The Heart And History Behind Heart ‘n Home
An interview with Julie Wurr, owner of Heart ‘n Home in Laurens, Iowa
Not a was, not a has-been, but a were – that’s Julie Wurr’s husband’s explanation for how to pronounce their unique last name. There is a lot that’s unique about Julie Wurr. The story of how she came to own Heart ‘n Home, a floral and décor shop in Laurens, IA, and how she and her business has continued to grow throughout the years is one-of-a-kind, just like she is.
The seeds of this business were planted in Julie by her grandmothers when she was very young. Growing up, she was often surrounded by extended family, which meant spending time on her grandparents’ farms. Her grandmothers would teach her crafting and needlework; she’s pretty sure she knew how to do embroidery by the time she was four. Also, her grandmother would give her old wood shingles to paint, some of which she still has today. “Though,” Julie said as she thought back on the memory, “They were probably just doing it to get me out of the house.”
Julie met her husband when she was 16, and they were married when Julie was 19, “So we didn’t have two pennies to rub together,” Julie explains. The newlyweds found themselves in Laurens soon after as Julie’s husband got a job at Hakes, and Julie continued to create. Not long after they were married, the Wurr family experienced a great tragedy. In the aftermath, Julie’s beloved grandmothers told her, “Happy hands make happy hearts.” So she dug in and started creating; Julie would make wreath after wreath to keep busy. Soon her friends and family started asking if they could buy them. The idea of making her creations into a business was beginning to take root.
In late October of 1992, Julie did her first craft show at the Spencer mall. The night before, as she finished getting everything made up, she remembers almost having a nervous breakdown and being sick to her stomach. When it came time for the show, she realized she had nothing to worry about. A girl, who was walking the mall, stopped at her booth and bought something before the craft show even started. By noon, she had completely sold out of everything and the fair didn’t even end until 9pm. Julie stayed up all night making more stuff to sell. The following three days, she sold out of everything. This trend would continue as Julie did craft shows for the next four years.
In 1996, the Wurr family converted their garage into a store. Slowly working her way out of the craft shows, Julie would work from home for four more years. She would host open houses, and they would have so much to sell and so many people that Julie would have to clear out the first floor of their house to fit everything. In 1999, Julie’s husband told her, “I love you, but it’s time to find somewhere else.” This was the same time her friend Glenda was closing Schuberts, so Julie signed the lease and that’s the same spot where Heart ‘n Home is today.
But this isn’t the end of Julie’s story. It’s only the beginning. Now that she has her store, she continues to grow it every day and no one day is the same as the last. Julie says there is no ordinary or typical day in her business. In fact, her friend Glenda always says Julie plans to be spontaneous, and Julie completely agrees. Chaotic organization is something Julie enjoys about her profession. Another thing she likes about her work? Mondays. “Mondays are my favorite day because I know I get to come to work,” Julie explained. “I usually lay in bed and I look at the clock and it may be 3:30, and I’m like, ‘Is it too early? Is it too early?’ And ‘yes, Julie you should probably go back to sleep’, but I don’t. I clean out my emails and I do all of that stuff, then get going. We don’t open until 10, but I’m probably here at least by 8 if not sooner.”
However, Julie’s absolute favorite part of her business is weddings. Whether it is silk, fresh or a combination of both. She adores meeting with the couple and hearing their love story and how to represent that through floral art. Also, with weddings, she loves the romance – calling herself a true romantic. Another favorite time at the store is when she can create with silk florals, especially at night when the store is closed, so she can listen to a good podcast and just create. This is relaxing for her.
This inspiring entrepreneur attributes a lot of her love for this business to the wonderful women she works with. “Right now,” Julie says, “I have a team of ladies that are so strong and so confident and so uplifting to others that, it is amazing to be here. I didn’t know for 27 years how lonely I was. But having them around? I want more of that. I want to spend my days around these ladies, and to surround myself with more people like that.” Julie has never been low on support. Even during the downtimes, her family and friends have always been by her side, keeping her in check, and reminding her why she loves this business and this community so much.
The community has been a big source of joy and support for Julie, which is why she has always been glad that she opened this business in Laurens. The connections she’s made with her customers have been incredible. The everyday aspects of people’s lives she gets to be a part of are important. When someone comes in to send a flower, just because they are thinking of someone, she gets to know those people. On Memorial Day, she and her team go out to the cemeteries, leave flowers, and clean the stones for the families who can’t. Julie knows she is being trusted with very intimate moments. Then there are the funerals, when people come in and she hears their stories and recreates that story in flowers and art. These people and their histories are important to her, and she cherishes them.
That being said, being an owner has come with some challenges for Julie. One of the biggest challenges she’s faced is in comparing her business to others in the area. Julie explains that, early on, she spent a lot of time squashing her dreams because she worried about other people’s feelings. For instance, she didn’t add the fresh flowers to her business until 2014 even though she had been taking classes since 1994. This was because there was another business in town already doing it, and she didn’t want to overstep her boundaries or make waves. Thankfully, that didn’t remain the case. Over the years, she has worked with business coaches who have helped her overcome this fear by telling her to stop looking at other stores and just follow her heart. To help her remember this, one of her coaches gave her a quote that Julie had a local artist paint, that she has hanging in her back room. That sign reads, “Because she competes with no one, no one can compete with her.” And that sign reminds her every day to be a little gutsier, jump a little more, and not worry so much. Now, she always remembers to let her light shine through.
Julie wants to help future entrepreneurs find their light. Her first piece of advice for those who want to start their own business is have a business plan. They should start at the SBDC (Small Business Development Commission); Julie calls it boot camp. “It’s where you can see if your idea is viable, see if it’s something you can do. If it’s something that looks like you can’t give up your full-time job to do, maybe start it out slowly doing craft shows or in home parties.” “Owning a business is a lot of work,” Julie warns. “If this is something where you think you’ll be working for 40 hours a week, you are sadly mistaken. It’s going to be a lot more than that.” The second step is going to the Pocahontas County Economic Development Commission and getting their advice on your plan. But all the work is worth it. There’s so much joy in being able to see your dreams come true according to Julie, “I love not being limited. I’m a daydreamer, I’m a romantic, I believe in the best. No one can really tell me no.”
Now, we’re at the end of our post – but we’re only in the middle of Julie’s story. Through all of this, she has continued to grow her business and grow as a person. There have been ups and downs and some setbacks, but Julie keeps coming out on top, an even bigger success than she was before. Though, she doesn’t see it that way. In her mind, it isn’t about money, influence, or innovation; she says she is simply here to serve other people. “I want to make other people’s lives easier,” Julie explains. “A lot of times I just want to say, ‘What can I do to make your day easier?’ I love serving people. My definition of success is when you’re happy to go to work every single day. It’s not about money because otherwise I’d have a different job. It’s about connections and just being. It’s those Monday mornings.”
And there will be many more of those Monday mornings for Julie at Heart ‘n Home, a store that embodies so much of who Julie Wurr is and what she values. And, in case the last three pages haven’t given you enough insight into who that is, I’ll let Julie explain it in her own words, “I’m a daydreamer, a romantic. I’m always surprised when something bad happens. I’m a Disney movie person. I don’t like negativity. I don’t like it around me. I’m pretty strong-headed, pretty determined. I’m working on the confidence. I’m not done growing. I think if you quit trying to grow you’re just done.”