Making big life changes can always leave you asking, am I making a mistake? Will I have regrets? You can come up with a million questions to talk yourself out of things, but know that you aren’t alone — we all do it in these moments of change. For Jennifer Bloch of Heritage Mercantile Co., based in Costa Mesa, CA, she was in the same shoes, asking those same questions, which eventually led her to open her shop four years ago.
Finding the right time and place to open Heritage Mercantile Co. felt meant to be, Jennifer shares: “My children were just becoming teenagers, and it felt like it was time. It was this kind of knowing, that if I didn’t do it at that point, I might never do it. So I quit my teaching job, [and] went on the search for a building that had character and soul. But that proved to be much more difficult than I anticipated. I could see the design and concept of the shop in my head, and knew it needed to be in a historic building, not a strip mall. However, finding such [a] building in Orange County was more daunting. I searched everywhere I could, driving around for hours each day trying to find the space that felt right. Proving ignorance is bliss sometimes, I remembered a building I had driven past 14 years prior, lost on my way home one day. I drove for hours that day in tears, [thinking] that maybe this idea of my own shop was [unrealistic] and I shouldn’t take such a risk for my family. I believe fate intervened and as I came around the corner, I saw the building and a tiny ‘for rent’ sign in the window. I immediately knew my life was about to take a dramatic change.”
Jennifer continues, “I don’t think it was coincidence that the woman I was about to meet, who was renting the space, had just had her second child. She was trying to let go of a career she had spent the past 10 years building to become a stay-at-home mom. I was trying to let go of being a stay-at-home mom/part-time teacher to [build] back to the self I left behind after having kids. We talked for hours, about motherhood, life and career. We agreed that I would ‘borrow’ the space from her, for a time. And if she felt like she needed it back, I would give [it] back, no questions asked. I would give my dream a try and she would give hers a try as well, that we would jump off this bridge of uncertainty together. Two years later, she was ready to let me have it completely. I will always be grateful to her, for the gift she gave me.”
Jennifer also discovered an interesting fact about her shop location that seems fitting for her desire to find a space with a historic spirit in which to run her business. “The building was once a goat farm,” she shares. “Heritage Mercantile is housed in what was once a holding pin for milking goats. Attached to my building is a drive-through dairy, where they once sold goat milk and cheese. Across the driveway is where the caretakers lived, which is now an upscale surf shop.”
Photography by Jeffrey Allee
Image above: Outside view of Heritage Mercantile, with its strikingly beautiful greenery.