For Nicole Schmidt Gonçalves, the creative process begins long before she goes into her shop to “repurpose” an old piece of furniture or craft a new piece from vintage materials.
For this 2008 Canton High School graduate and business owner, a piece often comes from her road trips throughout New England. It could be an entire barn or just a small piece of furniture.
“I have hawk eyes,” Gonçalves said. “I can see something under a pile of rubbish and ask the homeowner how much they want for it. I find a lot of great things on the road.”
In May, Gonçalves started "The New England Girl,” a business that began with “repurposing” some of those great old pieces of furniture she found. It quickly expanded to include pieces built from old barn wood or other materials.
Depending on the piece, some new materials are incorporated as well. She also offers interior decorating services, often helping people work with what they already have.
“You could be sitting on great design and not even know it,” she said.
Business is growing for Gonçalves, who has been pleasantly surprised with the response and requests she’s received, such as a current project creating a large frame out of old barn wood. The customer is going to use it to showcase a large family tree illustration.
“I never in my wildest dreams expected it to be this great,” she said.
Gonçalves she especially likes meeting new people, many who custom order items.
“I like working on something different every day,” she said.
For now Gonçalves works from a 1800s barn in the Northwest Corner of Connecticut. She sells mostly over the Internet or from phone orders. Much of her business has been word of mouth.
Gonçalves hopes to some day have a storefront but said it’s “baby steps.” For now, she’s happy to have found a meaningful career.
Gonçalves said she never envisioned this line of work but sees several aspects of her past that helped lead her to it. When she was 5, her mother enrolled her in an art class.
“I vividly remember that being the start of everything,” she said. “I remember doing very well and liking it.”
Her dad’s side of the family was also very good with crafts and both her father and grandfather were excellent wood workers.
Gonçalves grew up in Canton and returned to town for middle school after moving to Charleston, RI, for a few years. She briefly attended Wentworth Institute of Technology and later worked for Life is Good in Boston.
About a year ago, she met her husband Vinnie through the Berkshire Trail Riders Association, a Winsted-based dirt bike club.
“He came one day to join and that was it,” she said.
A full-time landscaper, her husband helps her when he can.
In January, her grandfather John Schmidt passed away. Although it wasn’t a conscious reason, Gonçalves feels it had a big influence on her starting the business.
“Things just fell into place,” she said.
In addition to making or repurposing old pieces, Gonçalves loves to write and blogs about her work and shares tips for decorating, cooking and crafts.
While she plans to eventually separate the two, her website currently showcases the business as well as writing.
For more information on the business, contact Gonçalves at (860) 453-6533 or TheNewEnglandGirl@gmail.com.