By Rebecca Jones, special to the News-Times
RALEIGH — Richard and Beth Keith of Harkers Island know how to bounce back from hardships in their lives.
Beth calls it “turning lemons into lemonade.” More than 30 years ago, they had a successful family hardware store in Ramseur. When the big box stores moved into town, it hurt their business. The couple tried to hold on but saw they needed to go into a new direction.
Richard and Beth decided to take some classes in stained glass at Randolph Community College. The duo perfected their original designs to make one-of-a-kind art. In a 100-year-old barn behind their house, the creative pair made a studio to work. This allowed Beth to work from home and take care of their three children. Eventually, the stained-glass business was doing better than the hardware store.
Then their life took another turn.
The Keiths’ moved to Harkers Island to help care for Beth’s aging parents. The stained-glass business would have to take a backseat for a while.
The vacation home the couple was residing in during this time had a big garage behind the house. The pair started once again creating stained-glass art in their new location. They named the new studio Wild Rose Glass. The Keiths’ created some art and set it out in their front yard for sale during the week of the Decoy Festival. This was the beginning of the couple gaining recognition for the quality of their art.
Their first job in Harkers Island was making 16 stained-glass windows for Refuge Church. Since then, they have made a 4’x4’ garden-tub window, a dog portrait, kitchen windows in Wilmington and Greenville, kitchen cabinets, restored antique windows in old homes, made sun catchers just to name a few.
The couple’s daughter, Katelyn, an art major with a degree from East Carolina University, moved to Harkers Island in January 2020 to help her parents expand their business. Katelyn signed them up for the Emerald Isle St. Patrick’s Day Festival, as well as the Pirates Invasion festival in Greenville.
Then COVID-19 hit. All the festivals were cancelled. Lemons again. However, for the Keiths it presented yet another opportunity to make lemonade.
Once again, the Keith family used art to restart their life.
“If you want to be successful, you start something and keep going,” Richard said.
Richard has taught that motto to his children. Katelyn took his advice and started an online Facebook Live Marketing site. She also taught her first class online recently and used the opportunity to sell several original pieces. Seventy people took Katelyn’s first online class.
The entire family is involved in all aspects of the business from creating and repairing to delivering and shipping. All the glass and lead come from the USA.
“It is a labor of love with blood, sweat and tears,” Katelyn said.
Katelyn went on to say the family cuts themselves all the time while creating their works of art.
Catch a show on Facebook Live at facebook.com/wildroseglass. They also offer in-person classes in their studio with social distancing.