Jesica and Wes Breitenbach have just finished a house full of Victorian furniture for a couple of Fourth and Gill residents, and two enormous mounds of soft green cowhide are waiting to be transformed into upscale upholstery for Blackberry Farm.
“Eleven hundred feet – that’s a lot of leather,” Wes said.
They get a lot of unusual jobs at Crown Upholstery, and their waiting list for new projects stretches until next summer. The physical distance between where they are and where they were isn’t great, but moving a couple or three miles closer to town has made a world of difference for the Breitenbachs, who had lived and worked in the Adair Drive area of Fountain city for 19 years when they went looking for more space and more community. They found just that in an old neighborhood grocery store at 726 Chicamauga Avenue – they live upstairs and work in the old storefront downstairs. They have quickly become active members of the Oakwood Lincoln Park neighborhood.
“We didn’t come here because we’re trying to start up a business – we’ve always had a home-based business,” Wes said. “We came because we’ve always wanted to hire some people and expand, but we had problems with space. We wanted to pay a fair wage and do everything above board, and it’s taken us a long time to be able to do what we wanted to do. Felicia Puckett is our first employee.”
The G.W. Spalding Grocery was built in the early 1920s next to the railroad tracks in the heart of Lincoln Park. The family lived upstairs, just as the Breitenbachs do now. Wes and Jesica were delighted when the Spaldings’ grandson, who lives in the neighborhood, stopped by to tell them stories about the old days.
“It’s kind of cool to be able to carry on that tradition,” Wes said.
Jesica is from Arizona. Wes is from Maryland. They met when he was traveling the country “being a bum,” as he puts it.
That makes Jesica laugh.
“He met me and fell madly, madly in love,” she said. Wes doesn’t disagree.
They were married in 1994. Jesica’s grandfather, who had taught Jesica the business, taught Wes, too. Wes started apprenticing with him and opened up his own shop with Jesica in 1999, making them a fifth generation family business. After a series of moves, they put down roots in Knoxville, where her parents had moved. They have a son, Drew, who lives in Clarksville.
The Breitenbachs have been in Oakwood Lincoln Park since June and say they are enjoying living above the store, and that the sound of passing trains hasn’t cost them a minute’s sleep.
They are active members of the Oakwood Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association and are sponsoring a popup market at their store, 6-9 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14. There’ll be craftspeople, live music and snacks. Everyone is invited.