NEW PORT RICHEY — When others see an old piece of furniture, Jenny Barker, who owns a downtown shop called Vintage Chickabees, sees an opportunity.
"I upcycle it," she said — she uses chalk-based paint and wax to refurbish wooden tables and chairs and dressers that otherwise might be discarded.
The art projects started when Barker, 38, a widow and mother of four, was a gymnastics instructor. She wanted to earn additional income. So she attended workshops where she learned techniques for restoring old furniture — she had a lot of it, she said.
Her finished products were "shabby chic." She stored them where she painted — in her garage. She sold them on Craigslist and Facebook. But the business outgrew her garage. Her children noticed.
"Mom, there's furniture everywhere," Barker said they told her. "I needed more space."
Her sister had a suggestion: Open a shop.
"I said, 'No,' " Barker said. "I thought it would be too much work."
But as she drove through downtown New Port Richey last year, she noticed a space available for rent. She called, and moved in shortly after. She would call the business Vintage Chickabees.
"Chickabees," she said. "It's what I call my kids."
Her dad helped paint the shop, which opened in November, and put up shelves. Her mom and sister helped her decorate.
"A family project," Barker said, which she hopes will become a family business, where her kids, who range in age from 8 to 15, someday will work.
In the meantime, help from her mom and sister makes raising the kids and running the business, which is now her full-time job, possible.
Barker restores the furniture in her garage at home and displays and sells it at the shop, in addition to other items.
"I have local jewelry, local soap," she said. "I have candles and home decor, like lamps and mirrors and chandeliers."
She also sells designer gowns.
"A lot of one-of-a-kind things," she said.
And she intends, she said, to see the business grow.
"I'd love a bigger space," she said, "so I can work (on furniture) in my store."
Vintage Chickabees is at 5740 Missouri Ave., New Port Richey. The store is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. For information, call (727) 255-1691 or visit vintagechickabees.com.