By DENNIS SEID / Daily Journal
So when Andrea and Michael Gibson say, “From our barn to yours,” they aren’t kidding.
The owners of Raw Furniture Co. in Tupelo, the Gibsons are a couple perfectly matched for each other. He’s the dreamer; she’s the realist. And together, they run a business that’s close to their hearts.
Raw sells handcrafted furniture – made by Michael – and home goods made by Mississippians. Hand-poured soy candles are made by Andrea, and there are pillows, soaps, lotions, wood signs, metal signs and antiques for sale, too.
It is a cliché, but the business started with a dream.
A little more than a year ago, Michael quit his job with Tupelo Parks and Recreation. Andrea had quit her job a few weeks earlier to be a stay-at-home mom for their newborn daughter, Waverly.
It was the end of one chapter of their lives and the start of another with the founding of their new business.
So how did it all begin?
“I grew up on concrete in the middle of Tupelo and she grew up in the country in Mooreville, and what we had decided once we got married was that we wanted to get back to the country,” Michael said. “That’s something I always wanted, too.”
The Gibsons were more than ready for the country life, but they weren’t quite ready to build the forever home that Andrea wanted. They opted to buy 50 acres of land, and Michael’s intention was to build a home himself.
“I didn’t own a hammer, which shows you how much I knew what I was talking about,” he said with a laugh.
As for the house…
“It’s not a house,” Andrea said matter-of-factly and with a smile. “It’s a pole barn. It’s a metal building, and he wanted to frame out the inside. I looked at him like he was crazy, because he had never built anything to my knowledge. He didn’t own a hammer, so how was he going to frame out the inside of a barn? And then talking me into actually living in a pole barn was another thing.”
But Michael finally convinced Andrea he could do it – and he did. With much help from YouTube videos and lots of prayer.
“From there, I had built a few pieces of furniture to put in the house because I was used to swinging that hammer now,” he said.
That put an idea in their heads that maybe they could sell a few pieces of furniture on the side. They went to a few markets to gauge interest, with their first being the Red Green Market in Corinth two years ago.
Orders started to trickle in after those markets, and then family and friends would see pieces in their home and ask if they could buy similar pieces. Interest grew further.
“We set up for Celebration Village last year, and from there, it just picked up,” Michael said.
But with all the orders coming in, there wasn’t much free time to work on filling them. Michael’s job with Parks & Rec often meant long and/or late hours. He knew he couldn’t do both jobs effectively, so he and Andrea had some tough decisions to make.
“I told her, ‘Listen, I’m about to quit my job, we’re going to open a store, and go on faith,’” he said. “I said it was going to go one of two ways. We’re going to sit back in our recliners one day and laugh about it or we’ll sit back in amazement.”
A year later, the way seems to be headed in that amazing direction.
The Gibsons have their business successfully up and running on North Gloster Street, having officially opened Raw Furniture Co. three weeks ago.
It’s the culmination of a dream realized.
“He’s a dreamer, and he’s always had his head in the clouds,” Andrea said. “Before we even got engaged, he always told me he wanted to open his own business, and I just kind of laughed. It’s weird how this all came about. He was in sports his whole life and never made anything. But we love everything being handmade and local and supporting Mississippi.”
Michael makes farm tables, chairs, entertainment centers, bed swings … if it can be made of wood, Michael can do it. And if he’s not sure, there’s always YouTube.
Raw has the feel of a general store, which is what they intended.
“We want it to feel like a place you can sit down, have a glass bottle of Coke, have coffee … just that kind of vibe,” Michael said. “We want this to be a family, fun atmosphere.”
As for the name of their business, Andrea said there’s dual meaning to it.
Sure, Michael makes furniture by hand from raw wood. That’s an obvious connection.
“We like to say the name kind of found us, because we’re so raw and so green to everything,” Andrea said.
Said Michael, “We felt like we were both very raw – her with the candles and me with the workworking, so we just went with that name.”
The past year has been a whirlwind for the couple, one they look back on with fondness, wonder and amazement.
“To do something, you have to have a dreamer,” Andrea said. “But at the same time you’ve got to have somebody to keep him grounded to help make sense of it all.”
The customer response has been “overwhelming,” the Gibsons say. More orders are coming in daily, but they don’t want to sacrifice family time any more than they have to. It’s a balance all business owners strive to seek, and Michael and Andrea have managed it well so far.
“Each day is a juggling act, but what’s great is that we’re doing it together,” Michael said.
And, as one of their favorite signs says so accurately about them, “This is us.”
BEFORE YOU GO…