More Faith than Fear

Thursday, September 17, 2015

In the middle of nowhere, between fields of golden cornstalks and rolling hills dotted with grazing cows, and where horse-drawn buggies clippity-clop down country roads, Lena Schlabach and her two daughters, Felicia, 20, and Sydni, 13, pull up to their house after a day of treasure hunting in old barns, or, picking, as they call it, looking for rusty artifacts to upcycle and display in Millersburg's newest clothing boutique, Farmhouse Frocks.  Situated in the downtown historic district, Farmhouse Frocks features vintage-inspired clothing sewn from old tablecloths and linens with prairie-style patterns designed by Lena and her daughters.

Lena, an innovative business woman raised in the Amish culture, says it all started when a group of friends known as The Housewives of Holmes County traveled to Fete en Blanc in Columbus, Ohio last summer for an outdoor picnic. Schlabach, who organized the group's participation in this Parisian-style gathering in a park where guests dressed all in white, was fascinated by a vintage dress her friend wore which she had accented with bits of crocheted lace. And on a long road trip to Florida the next day, the idea of having her own clothing business started forming like a small seed of hope inside her heart.

Felicia, Sydni and Lena at the Rock the Frock fashion show in the alley behind their store.

Over the next few weeks, the pieces began falling into place as that seed started to blossom into reality and Farmhouse Frocks was launched.  Lena set up a small studio space in the basement of her bustling household and began scouring flea markets and thrift stores for vintage linens. Friends and family in the community heard about her venture and soon she had 20 Amish seamstresses willing to sew her clothing, providing the quality she desired in a product designed to fit a woman's body, from sizes 28 down to 5. And then came her lucky break, or, as she terms it, her "blessing from God."

Already the owner of a successful homemade granola business and a genius at marketing and branding, Lena had a hefty group of devoted followers on social media who eagerly embraced Farmhouse Frocks. One of these followers was Country Living Fair who contacted her about setting up a booth at their show in Atlanta. The show was three weeks away, and she had just launched her business.

Each label says, "You are... 100% beautiful. 100% Worthy. 100% Unique. 100% God-made.

"I thought to myself, I must be crazy.  How can I get $20,000 worth of inventory in just three weeks?" she recounts as she describes the whirlwind of activity that followed. But once again, friends and family rallied and helped, from shopping and sewing to organizing and packing and then setting up her booth and modeling her frocks during the show.  It was a huge success and she came home with the realization that in those short weeks she had already outgrown her basement studio.

Displays are beautifully crafted with new and vintage accessories, along with unusual finds.

Through another providential set of circumstances, her current location became available where she and business partner, Allyssa Eliot, a wedding and portrait photographer, now share a studio space in an old brick and mortar establishment filled with the charm of a bygone era. As you step over the threshold you can see the magic that causes people to drive for two hours or more to visit this unique store. With a burgeoning list of customers, including Nashville country music star, Ruthie Collins, and another Country Living Fair coming up in September, Lena admits to having growing pains but says, "I just have to put my head down and go, because that's what I have to do right now."

Lena readily credits God for giving her the ability to sustain a debt-free business model for Farmhouse Frocks.  She says, " I remember going to Walmart before opening night, thinking, do I buy this toiletry item or do I buy another pack of wooden hangers so everything looks perfect?  That's how down-to-the-wire it was. When I look back at how God provided for the Country Living Fair after three weeks in business for the first time, there's just no way - it was like feeding the multitudes with a few fish in a basket."

Elegant lace designs in easy-flowing fit are a signature look of this Prairie-style fashion.

More than anything, she says this business is about relationships.  "I have come to realize how important solid relationships are and I credit that as a key to my success. Sometimes I wonder, why are people so good to me, like a friend going around and job shadowing me, saving my day when I was just at a wits end?  I just want to keep making good choices for my business so I won't have broken relationships with anyone. And I couldn't do this without my girls. They are a huge part of this and I love that it's a family business."  (Her son, Quinton, makes leather bracelets while husband, Allen, makes spoon rings to sell in the store.) Lena says she loves to empower women,  whether by designing feminine frocks to help them feel beautiful or giving the encouragement someone needs when they stop by her store.

"My customers love Fee," says Lena of her daughter who is a familiar face behind the counter.

"I am learning now, with this business,that it is about having more faith than fear," says Lena contemplatively, her eyes mirroring the effervescent hope in her heart. And a look around this store, where garments drape neatly on wooden hangers, or lay folded in drawers, or tucked into a wooden Armoire confirms the dream has become a reality for this gutsy woman who braved the odds and dived head first into an opportunity.

Farmhouse Frocks is located at 65 West Jackson Street in downtown Millersburg, Ohio.  Store hours are 10 - 5, Thursday through Saturday and holidays as posted.  Visit their website at  Farmhouse Frocks for more details or to order online.

Photos courtesy of and used with permission by Farmhouse Frocks.  Indoor iPhone photos by Naomi.

A photo shoot for Country Living Fair and in celebration of Fall.

Layers of denim and lace - what's not to love?

Sydni rocking the frock.

Cubbies of vintage lace in a charming display behind the counter.

Shirt extenders in delicate contrast to a rack of vintage cowboy boots.

Close-up detail of their signature "Rosemary Vest" and a silver spoon ring made by Lena's husband, Allen.

Pick your frock.

For more information, or to order clothing, visit Farmhouse Frocks.


  1. Love Lena. She's as loving and sweet as she is smart and saavy.

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