Tia Underkoffler's voice softens when she speaks of her late grandmother.
She's the woman who taught her the lessons that have helped her launch a new business.
"I've always spurred inspiration from my grandmother. She lived through the Great Depression, and we had a large, Catholic family. We always made due with what we had because she said, 'If you can reuse something somehow, you do,'" said Underkoffler, urban 4-H educator for York County Penn State Extension.
On Nov. 1, Underkoffler and co-owner Alicia Crouse will open The Copper Owl in Central Market at 34 W. Philadelphia St. The shop will sell upcycled, homemade, eco-friendly gifts supplied by various vendors and consigners.
Making recycled items more valuable was practiced every day by her grandmother, who also inspired the business name.
"My grandmother loved owls. She believed the bird looked over us at dusk and dawn when we were most vulnerable. And I chose copper because it's old, but still so valuable," Underkoffler said.
Our culture has tendencies to throw out whatever is not the latest, greatest thing, but that's not realistic or smart, she said.
For years, Underkoffler has reworked found bottlecaps into jewelry and old skateboards into shelves. She also refurbishes furniture and other items.
"Right now, in a society that struggles financially, using and reusing is not only important, it's necessary," she said.
To make something old feel new, Underkoffler also designs custom-made, recycled pieces for customers.
"I want to create something beautiful in life they will cherish and won't just sit in a drawer," she said.
She has previously sold her work on Etsy.com., an online store for handmade items.
By setting up shop in Central Market, she'll reach a larger customer base that will hopefully enable her to establish a storefront within a year, she said.
Underkoffler said she will also have a chance to inspire younger generations, while pursuing her dream.
"I want to be an example for kids I work with. I want them to know you can come from an impoverished background, get a degree and be successful," she said.
She also wants to teach them they don't need a ton of money to start a business. And once that business is started, anything is possible, Underkoffler said.
"A lot of successful businesses are started by a local person with a lot of passion," she said.
- Candy Woodall can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.