was to never, ever, show emotion. I had no way of expressing myself without brutally paying for it, no matter whether I was sad, happy, or, you name it.
My mom, sister and I moved to Virginia, from Washington State, when I was seven with my grandparents, right after my stepfather was incarcerated. My grandpa had just retired and they decided to move back “home,” which is right here in Virginia.
Once we were back in Virginia, it was like I stepped into a whole new world.
I was able to stay outside and enjoy beauty all around me…God’s artwork. My mom started making crafts here and there and I started becoming interested in them and would help her on occasion. When I was in elementary school, my teachers started taking interest in my artistic abilities and entered me in contests. I won several and it helped to boost my confidence in myself. These contests helped me to feel like I really did have a purpose, even though up until that time I very much had low self-esteem. Creating became a catharsis for me. I soon learned that I could express myself and completely forget about the outside world, and that people appreciated what I did.
In high school, I had an art teacher who called my mom and told her she thought I was special and that I had hidden talent that she wanted to see blossom. She wanted to award me a grant to go study with adults in a fused glass jewelry class. Other than embroidery floss friendship bracelets, this was the only jewelry I had made up to this point. I continued for many years making crafts for family members and with my children.
While I was in college, I decided to make a bracelet for a very good friend of mine. I found it to be very therapeutic. The reaction from everyone that saw it was very encouraging, so I began making lots of jewelry, even though I didn’t wear any.
Eventually my jewelry making evolved into metal stamping on silverware. This, I decided, was the most perfect thing in the world. I always loved words and quotes, especially those of encouragement. So being able to create something beautiful and being able to stamp a word or phrase that could touch someone sent me over the moon. I’ve been addicted ever since.
Tell us about your family.
I met my husband, Brandon, or “Mr. Gone Loopy” as some call him, when I was seventeen and married him fresh out of high school at eighteen years of age. I look back now and think, “What were we thinking and how on Earth did we think we could survive?” Shortly after, we had our oldest child, Sebrina, and then ten and a half months later, our son, Dalton, was born.
A few years later I was told that it was good I already had children, because there was no medically possible way I could have more, due to being eaten up with endometriosis. Many, many surgeries, lots of complications, and problems ensued. We had not planned on any more children, but somehow being told you are unable to have children made me feel broken. When Sebrina was six, I gave birth to our third child, Kaitlyn. She was a complete surprise to us as well as to my doctors. God knew we would need her to complete our family.
Now, Sebrina is twenty-two years old, and she has just married her best friend. They have given us the greatest gift, a granddaughter. She is such a blessing. Dalton is now twenty-one, and Kaitlyn is sixteen. Brandon and I have been married for twenty-three years.
Is Gone Loopy a full time job? When did you make it full time? Were there days when you regretted your decision? Would you ever “go back?”
Yes, Gone Loopy is very much a full time job. Not only do I run my store each day, but Brandon and I also work every night and each morning creating our handmade silverware items.
January 31, 2012, I met with the landlord of the building I am currently in and discussed rent, etc. After talking with my husband when I got home, I decided to go for it. I was still teaching special education in the middle school setting at the time. Brandon and Sebrina would take turns running the store, starting March 1, 2012, until I would get off from school each day. I would then run it for a few hours and go home and make more product.
In May of that same year, my grandpa had his first stroke. He needed full time, 24 hours a day care, and it was then that I decided that at the end of the school year I was going to resign and live my dream full time.
I do not regret resigning from teaching. I have many special students that have kept in touch with me and they and their parents come to visit me often. I am a true believer that things happen for a reason. Right now, my purpose is to keep being the “Loopy Lady,” offering hope and encouragement through my own therapeutic artwork.
How did you come up with the name Gone Loopy?
The name “Gone Loopy” came from a conversation I was had with my mother-in-law one day while we were in Pennsylvania visiting with her. In order to help your readers understand the conversation with my mother-in- law, I will share a bit of background information.
I was going to college full time, raising my little family, substitute teaching, wearing many hats in my church, and going through some pretty scary times. My grandfather had just suffered a massive heart attack and had been flown to UVA not too long before my visit with my mother in law. My youngest daughter, Kaitlyn, was having serious health problems and the doctors were even talking cancer at the time. I was having trouble with anxiety in a major way and I was concerned that it was going to keep me from passing my classes and moving on in college.
I was sitting in my mother-in-law’s “beach room” as she called it, making jewelry. She came in to talk to me and check up on me. After asking about numerous test results for both my grandpa, and Kaity, my school work, and all the other things I had going on at the time, she asked, “Bridget, how on earth are you going to keep from going loopy?’ I chuckled and replied, “I’m doing it right now.” I then followed it up with, “Maybe someday I will open up my very own shop and call it just that.” At the time, that idea felt far from any possible reality.
Tell us about your store. You sell many things. What and where?
My store recently expanded this year. I was able to move into the front of the building, which is a much larger space. We sell anything from clothing, and jewelry, to furniture, and antiques. The move has given us room for Brandon to shine. He is a very talented carpenter and has not only built multimillion dollar homes, but has built some pretty amazing furniture.
You never know what you will find at Gone Loopy. We have a few consignors that are local artists and we are constantly bringing in new inventory.
We are located in Churchville at 3816 Churchville Ave., Churchville, VA 24421.
