- February 3, 2022
One day, Driftwood Beach Home and Garden owner Heather Rippy noticed many of her new business cards were missing. After some inquiry, she discovered that her “PR assistant” (daughter Bliss, 9) had nabbed the cards and was tucking them into neighbors’ mailboxes around Longbeach Village.
Perhaps it’s thanks to her direct marketing campaign that the new store, located in Whitney Plaza, has already started pulling in customers and community members.
Rippy opened Driftwood Beach Home and Garden on Feb. 2, just a few months after moving to the island from Sarasota. It’s an artsy, coastal space with art pieces, home decor items, gardening tools and beautiful books.
“I have inventory that I like, things that I've always purchased or used myself,” Rippy said. “I have a lot of gardening items because I'm a gardener, and that's my background. I love baskets. I love handmade things, so some things are imported, but when they are, I like them to be handmade and I'm buying fair trade. I try to buy things that are low-impact on the environment.”
Rippy has packed the place with handmade home pieces from small makers and items she hopes customers won’t recognize from anywhere else. There are leather bracelets made around the corner in Longbeach Village, collage paintings by Rippy’s sister and small canvases by Longboat Key artists tucked around woven baskets, beachy art and potted plants.
Bliss isn’t her only helper. Rippy gets a hand from her mother, Pamela Oakley, whose store in Tulsa Rippy said she grew up in, and 11-year-old daughter Lark, who picks out much of the inventory for the pet section of the shop. The girls are homeschooled for the year and supplement their studies with “shop-schooling,” Rippy said.
“I really want to be part of the community, so because my background is education and nonprofit, I want to think about having a retail store that also impacts that community and be a place where local artists can bring their work and sell it and people can learn about what's going on in the community,” Rippy said.
Rippy began and grew nonprofit Global Gardens, focusing on teaching life skills and science through gardening in schools, back home in Tulsa for 10 years. When she and her family moved to the Village, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. She’d always wanted a shop like her mother’s, but held tightly to the idea of community education — so she’s rolled it all up into one. With a little help from her green thumb, she started a garden out back with edible flowers and herbs and has started hosting classes on gardening and cooking. She hopes the back garden will become a space for community members to relax and learn.
“I was just waiting kind of for the right time, the right place, and then we moved to the Village,” Rippy said. “It really felt like it was necessary, like it filled a niche.”
Tina Anderson, one of Rippy’s neighbors from the Village, is a chef who helps out with some classes. Among them, a class in putting together boards and platters for displays of fruit, charcuterie or vegetables.
“We stock books to take you beyond what we do in class,” Anderson said. “We’re pulling ideas from them and planting the seed to get you going.”