Decatur craft shop honors departed friend#039;s memory

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2005

DECATUR TOWNSHIP - Sometimes, a friend can touch a life so deeply that even after they are gone, a piece of them lives on.

Beverly Norris had always dreamed of opening a craft store with her friend Judy Neal. But when Neal passed away two years ago, Norris continued on, honoring her friend with a shop that, she thinks, would make Neal proud.

Norris had operated out of the Jackson Craft Mall for 8 years, but when the mall shut down, she decided to set out on her own, opening up shop in Decatur Township, 19 miles from Ironton on State Route 93.

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She had hoped to work with her friend Judy to build their craft business from the ground up, but fate had other plans, as her friend lost a battle with leukemia in July of 2003.

&#8220We were talking about doing this. We had planned it for a good while,” Norris said. &#8220When I finally got around to opening up, about a year after she passed away, I just called it ‘B and J' because that's what we were going to call it,” Norris said.

B and J Crafts celebrated its year anniversary in October, but, as with most small businesses, the going was tough at the beginning.

&#8220The first few months it was really, really slow because people didn't know we were here, and then it's very hard trying to come up with what you think the people here want,” Norris said. &#8220But now, I have steady customers that I can look for and depend on at least once a week.”

Despite the difficulty, Norris couldn't see herself in any other business.

&#8220It really gives me something to do. I've done this for so long,” Norris said. &#8220I love sewing and I like to paint and I enjoy doing Christmas things like snowmen and gingerbread.”

The shop is in full Christmas swing now with decorations and lots of gifts. In fact, one her most popular items is a rustic snowman made from barn wood.

Almost all of the goods in the shop are handmade, both by Norris and some local crafters. Some of her popular holiday items are created by Frank Neal, Judy's husband.

Now two years after the loss, Neal's presence is still missed. But perhaps her dream lives on in some way at the small craft store that bears her name.

Regardless, Norris is sure that her friend would have approved.

&#8220She would have been pleased,” Norris said without hesitation. &#8220She would have really liked it.”