Three passionate business owners share what it’s like to run modern companies from the classic homes inside Longwood’s historic district
Debbie is as much in love with her historic-home workspace as she is with her art studio, The Craft Shack, in downtown Longwood.
“I love old homes and that small-town community feel that’s always present here,” says Debbie. “It’s the perfect fit.”
A Lake Brantley High School alum, Debbie grew up in Longwood and eventually moved closer to the downtown area to purchase her first home. While searching around the historic district for an office space for her husband’s tree business, Debbie discovered a spot that would also allow her to set up her own art studio, something for which she’s always had a passion.
“One of my favorite things is bringing women together to encourage each other and do creative projects together,” says Debbie, who would eventually turn her passion into a business.
Three years after renting her first art studio behind the historic Milwee House in 2011, Debbie moved her business to its current location at the historic Clouser Cottage at 218 West Church Avenue.
The Clouser Cottage was built in 1881 by Josiah Clouser, who moved his family from Pennsylvania to Longwood after answering an ad for a master carpenter to help build the Longwood Hotel. After his family spent its very first night in a flea-ridden loft, Clouser was motivated to build his own cottage, where the family would live for a few years.
After the Clousers moved to a larger home on Warren Avenue, the cottage was used as an animal shed, storage space, and rental unit. In the 1980s, when the cottage was close to being demolished, Clouser’s great-grandchildren Fred and John Bistline purchased and renovated the cottage to be used as a retail shop.
Debbie has since freshened up the home’s interior board and batten walls with a bright white paint and a light blue hue on the ceiling, which she says is a southern tradition and brings a calming effect.
And displayed right near the cottage’s entryway is a framed history of Mr. Clouser, himself.
“I’m just a girl who loves old houses and anything history-related,” Debbie says.
Pam, who has lived in Central Florida since 1965, bought the historic Inside-Outside House, located at 141 West Church Avenue, in 1995. That’s now where she and her husband Tom run the Cottage Gift Shop, formerly known as the Culinary Cottage.
The Inside-Outside House was built in Boston, Massachusetts in 1872 by a sailing captain. It was later disassembled and moved to Florida in 1873. The home is believed to be an early prefabricated house, earning its name from the support studs on the outside of the structure. In 1973, the home was saved from demolition by the Central Florida Society for Historic Preservation and moved to Longwood.
Pam worked for the former owner of the Culinary Cottage and fell in love with the house and the business. She finally decided to purchase both in 1995.
“One of the elements of running a store in the historic district is that people interested in history are always coming to visit,” says Pam. “While in the area, they stop in our shop and are able to experience the ambiance of a building that was constructed in the 1870s.”
Pam’s two-story home features both downstairs and upstairs porches, two fireplaces, a unique interior stairwell resembling a ship’s staircase, and beautiful hardwood floors. The home’s exterior gingerbread trim and front porch swing both add to the its overall historic charm and inviting feel.
“Many customers have become our friends, and we cherish that part of the business the most,” says Pam.
After Judy and David Putz’s daughter grew up and moved out of their home, Judy turned her daughter’s old room into a doll hospital where she would repair and restore collectable dolls. A true doll lover since she was a child, Judy decided to turn her passion for dolls into a business. She and David landed at 280 West Warren Avenue in downtown Longwood, now home to Judy’s Dolls.
“Twenty years ago, the only place where you could live and work in the same location was the Longwood historic district, so that’s why we pinpointed here,” recalls Judy.
And although Judy’s home looks the part, it’s actually not nearly as historic as the other historic houses in the district. In fact, it’s a custom-build.
“We bought the property here and hired an architect who came in, explored the district, and got a flavor for the styles,” says Judy, who had the house built based on the architect’s design. “A lot of people say it resembles a dollhouse, and it does kind of look like one.”
The shop has since become a destination for doll lovers the world over.
“Families from all over love visiting our store and the peacefulness of the neighborhood,” says Judy. “Once the new Reiter Park is ready, siblings will be able to play nearby while their other family members pick out their special doll.”
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