In operation since 1938, Helen Winnemore's focuses on the work of American Artisans. What does this mean? It means that our shop is like an arts festival … all year round! We believe that art should be accessible and isn’t limited to items that hang on walls or sit on pedestals.
The work of our American Artisans shows that beauty can be found in everyday objects. Daily routines are made rich and personal through usable, wearable art. Consider the ritual of choosing your favorite mug from the cabinet on a Saturday morning, putting on your favorite pair of earrings, using a wooden salad bowl given to you for your wedding. These everyday items are connected … to the artists who conceive of them, using their talent and energy in the making. They are connected to the moment they were chosen for you, and the person who made them a gift for you.
1938: Helen Winnemore opened “The Afternoon Shop” in her Grandview home.
1951: The shop moved to the corner of Broad Street & Parsons Avenue in Columbus and became “Helen Winnemore’s.”
1960: Jack Barrow became Helen’s first full-time employee.
1966: Helen moved the shop to the corner of Mohawk & Kossuth Streets in German Village.
1996: Helen passed away at the age of 95. Jack purchased the shop from her estate.
1997: Sarah Kellenberger Harpham purchased Helen Winnemore’s from Jack.
2018: Helen Winnemore’s celebrated its 80th year in business.
2020: Siblings Julie and John Jenkins became the newest caretakers of Helen Winnemore’s.
In early 2020, brother and sister team Julie and John Jenkins learned that Helen Winnemore’s was for sale. For the previous 6+ years, the two had worked together to grow a smaller gift shop in Upper Arlington that sold American made artisan goods. The opportunity to purchase Helen Winnemore’s (a special place they had visited many times while growing up in Columbus) was too good to pass up. In June 2020 (after some delays caused by the coronovirus pandemic), they became the caretakers of Helen Winnemore’s! While looking forward to continuing the many Winnemore traditions, including especially the focus on American made artisan goods, Julie and John are excited and honored to carry forward Helen's legacy!
As a little girl, Sarah Kellenberger Harpham visited Helen Winnemore’s with her mom, and found it to be a magical place. She loved peeking into all of the jewelry drawers, and felt as though she'd discovered the treasures all on her own. Though her family moved from Ohio, gifts from Helen Winnemore’s made frequent appearances on special occasions, and when she saw a HW gift box, she knew there was something special inside. Sarah returned to Ohio to attend OSU and found Columbus a happy home. Her connection to Helen Winnemore’s took a new turn when her mom came for a visit in 1997. She had stopped by the shop en route to meet with Sarah, knowing that a gift from Helen Winnemore’s would be the most wonderful greeting. While at the shop, Sarah's mom was told that the business was for sale. The longtime Manager and successor to Helen, Jack Barrow, was ready to retire, and was looking for the next person to carry on the shop. When her mom gave her the news, Sarah's eyes went wide and her jaw dropped. She began wondering aloud about how one goes about buying a business, and Sarah's mom encouraged her (as moms do) to inquire about the possibility. One serendipitous thing after another occurred, and everything fell into place. On November 17, 1997 became the owner of her most favorite place!
For more than 22 years, Sarah was the caretaker of Helen Winnemore's. Sarah's love for this magical place has shown through, as she honored Helen Winnemore’s vision and legacy in such a beautiful way. Sarah continued to gather and attract folks who were of like mind in a very important sense … the shared appreciation of art and handcrafted works of all sorts. As Sarah said, "The artists and their work make Helen Winnemore’s a special place, but it’s made ever more special by the folks who choose to walk through the door each day."
Jack Barrow’s affiliation with the shop endured for 37 years. During that time, he became indispensable to Helen and then mentored Sarah into her early shop ownership.
Helen’s story has been told through kept and chronicled articles, photographs and letters from her life. The record of Jack’s contribution is told through photos of his work creating shop displays and the physical things he left behind—overalls to work in, a beautiful set of 40 drawers for displaying jewelry, and a fully stocked workroom in the shop basement.
After graduating from The Ohio State University with a degree in fine arts, Jack worked briefly at a television station before finding a job at Helen Winnemore’s in 1960. He was Helen’s first full-time employee, and in one of the rare photos we have of him standing idly, he is smiling as he poses next to the shop’s Broad Street sign beside his name: “Jak Barrow—decorator.”
1966 brought change and opportunity to Jack and the shop. At this time Helen purchased the building the shop now occupies, on the corner of Kossuth and Mohawk Streets. The building was derelict and in need of serious attention. One customer recently recalled to us how he, as a child, pried his way past the boarded up windows of the building to climb inside and use it as a hideout! With Jack’s help, they restored and remodeled the building, turning it into the welcoming space that it is today. Together, Jack covered the walls with cork for ease of displaying new works and installed gorgeous live-edge wooden shelving. The most treasured legacy of Jack’s labor is most certainly the set of 40 built-in jewelry drawers that he made with the help of his father. The drawers have been enjoyed by countless guests and are still in use today.
In the daily life of the shop, Jack went from being decorator to manager, and from minority owner to owner. He was responsible for the merchandising of the shop, creating displays for the works of featured artists, along with the artist-of-the-month exhibits. He often accompanied Helen to art shows in the pursuit of new work, and hosted staff holiday parties at his home in Marble Cliff.
