Washougal woman turns love of thrifting, gardening into business

Found and Forged NW offers vintage finds, u-pick blueberries, fresh-cut flower bouquets

Contributed photo courtesy Jordan Stillinger Customers browse through items at a recent Found and Forged NW vintage barn sale in Washougal.

Jordan Stillinger grows flowers at her Washougal property and sells custom-order bouquets.

Contributed photo courtesy Jordan Stillinger sells a variety of items, including furniture, tableware, pottery, blankets, flannels, rugs, planters, succulents and houseplants, during her vintage barn sales. (Contributed photo courtesy of Jordan Stillinger)

Customers browse through items at a recent Found and Forged NW vintage barn sale in Washougal. (Contributed photos courtesy Jordan Stillinger)

Some of Jordan Stillinger’s most vivid childhood memories involve summertime drives with her mother, who loved to seek out garage sales. 

Eventually, Stillinger started to sell some of her own things from her front yard during the summer months. During those formative years, she developed an interest in entrepreneurship, a knack for thrifting, and a keen eye for aesthetically pleasing home decor.

As an adult, the Washougal resident has turned those passions into a full-fledged ‘side hustle’ — Stillinger’s business, Found and Forged NW, features all of her home property based endeavors, including vintage barn sales, u-pick blueberries and custom-order flower bouquets. 

“Found and Forged NW is our ‘umbrella brand’ for all of the things that our property and family is doing,” she said. “There’s a lot of beauty and a lot of entrepreneurship, and both of those things are core to me.”

The barn sales, which are held at Stillinger’s residence (6819 S.E. 382nd Ave., Washougal), feature a wide variety of pre-purchased home decor items, including furniture, tableware, pottery, blankets, flannels, rugs, planters, succulents and houseplants.

Stillinger describes her style as “natural and unfussy” and said she loves metal, wood, fur, woven things, hand-thrown pottery, worn leather, fresh houseplants and flowers. 

“I just love that look,” she said. “It’s a little eclectic.”

To find the items featured at her Found and Forged NW sales, Stillinger ventures out at least once a week — while her parents and parents-in-law babysit her two young children – to scour garage sales, estate sales, antique stores and thrift shops, looking for items that fit a certain aesthetic and have strong resell potential. 

She views her outings as “treasure hunts,” in a way, because they often invoke deep feelings of anticipation, satisfaction and exhilaration.

“It’s actually been a lot more fun for me recently to do this, because when you’re out so much and doing it for so long, you just have a quicker instinct, of, like, ‘That’s cool, but it’s too much money,’ or ‘This is a steal,’ or you just know an item is going to sell,” she said. “I feel like I know my customers, and when I get into my groove, I’m like, ‘I got it. I have a score here.’ When you walk into an estate sale and know the person that lived there, and you see that the prices are good, that’s when the adrenaline hits for me because it’s like, ‘It’s going to be a good one.’ It’s so fun. Sometimes you score big and sometimes it’s a total waste of time. But it is fun. It’s a total adrenaline rush.”

While Stillinger goes into sales or stores with the mindset that she’s “curating” for her customers, she’s learned that the most important aspect of a “hunt” is to trust her own instincts. 

“I remember saying to my mom when I first started out, ‘I don’t know if I’m doing this right,’” she said. “At the beginning, it felt like I was buying for all of these other aesthetics, like, ‘Someone would like that,’ or, ‘I bet that someone would like that in their house’ or ‘If someone had (a particular) style in their house, this would sell.’ It felt a little joyless to me, putting (those items) in the barn because it was like, ‘I don’t like it, but I think someone will buy it.’”

Stillinger slowly started to hone in on a better way of doing things. 

“You have to have your niche and you have to buy what you like and develop your style so that people know what they’re getting when they come shop at your store,” she said. “That’s the best way to build a brand. I’m not going to hit it out of the park every time, but 90 percent of the stuff now is stuff that I would put in my house or is the cohesive style that I would like.”

Stillinger said she also invites local vendors — many of whom are close friends — to open “pop-up shops” in her barn or front yard to sell their products and grow their businesses.

“I feel like because our following has grown, they do decent every sale,” Stillinger said. “It’s been fun because it creates more of a community feel, and everyone is cross-promoting the events and each other on social media. I’ve noticed that people now come expecting some of these (vendors) every time. It’s really beneficial for everybody. There’s something (good) about networking and connecting, especially because everyone is so local. Almost everybody is a young mom, and that’s kind of special, too.”

Past and present vendors include Ellisa McClaughlin of Truly Kindred (jewelry and hand-poured candles), Amber Moore of Whatsoever Things (polymer clay earrings), Maurie Smith of Hippie Granola (gluten-free granola), Evan Hoffman of Mindful Renewal (home decor items created from Pendleton Woolen Mills fabric), Jessica Korf of Pretty+Baked (decorated cookies, cakes and pies), Kate Biscarret of Sweet Jayne (women’s clothing), Di Moore of Di’s Pies and Carissa Pereira of Rad Harvest (herbal salts and gluten-free items). 

“I love participating in the barn sales for a variety of reasons,” Smith said. “I love the Camas-Washougal area and I love being able to participate in a local sale. I love hearing from local people who discovered my granola at the barn sales. Not to mention it is so much fun to browse and see all the treasures that (Jordan) has at the sale. She has a great eye for beautiful, unique things, as anyone who has been to one of her sales can attest. She frequents local businesses and recommends them to others. I admire her ability to take a vision and bring it to fruition, as well as her outgoing, friendly personality.”

Hoffman, one of Stillinger’s first vendors, echoed similar sentiments.

