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Ex-Nurse Turns to New Role as Home Decor Shopowner

By Patty Wetli | October 18, 2012 3:00pm

LINCOLN SQUARE — Dana Weed likes candles, anything that sparkles, and objects that can be reused or repurposed.

She spent the last few months scouting websites, catalogs and estate sales, looking for unusual items to stock her home accessories shop, Homesoul.

The store, which opened earlier this month, is a showcase of her finds, an eclectic mix of contemporary and vintage merchandise. Customers who favor something old will find milk glass vases, a unique set of metal-rimmed glassware and handcarved wooden figures.

In a market crowded with heavy hitters such as Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel, Weed's strategy is to distinguish herself by catering to a local market. In fact, Homesoul's location at 4526 N. Lincoln Ave. was chosen specifically with an eye toward attracting foot traffic near the Old Town School of Folk Music or Welles Park.

"I feel like in Lincoln Square, a lot of people are into shopping locally," she said. "We're close by if you need us and we have different things that you can't find at those [other] stores."

She is also determined to promote the work of neighborhood artists: Paintings by Mark Zlotkowski and photos by Janet Mesic Mackie hang from Homesoul's walls.

"It turned into a very rustic feel at the moment," she said. "Maybe that's the fall, that's what I was drawn to. It will evolve."

Weed describes her take on decor — and the genesis of the shop's name — as "feeding the soul of the home," which emphasizes an appreciation for objects that "have character and tell a story."

She also wanted her store to look different, so she transformed the "vanilla box" storefront, which previously housed an optical office, into an environment that better reflects her cozy aesthetic. She added wood flooring and crown molding and brought in a large communal table that serves as Homesoul's "idea center," a place where customers can sit down with a cup of coffee and browse through design magazines.

"It's peaceful, it's warm," said Kim Schiller, Weed's friend and lone employee. Schiller, a former floral and event designer, is responsible for the plant and flower arrangements sprinkled throughout Homesoul's displays.

"I think they add life and color and comfort and joy, no matter what the situation," she said.

Weed honed her personal design sense while staying at home to raise her two young children, Olivia and Heath, now seventh- and fifth-graders, respectively, enrolled at nearby elementary schools.

As her children became more independent, it struck Weed that she could turn her hobby into a career, having already decided against returning to her previous position as a nurse in the VA system.

"I found it stressful," she said of her work treating surgical and intensive care patients.

A brief stint as a student at Harrington College of Design convinced Weed that interior design was not in the cards for her.

"There was a lot of [design software] involved," she said. "It was overwhelming for my 43-year-old brain."

The idea of opening her own home goods shop held greater appeal but it took a nudge from her husband, Michael, to put thought into action.

"My husband kept saying, 'Write a business plan.'"

Weed acknowledges that the current economic climate is a risky one for any entrepreneur. She's reminded of that every day by the large green display hutch she rescued from the now-shuttered gift store Hanger 18, whose former owner, Tina Dixon, has served as a mentor of sorts for Weed.

Employee Schiller, whose resume also includes retail experience gained at the Gap and Crate & Barrel, draws a clear distinction between the national brands and Homesoul.

"I think they definitely appeal to more of the masses," she said. "[Homesoul] is to help finish things off, to make [the home] more special."