Storytelling with stained glass artists
One of Kentucky’s only authentic stained glass shops, Heirlooms & Gretchen’s is a colorful and distinctive business mix based on the passions of its proprietors, Gretchen Soards and Kim Hooks. Custom stained glass – design, repair, supplies, workshops; lamps, lamp parts and lamp repair and restoration; dollhouse miniatures; and costume, antique and estate jewelry combine for a unique shopping experience.
Pictured left to right: Gretchen Soards, Kim Hooks
This Georgetown gem dates back to the late 1980s when it was actually two independently owned businesses sharing space in the Broadway building of the Georgetown Antique Mall. Liz Cox had a booth for her stained glass, heirloom bears and framing; Soards had one for lamp parts and miniatures.
“We manned the building (antiques up front, also) during the week,” said Soards. “When Liz was gone I took care of her business and vice-versa – so I had to learn to cut glass.”
The building was sold in 2001, prompting the two entrepreneurs to move to the current shop location at 136 West Main Street. A year later, Cox sold her business to Soards and the business officially became Heirlooms & Gretchen’s. Fast forward 11 years to 2013 and Hooks, who had taken stained glass classes through the shop for more than 20 years, entered the picture, buying half the business from Soards.
“I loved stained glass and working on pieces,” said Hooks. “When I bought half of the shop, I began doing custom work, repair and teaching classes, with help from Gretchen.”
Soards retired five years later, in 2018, to become a silent partner, although she continues working on custom pieces – “at home or wherever I happen to be,” she said.
Both artists have favorite stained glass designs they’ve created. For Soards, it is the designs generally made of bevels and clear glass, which she describes as elegant pieces that can fit in any home.
“I love sitting down with bevel clusters, boxes of bevels and different clear, textured glass, moving them around on the table and occasionally adding just a subtle touch of color, until a design pops out at me,” said Soards. “I dislike making a piece of stained glass strictly from a pattern in a book, although I find it a pleasant challenge to create a ‘picture’ in stained glass from a photograph or focusing on an unusual item.”
Said Hooks: “When I think about the designs I’ve made they all are favorites in differing ways. I made a pair of windows for a yoga studio – vines curling around trellises with bluebirds – that I loved. I also made an abstract one that looked like the universe to me, with swirls of glass, rondels, geodes and small gemstones.
“Then there was one that just made me laugh – a fat squirrel mosaic steppingstone – made for a customer who thought her friend fed the squirrels too much. Never saw one that fat or with that big an acorn in his hands.”
Classes and services
Heirloom & Gretchen’s stained glass classes are held 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. every Thursday and Saturday. New students begin in these classes every six weeks. Their first project is a copper foil piece. Students choose from a pre-selected group of patterns to ensure they go through each of the steps in making a copper foil piece during these classes.
The finished product is a nice sized piece to hang in a front window. Following the first set of classes, students may continue coming to class on the same days and can then broaden their horizons by trying other techniques, designs and projects. See more class information at www.heirloomsandgretchens.com/category/our-shop.
Lamp repair, rewiring and restoration is also part of the business. Back when she had her booth, Soards saw a need for lamp parts because so many area antique stores sold old lamps. Making lamps out of Buddha statues, clarinets, vases, birdhouses, lanterns and other items followed.
Soards also noted how popular dollhouses and miniatures were so these were also added to the mix. Once the business was at the Main Street location, which provided more showroom space, the inventory was expanded again with antiques and collectibles. When Hooks joined the business, she brought her love of costume, antique and estate jewelry – along with stock – with her.
“I really enjoy having a wide variety of jewelry, from early in the last century, collectible and signed jewelry as well as jewelry that people love to wear for everyday occasions,” said Hooks.
“All the differing retail ‘branches’ of our shop make our business truly one of a kind,” she added.
**Storytelling with stained glass artists is a part of a narrative blog series written through the eyes of Georgetown, Kentucky's most decorated storytellers.