When you walk into the Cabin at Willow Hollow, if the first thing that you notice isn’t the beautiful pine it’s made out of or its still-fresh pine smell, then it’s the beautiful pieces of refurnished woodwork all over the place.
Richard Hancock, a retired investment worker with United Bank of Bucyrus, began woodworking at a young age and in industrial arts in school, and hasn’t stopped since. “It got very serious when I was about 35. We had a friend named Bob Schiefer, who really was a mentor to me, and he and I would go to all kinds of shows from when I was 35 to early 40s until he passed” Richard said. Richard, with the help of his friend, Lenny Holdcraft, kept the woodworking and craft show momentum going.
Over the years, Richard and his wife, Wanda, decided that they wanted to start selling his creations and began holding an open house in their home for the first 25 years of the business that was then called Willow Hollow Creations. “We called it Willow Hollow Creations because of all the willow trees on our property and our house sits down in a hollow” Richard stated. After they retired, Wanda was the one who approached Richard with the idea of the cabin, and he was all in from the get-go.
With retirement approaching, they knew they didn’t want to just sit around and do nothing, and they still wanted to be able to interact with people, so they decided to kick the business up a notch. “When we knew we were going to retire, I said that I didn’t want it in the house anymore due to some things that happened, and I didn’t want anyone to fall and hurt themselves in the house” Wanda said. “So, we thought, ‘what can we do?’ We considered buying a trailer to put on the property or buying a house in town, but one day we started walking around the property and thought to ourselves, ‘why not put a building here?’ and then Richard decided that he wanted a cabin, so that is how we created Cabin at Willow Hollow going on almost 7 years ago now” Wanda continued.
With the help of some Amish men, the process for their cabin and the future of their business began in 2012. In 2013, the doors of the cabin officially opened for business. They used to only have the cabin open around the time of their open house in November, but once they retired, they decided that they wanted to add more days, so they decided to open the cabin from March to December, Thursday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm.
Aside from the cabin, Richard and Wanda also travel around different states to craft shows, which is where they say they make the bulk of their money as the cabin for them just breaks even. “We don’t pack up and go to Florida in the winter, like most retirees, we stay here and that’s when I try to stock up our inventory for the season and for the open house” Richard said.
Having the cabin is important for both Richard and Wanda, as they love the human contact that comes with the business, as both of them dealt with people in their everyday lives with Richard formerly working at a bank and Wanda being a retired 7th and 8th grade English and Language Arts teacher at Colonel Crawford Local Schools.
Aside from retirement, one of the things that has changed the most over the years is the amount of time that Richard spends in the woodshop. “He does far more time in the woodshop that he ever did, he’s got all day if he wants to. He’ll get up at 6am and go into the shop until 9, come back to the house for a bit, go back to the shop until the evening, come back for supper, then go right back, he takes breaks but he’s mainly there” Wanda said. Richard said that his favorite wood to work with in his shop is oak, as it was the hot wood for a while, though now it’s wood with character—another one of his specialties, which helps when you have to adjust to the trends to make pieces that people want to buy.
Most of Richards pieces some from his own creativity, “I like variety, I don’t really like making the same things over and over. I don’t really take any orders either, I mean I’ll take a few here and there, but I would rather just go to my shop and get creative and think outside of the box” Richard said.
One of his popular items that he doesn’t mind making every once in a while, is a table that has the legs of an old Singer sewing machine, but a live-edge, wood table top. He’s been making these for about five years and has made close to 15 of them. The trend for tables like that used to be to put marble on top of them, but that wasn’t his speed, so he started making them with wood and they are a popular item. Though many ideas are his own, he sometimes resorts to sites like Pinterest to help spark his creativity in the woodshop.
Aside from just selling his own pieces in the cabin, he also will find different antique items on sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Ohio Antiques Marketplace, and the Crawford County garage sale site, and ask Wanda if she likes them or if they were something that she would put in the house. Richard says he isn’t too big into refinishing pieces, but if he finds one he really likes, he’ll do it. Other items that Richard and Wanda decided to sell in the cabin include antique crocks, other antique furniture, and items from other vendors like lotions, pottery, candles, jewelry, wood carvings, and much more. “We mix it up a bit to reach a bigger customer base” Richard said.
Throughout the years, even before they retired and got more free time, it’s been pretty much smooth-sailing for Richard and Wanda, with “no mountain tops or valleys in the scape of the business.” They don’t look to gain much forward momentum being retired, because even though they could expand and start selling on sites like Pinterest, Etsy, eBay, etc., they still like time to dedicate to other things, like their grandchildren who they adore.
Though it has been smooth sailing, they say that it doesn’t come without it’s fair share of stressors. “During the open house, since there are a lot more people, being on the register can be stressful because you don’t want to make the people wait in line forever and you don’t want to mess up transactions, especially when you are controlling another vendor’s money. It doesn’t help that our register only takes 50 entries, so anything past that has to be done by hand” Wanda said. “Parking people and making sure they get in and out safely is also stressful when you draw crowd that we do” she continued.
When it comes to choosing other vendors to sell in the cabin during its season and for the open house, Richard and Wanda often serve as judge and jury because they want the stuff to be good quality. For the open house, they max out at about 50 vendors, some of which they ask to come and some who ask them. The open house falls in mid-November around Veteran’s day—so it’s enough before Thanksgiving and Christmas, which, starting in late October is when some people begin their Christmas shopping, so having the open house in November is kind of prime time for them.
Though Wanda is often there to help with the business to run register and help move pieces and arrange them in the store, this isn’t her choice of a hobby. “It isn’t my first pick of something to do—my first pick would be to read, golf, or go to the YMCA, but this is his baby and I am going to support him no matter what. I do enjoy some aspects of it though, so that helps especially when he is gone at craft shows and I am sometimes here the whole time.”
As of right now, the two of them have no plans on stopping, though they know the day will come eventually, as both of them will be turning 70 within the next year. Their grandkids, however, may have some plans for further on down the road.
One of Richard and Wanda’s biggest takeaways from the cabin, is that it’s God’s blessing to them. Though Richard and Wanda don’t preach to their customers, they do offer free crosses and are willing to spread the Gospel and pray for anyone who comes into the store who needs it. Wanda said, “It’s been a desire that God put in Richard’s heart. I think that’s who we have to thank for it. This is His blessing for us—we did some of the hard work, but it’s His blessing.”