“Being a part of the barn sales is always a great honor for me,” Hoffman said. “Jordan puts so much thought and care into curating a space for vintage lovers of all ages. When I first started selling with her, she had one or two other vendors, but over the years she’s partnered with more businesses, and that has only enhanced the shopping experience. Having the opportunity to basically start and maintain my business at the barn sales is invaluable. I have tried other avenues, such as my own website, in-person markets, and selling my products in small businesses, but Jordan’s barn sales are always a hit, and her relationship with the community is really what makes it happen for all of us.”

The vendors said they have been impressed with Stillinger’s business acumen, work ethic and friendly, inclusive personality.

“Jordan is one of the sweetest people I know,” Hoffman said. “She is determined and hardworking, and somehow manages to accomplish these sales while raising two kids. She is the type of person that is always coming up with business ideas and encouraging others to pursue their own. Jordan makes a point for people to feel welcomed and is genuinely grateful for the people that come out to shop. In the more recent sales, she has stepped away from the register to be in the barn helping people, meeting new faces and catching up with old. For me, it’s more than just the wares being sold that brings me back — it’s the person behind the products, and Jordan is someone you’ll want to support time and time again.” 

 

Barn provides opportunity for enterprise to grow

Before Stillinger moved to Washougal, she lived with her husband, Luke, in the Seattle area, where she reignited her thrifting interests by taking a position at a home decor boutique.

“The ladies that hired me went and did these vintage markets, so I started potting plants in old tool boxes or teacups —  weird stuff — and started selling them out of the shop,” she said. “Then I started going to the vintage markets and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is really fun,’ because I really enjoy thrifting and garage-selling and hunting for treasures anyway. I started selling at markets up there — little one-day markets, where you just buy a booth and sell.”

Not long thereafter, she launched what would eventually evolve into Found and Forged NW, selling items out of a small vendor market in an antique house in Snohomish, Washington.

“That taught me a lot about what people buy, stocking a space, creating merchandising and vignettes, sourcing, pricing and all of that stuff,” she said. “That was a really good learning ground for me.”

She had another opportunity to expand her enterprise when she moved to Washougal in November 2015.

“I hauled all of my inventory down here, and we saw that we had this space and a big barn, and my husband was like, ‘We have to get this barn (into) a brick-and-mortar for you.’ It makes it so much more flexible for our family,” she said. “We can open it up whenever we want, and I can just continually be working in between (family and other commitments).”

Of course, being a barn, the building needed some work before Stillinger could move her business inside. 

“It had a dirt floor, nails everywhere, and was really dirty. It was Luke’s idea to put our resources into fixing up the barn first to get that going,” she said. 

While Luke worked to clean up the barn, Stillinger prepared her first vintage sale, which she held in her front yard in the summer of 2016. 

“I remember it was really fun,” she said. “A few people actually came. I made a good amount of money for (one) day, and it felt good, so I did another one. Then, the next year, we had a Christmas sale in November. That one, I remember distinctly, it was like, all of a sudden, it felt to me that it just exploded. We called it a ‘sip-and-shop’ event. We had hot chocolate and we had our lights up and Christmas music playing, and I remember there was a line from the back of the barn all the way out the door to check out, and I just couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘How did this happen? This is so cool.’ Then we just started adding more of them.”

Stillinger also operates a u-pick blueberry field, which is sporadically open to the public during the summer months; and sells bouquets, which she creates from flowers she grows in her garden.

“This is the first year that (the blueberries) have all been properly pruned, so we’ll have a really good harvest this year,” she said. “And I have a lot of peonies, a lot of roses, and a lot of other goodies in the garden. I love creating (bouquets). I would say having our kids be a part of it (is the best part), knowing they can go out and pick blueberries and see other people pick blueberries. My daughter has her own little plot in the garden where she’s been making bouquets and growing things, and she’s starting to want to sell at the barn sales, too. I love that it’s an activity for our family to do.”

In the past, Stillinger held three sales per year (one in the spring, one in the summer and a holiday-themed sale in the fall), but said she would like to hold more in the future, as well as grow the business in other ways.

“We’d like to try to do (a sale) every couple of months,” she said. “That’s one way (to grow) — just source more and do more sales, because I think people will come if we had them. And we could invite more vendors. We’ve talked about doing one sale a year in the summer where the focus is on the vendors and do like a maker’s market and make it more of a community thing. I think that would be really fun. 

“I’m also in the process of collecting enough stuff to put together an event rental kind of thing, so that might be the next thing of cool vintage tableware and things like that. I’m going to launch that at some point so people can rent out things for events and weddings, and maybe even have small events here. And we’ve almost got our treehouse done, too, that people can rent. Eventually our five-year plan is to buy rental properties and fix them up in the vintage ‘Found and Forged NW style’ and have a rental property branch of the business.”

Stillinger has to invest a significant amount of time and energy and work to prepare for each sale, not an easy feat considering she has to make time for her two young children and other commitments. But to her, the final results are well worth those investments. 

“After a sale, there’s always an ‘exhale.’ We always end up having Mexican food or Thai food right after (because) I’m so tired,” she said. “But the next day I’m ready to go out looking for more stuff. That is telling me that this is really fun. Because people show up and are so supportive of what we’re doing, it’s very invigorating to keep doing it. There’s nothing that really beats that ‘sales-day buzz.’ It’s 9 a.m. and people are already lined up to shop — it’s so fun. I love sale day. I love when people come, I love seeing familiar faces and seeing what people buy. It’s really fun to buy something thinking, ‘I think people will like this,’ and then they do.”

For more information about future barn sales, blueberry field availability and bouquet orders, visit facebook.com/foundandforgednw or instagram.com/foundandforgednw