By Larissa Dudkiewicz
Mary Holleran was in her early 20s when she began salvaging and repurposing items--well before the trend became popular.
While Holleran said she didn’t have a huge budget back then, it was actually the process of stripping paint, sanding down and bringing items to life that she loved most of all.
“I love to cannibalize furniture and see what I can make out of something,” she said.
From sari pillows to steampunk furnishings, she now spends her time crafting one-of-a-kind, customized pieces, sometimes using the unlikeliest of objects.
On Saturday, April 5, her creations and those of other artisans will be on display when The Moonbeam Jar officially opens for business at 812 Merchant St.
A formal grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for 11 a.m. April 12.
The Moonbeam Jar carries handcrafted, repurposed and upcycled home décor, fashion, furniture and gifts, or what Holleran describes as "unique junque."
“Starting out, there will be more handmade things than there are repurposed, but that’s what I focus on, repurposed,” said Holleran, 59, of Ben Avon, who co-owns the shop with her husband, David Bollenbacher.
Customers can peruse items, such as aprons made from men’s shirts, purses made from plastic bags, handmade flower bouquets, and plenty of handmade jewelry, including vintage pieces and some from Kenya.
“Everything in the store is customizable or personalizable,” she said.
Holleran said because items are one-of-a kind, fresh stock will constantly be rotating in and out—thanks in part to her online store that will also feature the merchandise.
That fits the true meaning behind the name "Moonbeam Jar," which Holleran said took some time to come up with.
“I wanted it to be whimsical and I wanted it to be hopeful, like you never know what you’re going to find," she said. "The jar to me is kind of like it contains things. I don’t want to just have my stuff, I want to have other people’s stuff, so it’s a collection.”
Also she recalls, growing up, there was a song about carrying moonbeams home in a jar.
“I just like that idea. It’s really positive and kind of all about dreams and hopes.”
And for Holleran, opening the store has been a longtime dream.
She previously worked for more than a decade as a graphic designer, then taught high school technology. Holleran went to work at UPMC as an instructional designer after retiring from teaching. She and her husband traveled to Qatar and lived there for two years. Upon returning to western Pennsylvania, she began working as an instructional designer at the University of Pittsburgh until federal funding was cut to her department.
Holleran believes everything happens for a reason. Her job loss came right after she and her husband, a software consultant for the U.S. Army, purchased the storefront in Ambridge.
“We had looked and looked and looked. You know you just walk into a place and you can feel when it’s right."
"I have had nothing but the best welcome, ever," she said.
Interested in displaying items? Holleran said she is always looking for people who are repurposing.
The store also takes donations such as furniture, including broken furniture, scraps of yarn and material. The hope is to provide free or low-cost craft projects for children and classes for adults in the future, as well as demonstrations and community gatherings.
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org and send pictures, call 412-508-7485 or visit the shop at 812 Merchant St.
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