Is there anything you want to do that for now you are prevented from doing? Did your dream get bigger or shrink over the years? Do you dream of branching out?
Right now, with having a new grandbaby and getting through the planning of my daughter’s wedding, I am comfortable where we are. I feel like I haven’t had a chance to really get used to our new space yet.
A few years back before I opened my shop, I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis. I almost didn’t make it. I had a video robotic thoracic surgery to remove my thymus gland, which ultimately ended up saving my life. Myasthenia Gravis effects every muscle of my body. I had trouble breathing, swallowing, walking, talking-you name it. I stopped making jewelry altogether. I almost sold all of my jewelry making supplies, but Brandon had the wisdom to tell me to just put them away and not get rid of them.
Exactly a year prior to the day that I met my landlord, I had surgery. The summer that I resigned, I went into full medical remission. I feel abundantly blessed to be here today and to be able to continue to do what I love.
I don’t have plans written in stone for the future, but I am excited to see what happens next. My youngest daughter has stated that someday she wants her own Gone Loopy store and that her store will compete with the sales of my store.
How did LTD 7 come into your work?
Lynne contacted me through email and told me she had seen my work and that she thought it would fit well in her markets. I signed up for my first Market with LTD7 and was blown away by the response from customers and my emptied booth.
Lynne then asked if I would be interested in being a consignor or vendor in her shop. I was at the time afraid to become a vendor, because I had just taken a huge step in opening up my own shop. It wasn’t until later when she asked me again that I decided it was time. I shortly went from being a vendor in not one, but two, of her shops and I have not regretted one minute of it. The Dream Team is very much family. I am proud to be a part of LTD7 and the Dream Team.
What was the biggest obstacle to pursuing this dream of yours? Has that changed over the years? In what way?
My biggest obstacle was myself. With my background, I had low self-esteem. Plus, with getting married young and starting a family early, we weren’t exactly set up for taking risks starting businesses and such.
After making it through Myasthenia Gravis, it was like I had a whole new lease on life. Life is very short. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. I decided I no longer wanted to be a “people pleaser,” desperately trying to live my life the way everyone thought my life should be lived. I didn’t want to be an eighty-year-old lady, laying in my bed saying, “woulda, coulda, shoulda.” Especially after I have told my children to never do that.
My husband, children, friends, and customers have helped me realize that even though things come natural to me, I have talent that not everyone has and that I should have some confidence in myself. I will always be modest, but the idea that I have talent is one I am learning to accept.
What is the strangest request you have ever received? What is the most unusual thing that has ever happened to you while working/selling?
My grandpa decided to order alligator teeth from Louisiana after watching Swamp People. He then gave me these teeth and expected me to make them into necklaces and sell them in my store. They were very peculiar looking. I used them and believe it or not, sold quite a lot of them in my shop.
The most unusual thing that has ever happened while working in my shop was the first Fall that I was open. A lady came into my shop and I did my standard cheerful, “Hello, how are you?” She then asked, “Do you sell marijuana or pills up in here?” I laughed at first because I thought she was joking. She became very angry and started shouting, “I thought I hit the jackpot. I drove up through here and saw Gone Loopy on the sign and the other business sign that said, Out on a Limb and, “YOU MEAN TO TELL ME YOU DON’T HAVE PILLS OR MARIJUANA?” I said “No ma’am,” very politely, and she said, “Well I’ve have never!” Then, she slammed the door and took off. Brandon and I immediately looked at each other like, “Did that just happen?”
Do you have any long range plans? Such as to grow in a new or different direction?
Right now my long range plans are to keep doing what I do; to always be true to myself, and to my customers. My business is constantly evolving because I am always coming up with fresh, new ideas. I plan to continue to pass along my skills to my daughter, and maybe someday my granddaughter, so that Gone Loopy will live on, long after I am gone.
I have had an idea brewing in my mind for quite some time and just recently made a prototype. I am creating blessing bracelets to randomly leave in places for someone who may need it. They can find it or pass it on to someone who does need it. The bracelets will all have an encouraging word or phrase on them. I’m hoping to be able to hear from some of the recipients to see how far they travel. Encouragement is huge to me. It doesn’t matter what you’ve been through or what you will go through, if you have encouragement and support, you can make it over your mountains a heck of a lot easier.
What would you like to share with dreamers like you? What one piece of advice would you say pushed you the furthest in your dream?
I would say never give up on yourself or your dreams. Never live your life for someone else. Live for you, and your dreams. Don’t be that little old lady at the end of her life who is filled with regrets. Don’t let an empty account dictate your dreams either. Things have a way of working out. I started with little to nothing and I’m still going strong.
When I was deciding whether to open up my shop or not, my husband said, “Dear, it’s like this, if you don’t try, you will never know and you will always wonder. If you try and it fails, at least you will know. If you try and it is successful, then great!” That has helped me over and over. I constantly tell myself that I need to keep pushing or I will never know.
The other thing that has pushed me is the naysayers. Growing up I was constantly told I wouldn’t amount to anything or that I threw away everything by getting married and not going to college. It has given me a determination to keep pressing forward, keep being myself and living my dream, and to keep dreaming bigger and bigger. The sky is the limit! I guess you could say I live up to the meaning of my name: Bridget means a woman of resolute strength, marked by determination.