Relish In Resourcefulness: Rhonda Eaton Grote of ReallyRelish.com
Posted by Kate on Friday, July 13th, 2012
Every now and then a small business comes along that really taps into the cultural zeitgeist. For years Rhonda Eaton Grote worked out of her home, restoring vintage items and giving them a modern flourish. She has excelled at channeling the current interest in green living by applying the upcycling ethos towards lovingly restoring and repurposing clothing, accessories and kitchenware from a bygone era.
A little over a year ago, Grote set up her Really Relish shop in her first storefront location in the Anna Maria Island Historic Green Village. Through savvy partnering with other artisans who share her unique vision, she has built a booming business. Her store has been profiled in the likes of Southern Living magazine, and in an era of big-box stores reducing their square footage, she has already had to move into a larger storefront to keep up with demand for her thoroughly original wares. Today, she shares with us how looking to the past can help us have a more ecologically-conscious present and future. You can also find more tips from her on living resourcefully at ReallyRelish.com.
What exactly is “upcycling”?
Upcycling is when you take something that has little purpose or life left in it and make it into a better creation. For example, taking a ruined and ripped shirt and using its good areas to make a cloth bracelet.
Where do you find the one-of-a-kind vintage items you sell in your shop?
I have close relationships with auctioneers across the country. People send furniture, collectibles, jewelry and furs to auction. But what happens to old clothing in someone’s closet? That’s where I come in! I buy it, wash it, restore it and retail it!
Your motto is “Relish in Resourcefulness”? What does this mean to you?
Five years ago before our national economy tanked, overspending and charge cards kept many Americans clothed in their armor of prestige and status. Likewise, consignment, thrift and second-hand weren’t popular everyday words. Yet now in America’s economic environment, we are forced to live resourcefully with banks turning down loans, lowered credit limits, etc. So one day while I was clipping coupons, I thought to myself, “This is fun, why not ‘Relish’ in living resourcefully?” And from that day I had a burning desire to help others relish in being resourceful with our earth, environment and everyday living.
How does using vintage and upcycled items in your day-to-day life help the environment?
That would be a long list! Here’s a short one:
- I am always dressed in something reclaimed, upcycled or vintage. Sure my shoes may be new, but the majority of my outfit usually costs under $20 and is made of something that was going to be thrown away – like an old shoestring as a headband.
- I make notecards and such out of junk mail.
- I wash out my salsa jars and use them for candles that we make in the store. We now have a following at Relish and many people drop off their jars now, too!
- Instead of buying napkins for dinner, we use cloth napkins that I get at garage sales. This really cuts down on paper towels.
What are some suggestions you have for people who want to entertain in an eco-friendly and budget-conscious way?
- Everyone says it, but it’s worth repeating: buy local!
- Candlelight always wins over using electricity!
- I cook with as few appliances as possible, to save on energy.
- I have people over for dinner instead of dining out at pricey places. (I can give a 6-person dinner party for only $50 worth of groceries, less wine that most of my guests bring.) In my opinion, good energy helps the environment.
- If you roast a chicken on Monday, save the leftovers on the bird and shred for a chicken appetizer on Friday night!
- Don’t overspend on decorating. It’s the experience you give your guests that they remember most!
- Rename your dishes to sound fancy, but keep them frugal! I serve a truly low-cost Swiss steak that my guests rave over and ask for seconds, but when I share the name of the meal it’s called “Organic French Onion Sirloin Consomme!” (Made with organic ground sirloin, onions, bread, cheese and broth – cheap…but truly delish)!
What are some suggestions you have for people who want to embody a vintage style in their wardrobes?
It’s usually very affordable to buy even the nicest vintage at the best shops. Also, everyday people can often easily tell the difference between the newest and cheapest ‘Made in China’ piece of jewelry over a vintage necklace. Always try to buy vintage jewelry and handbags and you will always be a show stopper!
What are some easy ways people can upcycle and give new life to items they have in their own homes?
Don’t throw out a T-shirt with a stain! Make it a crop top, add a doo-dad to cover it up, create a headband out of it. In short, before throwing out clothing try to step back, look at it, and let your creative juices flow!
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