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Kelly Gilion and Plume Warm, Welcoming, Original and Blessed

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Eagles’ wings and angels’ wings, when spread, display their feathers of protection. Both are significant and an apt metaphor for Kelly Gilion’s unique shop, Plume. 

“Plume was my 40th birthday present to myself, my own little corner of the world,” she describes it.

HLM: Starting a business as a birthday present to yourself at 40 is very inspirational. Tell us how it all started.

KG: My birthday is in November, so it’s late in the year, but all of 2013 I had the sense that something big was going to happen. I didn’t know it would be Plume. Plume had a more organic start than my deciding to open a business, writing a plan, finding the perfect location and all the other things you would normally do. I didn’t do any of that.   

I discovered a little run-down shop, Patty’s Place, full of forgotten items but a few treasures at the same time I was buying handmade things from other stay-at-home moms on Facebook groups. My twins were also close to starting kindergarten and I was starting to question what life might look like once my kids started school. Would I go back to work? Over time I got to know the shop owner and thought maybe she could use some help reorganizing and merchandising the shop. Maybe I’d get a little part-time job. It was, after all, right down the road and very close to my children’s school. Each time I would visit Patty I found myself editing and rearranging all the shop’s contents in my mind. Over time, I realized I didn’t really want to work for Patty; I wanted to create the shop I was starting to envision, and I wanted it to be my own. As timing would have it, the shop’s lease was coming up and Patty was ready to move on, so I took over the space.   

Once I cleaned out all Patty’s things, buying many of her pieces as fixtures for my shop, which I still have today, I had no money to fill it back up. I flashed back to all those Facebook moms I had been buying things from and thought, “Why isn’t there a place where all these moms can take their things and sell them?” I put out a call for makers and 27 of them came on board for our opening day, bringing me their goods to sell on consignment.

HLM: How did the name Plume come about?

KG: It was first inspired by the old metal colony paint sign that hangs in the shop. It features a peacock, which was also a 40th birthday gift from my mother-in-law and father-in-law. I had thrown around some other names based on that sign that were lengthier but just not right; I looked at the sign one day and just thought of Plume. I loved that it was short and simple. I went to the dictionary to dissect the word and loved that it was both a noun and a verb. Plume, the noun, refers to a decoration, such as a feather, and the verb means “to decorate or adorn.” I knew I’d be selling lots of décor but also that I wanted to make things pretty, starting with my very own shop. There’s also a scripture that I love, Psalm 91:4: “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” I always knew I wanted Plume to be a place set apart from the rest of the world, where God’s spirit would be felt, a refuge for those who need to get away, who need support or who seek beauty or inspiration.  

HLM: Tell us about yourself and your day-to-day.

KG: My three kids are in elementary school, so our day starts early with fixing breakfast and packing lunches. I normally spend a couple hours after they get on the school bus working from home before I head to the shop for the day. Try as I might, I just can’t seem to get enough “desk time” in when I’m actually at the shop. I love to chat with customers and makers that I collaborate with, who come in and out every day. 

HLM: Who or what inspires you? Why? 

KG: I love old things. I love stories. I love underdogs.   

HLM: What are you most proud of?

KG: Personally, my husband and our children. Professionally, it has been very rewarding to me to curate and create Plume in its entirety. But more than that I’m proud of the success stories that have come from relationships with makers such as GOPO, Angela Marie Pottery and Heartgrooves Handmade; we’ve collaborated and our successes have been intertwined.  

HLM: What are you excited about for the holidays? Do you have a favorite artist/product/line in the store?

KG: I just love the buzz and the energy of the entire holiday season. I love seeing someone be truly excited about finding the perfect meaningful gift. There’s nothing worse than buying something “just because” that you’re not really excited about. Asking me to pick a favorite artist or product is like asking a momma which kid is her favorite. Impossible to answer. I love them all and how they all come together to seamlessly create something pretty special.  

HLM: How do you juggle your professional career with your
personal life?

KG: Terribly. Knowing when to turn it off and actually being able to do so continues to be my number one weakness. If it weren’t for my husband, who is a very involved father and is willing to cook dinner, help with the laundry and make sure our kids get a healthy dose of adventure on Saturdays when I work, it wouldn’t be possible. 

HLM: What’s your advice to someone looking to start their own business?

KG: Find a problem that needs solving or find a way to help someone else succeed. If you can create a business that solves a problem and helps enough people succeed, you will be successful.   

HLM: What’s your favorite quote? Why?

KG: “Some people look for a beautiful place. Others make a place beautiful” – Hazrat Inayat Khan.  

Although I’m not overly familiar with the gentleman who said this, I saw it on a poster in the very early stages of Plume and it stuck with me.   

HLM: How is Plume different today than when you first started out and what’s in store moving forward?

KG: Plume opened November 2013 in one 1,200-square-foot retail space. Today we have physically expanded into 3,600 square feet of space that houses our Bake Shoppe, Gathering Room, Workshop Space and our retail boutique. These were all components I envisioned being a part of Plume from the beginning, but quickly realized were not possible due to the small initial space. My idea for a Bake Shoppe started out as my granny’s glass-domed cake plate that sat on my counter and was filled with pastries by a friend who had her own bakery. It wasn’t until we did our last space expansion in 2018 that we were able to fully realize the separate functional spaces.   

Along with a space expansion, our relationships with our makers have expanded to include not just stay-at-home moms, but also men and all kinds of small business owners, young entrepreneurs, students and grandmothers who create products but don’t have a brick-and-mortar outlet of their own. Our diverse group of makers creates everything from gourmet popcorn, slime, candles, handmade baby goods, hand painted signs, handcrafted furniture, jewelry, decor, wooden cutting boards and other kitchen necessities to pottery, T-shirts, personalized gifts, pillows, photography, art, cards, vintage finds, artisan French croissants and macarons, local honey and egg, and so much more.  

Plume today is a well-curated, comprehensive local marketplace with something for everyone. I’m blessed to be the girl in the middle of it all.

Instagram: @somethingplume