CEDAR FALLS — “It all started with a bracelet.”
That is how Paula Lorenz begins the story of her journey to opening Stone Feather Road, one of downtown Cedar Falls’ newest retail establishments.
Lorenz caught the jewelry-making bug as a senior in high school when a woman spoke to her class and pitched it as a possible career choice.
While Lorenz pursued a career in retail — working her way up with Seifert’s to overseeing 43 stores as a divisional vice president in Minneapolis — she also took jewelry-making classes every few years.
That led her to design and create an eight-strand embellished leather bracelet that had her friends oohing and ahhing and wanting to purchase one for themselves.
Though built on the success of that bracelet — it is now the most popular item Lorenz sells — Stone Feather Road has grown into much more.
For years, Lorenz has traveled to events across the country ranging from livestock shows and rodeos to juried art shows and trunk shows to sell what she calls “the collection.”
Lorenz has branched out to selling cowhides — Stone Feather Road features a hide room — making bags, belts and other jewelry and selling an eclectic mix of products in a style she calls “mountain living.”
“It’s functional, peaceful living,” Lorenz said.
Functionality is key to Lorenz.
“Color, texture and function,” she said. “That is what I’m looking for with everything in the collection.”
The collection had gotten so big, Lorenz was having trouble filling orders in a timely fashion.
“It was getting really labor intensive,” she said.
“The store was never part of the business plan,” she said. “One morning (my husband and I) were walking to get a cup of coffee and we saw this space was for rent. We just looked at each other. I thought it would be perfect to house the collection.”
She held a soft open Dec. 15 and a grand opening is planned Thursday.
The store is warm and welcoming, thanks to renovations Lorenz had done.
“We painted, put in enhanced lighting and wood floors,” she said. Barn wood covering some of the walls was originally purchased for a garden shed.
The collection now includes everything from clothing and accessories to furniture and decor. Portions of Lorenz’ bag collection — including male versions — line the walls, blankets with a Native American feel are thrown over chairs, antler lamps are on display. Etched glassware and mugs, leather coasters, embossed journals and a plethora of other items fill the space.
At the rear of the space, a wide variety of cow hides hang in the hide room.
“We are building a market here,” Lorenz said of the hides. “They are so versatile and incredibly durable. You can use them as a rug, as a wall hanging, I’ve seen them draped across a dining table or a banister. It really warms up a room.”
Lorenz still travels, selling her wares on the road, and leaves the store in the capable hands of marketing director Cindy Paige, who Lorenz has known since childhood.
In fact, friends and family play a major role in the business, Lorenz said.
Paula’s husband, Gary, designed and made the table, desk and shelves that grace the space. Their children, Charlie, 16, and Bella, 13, help with cleaning, merchandising, packing and unpacking, Lorenz said. And Charlie’s personal knife collection was the impetus to add a line to the collections. He does the buying and has even designed and hand made sheaths from leather and cow hide.
Gary, Charlie and Lorenz’ sister, Kris Sproul, travel with her and help with set up merchandising and tear. Her father even donated some decor for the store, including her sister’s leadline saddle, Lorenz’ childhood riding chaps and an elk rack from her great-grandfather.
“We all have some sweat equity in the business,” Lorenz said.