By Heidi Prescott South Bend Tribune, Ind.
Adam and Kelsey Cramer say they used to be a couple of kids just trying to make ends meet.
While standing inside their sprawling 12,000-square-foot South Bend antique furniture and rug store on Tuesday, however, the couple describe how their hobby has developed into their good fortune.
Their growing business has allowed them to help other kids, impoverished children, halfway around the world. And they couldn't ask for anything more.
Like many entrepreneurs, the Cramers' business started as a hobby several years ago. Adam would find unique old cabinets, dressers and tables, and Kelsey would refinish and restore them.
They posted pictures online and sold the pieces out of their home on 33rd Street in River Park.
"We didn't know much about furniture back then," says Adam, 30, a former teacher at the Crossing Educational Center in Elkhart and local youth pastor. "But we've learned fast. I don't like it when someone comes in and knows more than me."
When the space-consuming hobby outgrew their house, the Cramers moved their furniture into storage units, and eventually into a warehouse in 2012. They named the business "Liberty & 33rd Furniture Co."
The name stems from not only their South Bend address, but also from their mission statement: Liberating justice by liberating antiques. A portion of their profits supports organizations and ministries that are actively fighting against sex trafficking in India.
Adam and Kelsey used the rest of their profits from their early days in business toward a move. A move to eastern Africa. The couple rented their house and left home for 18 months. During that time, Adam pursued his master's degree in urban development in 2013 while Kelsey taught English in Nairobi, Kenya.
Together, they started an orphanage for street kids.
Upon their return last year, the Cramers added business partner Ted Gerring and they started looking for a storefront in downtown South Bend.
"When I step back now, and look at this place, full of furniture, it's hard to believe how far we've come," Kelsey says, looking around their second-floor store at 225 N. Lafayette Blvd.
The building dates back to 1921 when it housed the first Ford dealership in the city.
The Cramers have just about finished staging several hundred or more pieces of furniture. The furniture spans time and styles from 18th century and Victorian on through mid-Century modern. A 200-year-old hand-carved walnut hutch from England, for example, is displayed next to a modern Danish credenza.
They also carry hundreds of Persian rugs, primarily from Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan, that are priced between $50 and $3,000. In a corner of the warehouse, bright hand-woven bags from Nairobi are waiting to be set out for display. "These take days to weave," Adam describes from watching the process firsthand. Very often a grandmother, mother and daughter take turns weaving a single bag.
"Every dime someone pays to buy one will go to support the women in Kenya who made them," Adam says. The bags are priced at $50.
Kelsey jumps in to explain Liberty & 33rd is more than a business.
"We hope this allows us to achieve our ultimate life goal of doing missions overseas," she says. Adam explains they want to do more than support the orphanage they started in Nairobi. The couple want to create an entire network of sustainable orphanages in Africa.
Store hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday. More information about the business can be found online at www.liberty33rd.com.