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October 29, 2011

Shop Talk: Turquoise Barn

Turquoise Barn 8052 County Highway 18, Bloomville Owners: Michelle Premura and Michael Milton Established: 2004 Employees: None (selves)

Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Michelle Premura of the Turqouise Barn in Bloomville.

How long have you lived in the area?

Eleven and a half years.

Tell me about your business:

We run a bed-and-breakfast and retreat specializing in plant-based cuisine. We teach a variety of classes for individuals interested in learning how to incorporate more healthy foods into their daily diet. Courses range from basic to gourmet and include: Plant-based food prep classes for healing or weight loss; cleansing/detoxing; transitioning to a vegetarian, vegan, raw food or gluten-free diet; basic gardening; wild edible identification walks; and art classes. We also work with local health and wellness practitioners to provide additional services for our guests. Our classes and learning retreats are available at Turquoise Barn or at a location of choice (we love to travel!) for individuals and groups. We have an art gallery (which was our initial business in 2004) and an online store where we sell paintings, sculpture, jewelry, and wood products that we make, as well as local products such as honey, bee pollen and candles.

Describe a typical day in your business:

That varies depending upon the season and other factors. When we have guests, it is a lot of socializing, cooking, teaching and eating. Other days are filled with cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, gardening, inside/outside maintenance, experimenting in the kitchen, photographing and making things for the store. There is always lots of computer/paperwork _ answering emails, planning classes, retreats and confirming reservations, brainstorming, marketing/promoting, keeping up with the online store and bookkeeping.

How did you get started in this line of work?

Chance. Honestly, I can't say we've always dreamed of living in the country and opening a bed-and-breakfast, we did however, consider an artist retreat. Basically our interests, skills, events and circumstances led us in this direction. The art element has always been there, both Michael and I are artists and that's where we started out. The food/teaching element began when I was diagnosed with cancer more than 25 years ago and I have been interested in ways to stay healthy ever since. In 2005, I decided to get my certification as a vegan raw food chef and educator because I wanted to share my story and inspire others. It all just fell into place.

Where do you see this business in five years?

We would like to have more accommodations and be able to accommodate larger groups for learning retreats and other events such as larger weddings, reunions, parties, etc. I see the art, health and environment/nature elements more fully combined and established.

Michael is also working on further developing his line of wood products. I am a firm believer in letting things grow organically, so we will also be listening to our customers needs, our visions and desires and if it doesn't go with what we envisioned, then we will make adjustments.

Describe a memorable moment in your workplace:

I can't think of one particular "moment" in time. However, I always remember the enjoyment of meeting new people and sharing stories, getting inspired and inspiring others.

What have you learned from your work?

That we are very social and love sharing stories. Regardless of what your "work" is, you carry certain techniques with you, for example I work the same in my studio as I do in my kitchen. And we have learned that everything always takes more time and money than we initially thought.

What is the most challenging part of what you do?

Balancing time, staying organized and on top of paperwork, and setting boundaries between personal and business. Owning/operating a business, regardless what it is, requires 24/7 dedication and work.

We can sometimes get overwhelmed with so many different things to do, it's a lot of multi-tasking and wearing a variety of hats and some of them are not always a comfortable fit, like the paperwork for example.

The most enjoyable?

Meeting new and interesting people, sharing, learning/teaching, creating. We hear inspiring stories from so many people who have healed from a variety of diseases and illnesses simply from making the decision and commitment to learn while making changes in their eating habits and lifestyle (including myself). When we have guests who return or contact us to let us know that we have inspired them to make dietary or lifestyle changes and the impact it has had on their health and well being, I know we are on the right path. Knowing that we may have made a difference whether it's helping people feel better through lifestyle shifts, learning something new, providing them with a unique piece of artwork or jewelry, or just offering a much needed relaxing weekend getaway _ that's enjoyable.

How do you define success for your business?

Being financially secure, loving what we do and making a positive difference for others, the community and the environment, that's success.

What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?

Advantages are aesthetic. We live in one of the most beautiful places in the country that draws people here as well as the nature aspect. The majority of our guests come from urban areas and want to escape to a quiet, beautiful and peaceful environment. There are also a number of great activities and other businesses offering services for travelers. Drawbacks would be a lack of diversity and transportation, a train from the airport and city would be a dream.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

Our accommodations are one-of-a-kind; a blend between elegance and rustic, contemporary and vintage, restored and custom designed using mostly recycled/reclaimed materials and furnished with handcrafted furniture and artwork. As a vegan raw food chef, we offer an opportunity for individuals to learn and try a type of cuisine not available in most places. The food we serve and use in our classes is organic, grown right here on the property or local when available. Although we cater to specialty plant-based diets of all kinds including gluten free, sugar free, vegan and raw foods, not all of our guests are veggies. We also attract omnivores, foodies and the curious wanting to learn and experience new culinary taste treats. Overall, we share our lifestyle by combining our interests and areas of expertise, which creates a unique experience for our guests and I would say that's what sets us apart.

What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?

You have to be social, enjoy people and truly believe in what you are doing. That's what keeps me going during the tough times. And, if you don't have funding, be prepared to do more "work" than you ever imagined!

Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Terry Hannum. For information, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 217, or email

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