As Helen aged, illness kept her from active involvement in the business. Due to Jack’s leadership, the business maintained continuous operation, for which Helen was forever grateful. When Helen died in 1996, he purchased the shop as sole owner, with the intention of finding the right person to continue the tradition. When Jack’s partner Ken Coe died one year after Helen in 1997, Jack understandably was ready to retire. He discreetly spread word to customers that the shop was for sale, hoping for someone to carry on the work that was so important to Helen and to him. Soon after, Sarah Kellenberger Harpham would discover the opportunity, leading to her purchase of the business in 1997. Jack would serve as mentor, advisor, and friend.
Helen Louise Winnemore was born on March 23, 1901 to Quaker parents Grace and Christian Winnemore in Iowa. What we know of Helen’s early childhood we glean from her photographs … she smiled often, went horseback riding, and dressed in the most fabulous fashion. Her personal correspondence suggests that she was close with her family, most particularly her older sister Charlotte. After graduating with High Honors from Penn College in Iowa in 1928, Helen and her mother joined Charlotte in Columbus, Ohio, where Charlotte was a physician.
Helen said, "I suppose most people think you start a business because you want to be in business. But not me. I was more interested in crafts. I've hunted for beautiful, exquisite, elegant things all over this country."
THE AFTERNOON SHOP: 1938–1951
Helen claimed that her life as a business woman was an accident, and that she wouldn’t have been able to do it if she knew what was happening from the start. While teaching Sunday school, she observed how uncomfortable her students were swinging their legs in adult sized chairs. So, she went looking for child sized options at Berea College in Kentucky. This unique institution requires their students to work at a College-run job to offset their tuition, which often involves creating and selling handcrafted goods. After completing her mission and finding suitable chairs, Helen happened to hear that Berea College was in search of someone to showcase and perhaps sell more of their students' work for the Christmas season. Helen offered the vacant room in her Grandview home for their Christmas shop, unaware of where this gracious offer would lead.
Helen placed the artists’ goods in everyday dressers, inviting guests to look through the drawers at their leisure, as her mother offered guests cookies and tea. Word spread about Helen’s Christmas shop, and artist friends began to ask if she would be willing to show their work, too. The act that began as a response to Berea College’s need grew into a weekly practice of welcoming people into her home to look at beautiful handmade goods. It soon became clear that this was much more than a seasonal endeavor. At this realization, Helen gave it a new name: The Afternoon Shop.
As Helen’s business evolved, word traveled through communities of artists. Eventually, the number of beautiful things she had collected simply no longer fit in her home, so a shop was set up on the corner of Broad Street and Parsons Avenue in Columbus. When asked later about the move to a storefront, Helen confessed that she never intended to start a business, but after representing artist’s work in her home for so long, she “never knew how to stop it.”
During this time, Helen began actively seeking new goods to carry and traveling to art shows in this quest, frequenting places like the American Craft Council Show in Bennington, Vermont, Rhinebeck New York Crafts Festival, and The Baltimore Winter Market. The move to a proper retail location led to still more growth of the business, while she maintained the graciousness and hospitality that she extended in her home. Helen and the wares she offered continued to enchant customers. Helen represented many emerging artists who would become esteemed names in the fine craft world including Woodturner Bob Stocksdale, Ceramicists Otto and Gertrude Natzler, Jeweler Ed Levin, and Ceramicist Rose Cabat.
The 1960’s were a time of great change in Helen’s life. In 1965, her beloved sister Charlotte died, leaving Helen living alone. In 1966, Helen purchased a charming green house in German Village, which at the time was known as a rough, run-down area. Showing her usual perspicacity, Helen transformed this boarded-up building on the corner of Kossuth and Mohawk into a welcoming space for the work and her guests.
In this new space, longtime customers declared that they missed the feeling of going through the drawers as they had in her previous locations. Therefore, Helen’s manager Jack, with the help of his father, built a wooden case of 40 drawers in which to display jewelry. That case remains in use today, having become a ritual to longtime customers and a novel delight to tourists.
1966 brought other changes for Helen, too. One winter evening while covering a shift for an employee, she would meet Stefan Horvath who would soon become her husband.
After her marriage and the move to her German Village shop, information about Helen’s personal life starts to become scarce. With many of her personal milestones and rites of passage behind her, Helen settled into the routine that would carry her through her golden years: searching for the best quality hand crafted goods she could find, building long lasting relationships with artists, and sponsoring the arts in her community. Rather than stories of her personal life, these years leave us with a broad trail of artists whose work she discovered, encouraged, and displayed.
Towards the end of her life, we see letters from friends of Helen that refer to her as the Mother of the Craft Movement. According to Niche Magazine (Winter 2000), in the time that she began her shop “much of the American public viewed crafts as rurally produced, utilitarian objects.” In Niche Magazine's timeline of 100 years of American Crafts from 1900-2000, the founding of Helen’s shop was featured as a prominent event, perhaps because it helped to transform this view of crafts: she required the works in her shop to be functional AND beautiful.
For her 90th birthday, her dear friends and coworkers created the Helen Winnemore Scholarship in her honor at Columbus College of Art and Design to help continue to foster the arts in her home city, which is still awarded to this day.
In spite of her claims that she never meant to start a business, Helen Winnemore created a courteous and inspiring world that brought together the craftspeople and lovers of the arts that continues today. Her mantra lives on in the oasis of beauty and hospitality that she built here in German Village: