It wasn’t long after retiring from her job in politics that Dianne Baker realized she wasn’t quite ready for the home life.
Instead, she enlisted the help and support of her daughter and son-in-law and turned one of her life-long passions – arts and crafts – into one of Elmira’s newest businesses.
The result? Gramma B’s Craft Den on the top floor of the Elmira Shopping Village at Arthur and Church streets.
“It came about because I retired. I didn’t think much of that. I thought I’d want to retire because then I’d have all kinds of time to do crafts and kind of woke up and said, ‘I’ve got nowhere to go in the morning,” Baker told the Observer.
“So, I decided to open a business.”
For 15 years, Baker had worked as a constituency assistant, managing the office of former MP Andrew Telegdi.
Although there are obvious differences between running a political office and operating a craft store with her daughter, her son-in-law, and her enthusiastic grandchildren, Baker noted that there are in fact, many similarities.
“You’re still selling a product … you’re still dealing with the public. You have to have something you believe in,” said Baker, otherwise known as Gramma B: grandmother to three of her faithful assistants and the real-life face behind the store’s emblem.
“Certainly, the public that we’re dealing with right now is a lot happier than the public I used to deal with because they would be upset by the time they came to us,” said Baker with a chuckle, of her days in the constituency office.
Far removed from politics, the store features a cozy fireplace warming the surroundings, complimentary cookies scenting the air, and coffee on tap for visitors, and is reminiscent of a grandma’s homely abode.
“We wanted a place that was kid-friendly as well. Because I can’t count how many times that we’ve gone out and we leave the kids at home with dad and grandpa because there’s nothing for them to do and they’re bored,” explained Baker’s daughter, Joanne Cowan.
“Our thought process was, ‘get the kids involved in creativity and doing crafts and working that part of the brain as opposed to the thumb and eye action on the (Nintendo) DS, and get them working at being creative,” she said.
Offering group crops for older customers, retail supplies for hard core crafters, and a venue for youth birthday parties, Gramma B’s Craft Den strives to provide something for everyone and anyone.
“There is no such thing as ‘I can’t do crafts’ and this is what we try to tell our customers. ‘Yes you can,’” said Baker.
“We’re trying to show them that they can create if they want to.”
In business since last month, Gramma B’s Craft Den is now open seven days a week.
It’s a large facility awash in natural light. It provides ample room for individual and group clients. And, incidentally, for its owners as well.
“My living room now looks like a living room,” said Joanne, noting all the supplies have made it from home to the store.
“Our husbands jumped for joy when we opened this business,” said Dianne with a chuckle.