BATAVIA - Carolynn Maltese likes to tell folks that the support from the Batavia community since she's opened her shop, Villa and Farm, feels like "one big hug."
The North Aurora resident said she is grateful every day for the many customers from all over the Chicago area who frequent her boutique at 913 E. Wilson St., Batavia, in search of rare, vintage or farm-inspired home decor, furniture and other unique pieces.
"I've gotten to know my regular customers and they're just lovely people," Maltese said. "I couldn't have imagined the response. We feel so lucky to be in this location. It's wonderful."
Maltese had been selling vintage goods and home decor items online and in vendor booths at various locations for years. She opened Villa and Farm in July 2018 at the east end of WIlson Street, which she explained didn't have many retail outlets in the area.
She scoured locations in Kane and surrounding counties for her first brick-and-mortar shop, but fell in love with Batavia as soon as she walked through the doors of her location on Wilson Street.
"Nothing had ever been in this space before, but it spoke to me. Even though it was concrete and unfinished, I knew what we could do with it," she said. "I like the drama of high ceilings and large displays. I want people to say 'wow' when they walk in."
And after customers walk in, they'll find a plethora of handmade home accessories, vintage goods, "modern farmhouse" home decor and refurbished pieces.
Maltese frequents flea markets, estate sales and barn sales for items that can't be found elsewhere. And while she said that some of the items she carries from her online vendors can be found in 'big box" stores, customers won't find the same level of service that they wlll get at Villa and Farm.
Maltese, 57, had worked at the Art Institute of Chicago and in the corporate world before deciding the start her own business.
She said that she couldn't have done it without the support from her parents, husband and daughter, Haley.
Running the store truly is a family affair, as in addition to Maltese's daughter selling one-of-a-kind women's clothing in the shop, her mother hand-makes pieces and her father hand-cuts all the wood used in the moss-covered topiaries that Maltese creates.
The overwhelming support of other small business owners is another reason Maltese said Batavia is the perfect location for her store.
She often refers customers to other retailers if they can't find what they're looking for in her shop, and she said other business owners have referred customers to Villa and Farm.
"We carry each other's [business] cards, and I think the customers appreciate that," she said. "There's enough success for everyone, and no reason not to refer to another small business."
So far, Maltese said that Villa and Farm has been successful, and hopes to stay in Batavia for a "long, long time."
And after working for others throughout her career, she said it's refreshing to own her own business.
"No matter how old you are, it's never too late to reinvent yourself 10 times or more. Find what makes you happy and chase it, while having the confidence to get it," she said. "I made the right choice. I wish I'd done it 20 years ago. I'm so happy and so grateful to the community."
Villa and Farm is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. More information is available on its Facebook page, or by calling 630-651-4133.