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Guest House is at home

A phone call brought Jacksonville shop owners together

Jan Schmitz used to drive up and down I-5 selling her paintings and her daughter's whimsical furniture and fantasize about having her own shop. Her idea was twofold: to have everything under one roof, and to meet the people that bought her things.

Be careful what you wish for, she says now. You may get it.

Schmitz and her new business partner, Nancy Sweisthal, opened The Guest House at 220 E. California St., Jacksonville, earlier this month. They are planning a grand opening celebration for 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. Sweisthal plans to handle hostess chores until 4 p.m., with Schmitz taking over after that.

Kimberly Sellers and Gage Freeman, who have opened a branch of their shop, Tierra del Sol, behind The Guest House, will join the festivities. Tierra del Sol features imported clothing and furnishings from around the world. Singer and guitarist Julie Rose plays at 6 p.m. Refreshments will be served all day.

Sweisthal and Schmitz met when the former operated a shop called The Guest House in Grants Pass.

Jan came in a couple times and complimented me on my shop, she says.

When the Jacksonville space came open a couple of months ago, Sweisthal, who'd been wanting to move her business to Jacksonville, jumped at it. Remembering that one of Schmitz's daughters made furniture, she called Schmitz at home to ask if her daughter would be interested in having a business partner. Schmitz said she'd call back.

She called back in 15 minutes and said she was interested, Sweisthal says.

The Guest House carries Sweisthal's collectibles, children's clothes, furniture, dolls, housewares and antiques.

Schmitz taught art at the high school level for years and has exhibited her own art widely. She chips in with her watercolors, her son Martin's hand-crafted furniture for home and garden, her daughter Sheila's lamps and other unusual items.

Here are one-of-kind bird houses, hand-painted children's furniture, children's bathrobes made from an old chenille bedspread, lamps made of found objects such as an old colander, a rustic garden bench with moss and flowers. Here are tapestries, mirrors, hats, dolls, flowers, cushions, baskets ...

The back wall displays Schmitz's waterolor florals.

And it's certainly not every shop that has a faux-Egyptian obelisk with a light on top. Figuring out the geometry of the whimsical cabinet had Schmitz and her co-workers scratching their heads.

They had the math books out, she says.

Sweisthal was an at-home mom for the past 14 years.

I didn't want to work for anybody else, she says.

The women plan to swap their time, each working a week and taking a week off.

I'm already finding on my time off I work all the time, Schmitz says.

Schmitz says that as an artist, her worst nightmare is that she won't be up to the business side of running a business.

Sweisthal says her worst fear is not having enough stuff -- a fear that looks unfounded this day.

Both say neighboring merchants have welcomed them warmly. Some of their Adirondack chairs are on display outside the McCully House next door.

It's so great over here, Sweisthal says. It's different from Grants Pass, or even Medford. I love my old customers, but the business climate is better here.

The kind of stuff we have here is fun stuff. It's not necessities. For this town, the merchandise fits perfectly.

Jan Schmitz, left, and Nancy Sweisthal are permanent fixtures at the Guest House, a Jacksonville shop they own. - Photo by Steve Johnson