By Bill Lauterbach
Entrepreneurs are amazing people. You just never know what new invention or service will be dreamed up next. For instance, were you aware there are special retreats for all types of hobbies? Scrapbooking, crafts, card making, knitting, stamping, quilting and many other hobbies have developed retreat weekends. These weekends allow fellow hobbyists to teach and learn from others, meet new friends, have a good time and just get away from it all.
Athena Holmquist is just such an entrepreneur. After attending a scrapbooking retreat for the first time, she was ultimately inspired to offer the same opportunity here in the Brooklyn area. Holmquist says it all began “a little over a month-and-a-half ago. Our business is new, brand new.”
Holmquist is an avid scrapbooker and was invited by a friend to go on a scrapbooking retreat.
“I had never been to any kind of retreat for any kind of crafting,” she said. “I spent the weekend with a bunch of women that I didn’t know.” But they all became good friends “and we all had such a great time. We laughed, we worked on our books.” In other words, it was a weekend-long slumber party. However, whether it’s a retreat, or at home with friends and family, “It’s a bonding thing,” says Holmquist.
“I just thought it (the retreat business) would be a fun thing,” she added. “I have the space for it. It’s beautiful out here. I wanted to use the resources I already own instead of going out and buying something.”
Specific hobby weekends are not prearranged by Holmquist. The process starts with a group of rock painters, scrapbookers or other hobby or craft group that wants to reserve a retreat for a specific time on the calendar.
“I do not plan events, as of now. Honestly, scrapbooking and quilting retreats are . . . it’s big. Those are the crafts that are really popular right now,” she says.
Holmquist attends crafting expos to get the latest information and tools for her newly found trade.
“I will be attending an expo next weekend in Chelsea. There is an expo coming up in Novi in two weeks. There is also a scrapbooker’s expo in Kalamazoo coming up in September. They all have vendors of products and supplies, there are fellow retreat owners there, and we all pass out literature.
Holmquist says that the retreats will not be seasonal.
“We’re going to be open all year. We’ve been thinking about different ideas and themes, especially for the holidays.”
Of course, the entire weekend isn’t spent on just a group’s hobby or craft. There are other fun things to do. We asked Holmquist what was the most fun at her very first retreat.
“The pranks!” she said. “I was the new one. Not that they played any pranks on me. They just informed me of the various pranks they played on each other over the years. Some of them were pretty funny.”
So, are these retreats exclusively for women?
“Hey. If men want to come, we welcome them,” Holmquist says.“But men usually rent cabins to go hunting, while women rent space to get together with their girlfriends to get crafting done that they don’t normally have time for.” However, the conversation turned back towards men and the possibility of men’s retreats for coin collectors, stamp collectors and other hobbies that are mostly populated by guys
Holmquist says, “There’s a lot of possibilities. There’s a lot of crafting in different things that people do and I was just not aware of.”
We had to pose this question to Holmquist since we were aware of and have seen “digital scrapbooks.” There are many digital scrapbook software programs available. Is that the new competition?
“No, women like hands-on things,” she replied. “They want to be able to mingle with their friends.I’m not that up on technology. So I feel that I’d have to put more time into a digital scrapbook than I’d be getting back out of it. I’d rather be hands-on because of the tools that are available. But it’s definitely more about the fellowship. You exchange ideas, you talk about everyday life. When you have all the women coming with all their supplies, this place will look like a ‘Hobby Lobby’ store.”
The craft room has six-foot craft tables and chairs for the 10 guests along with a printer, paper cutter, cutting mats, irons with ironing boards and a quilt design wall.
The price is only $1,200 for a group of ten or $120 per person for an entire three-day weekend. The hours are from Friday at 9 a.m. until Sunday at 4 p.m. It is also possible to add extra days. A $300 group deposit is required for a three-day weekend, 10-person retreat. Middle of the week rates are lower.
The retreat home easily accommodates groups of 10 and sleeps guests comfortably on two floors. Fresh quality linens and bedding are supplied for each guest’s single bed. There are three full bathrooms; one on each floor. Plus wi-fi, central air, an indoor fireplace and an outdoor fire pit area.
There is also a swimming pool, a two-tiered deck with comfortable outdoor furnishings and a propane barbecue grill available.
“I’m just trying to get this up and running and see where it takes me. It’s going to take time; new businesses just do,” said Holmquist.
Country Charm Retreats has easy unloading and loading to the entrance of the craft room and plenty of parking. It is located at 7733 Case Road in Brooklyn. Give Country Charm Retreats a call for reservations or questions at 517-812-8728.
Country Charm Retreats wants to remind you; “This home is your home for the weekend.”