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Hey y’all – I’m Amanda, the owner of Loved by Loveless, a home décor shop located in Villa Rica, Georgia. I want to share our story of how LbyL came to be so that I can express my gratitude to our
customers for coming along on this journey with us.
Let’s start from the very beginning. In 2009, I began working for medical office. The next year, I married Chris Wiley and we became pregnant right away. We were both thrilled; Chris always wanted to be a
dad. I had been working hard at my job and I was offered a lifechanging promotion, but I would have to return to work only three and a half weeks after having our first son Barrett. I took the promotion and
within six months was promoted to general manager over all the medical offices. I’ve been in this role for the past ten years. It was a difficult decision to make at the time, but we knew that it was the right
choice for our family’s future. Little did we know what the future really had in store for us.
When our son was two years old, we went on a family vacation and I began to notice that he was not interacting with the other kids, that he was isolating himself, and that he was starting to not make eye contact with us anymore. Up until this point, Barrett had hit all the necessary developmental milestones so we never thought that there could be anything wrong. We took him to be evaluated by his pediatrician but were told to wait and watch. My intuition told me that something was not right – so we contacted Marcus Autism Center and had an official diagnosis of autism in February of the following year.
We began doing intense therapies – speech therapy, horse therapy, occupational therapy – you name it, we tried it. The first few years after the diagnosis were the good days, we just didn’t know it at the time. It’s easier when they are little and autistic because they may act shy and be in diapers, but other kids around them are too.
Fast forward to when Barrett was five – the hardest year so far – and something just clicks in your mind that it’s not going to be OK. This is our reality. We will never give up hope, but we began to recognize that the dreams we once had needed to transform into new dreams. It was time for us to understand that he may never speak. We stopped saying “he will speak by next Christmas” as we did each year, because while that was still the goal, as a family we needed to be on the same page that he might not.
In 2015, we bought our dream home. Chris and I had worked so hard and I could not wait to decorate exactly how I wanted. I had always loved home décor – and now was my chance to go wild. The décor was a reward for working hard and also for the difficult years with Barrett. His behavioral issues continued to worsen over time; he began to go into a regression. Shortly after we moved into our newly decorated home, he started “swiping” – essentially swiping everything off tables, walls, you name it, at lightning speed. You can watch him do this and you can tell that he has no control over it. It is heartbreaking. We got to the point where we could not have any décor out – nothing even on the walls. It became a safety issue, as we had a younger son Brantley – who also has an autism diagnosis, although milder.
We simplified our life. We took everything out of our home except for basic things – but it felt like a piece of my identity had been lost as well. I was spending all my free time researching how to save my son, and in the meantime, I lost who I was.
My friend, Erin, had started an online clothing boutique. Online boutiques were taking off, and so one night while I was laying in bed, I got a tax ID and started researching. I missed shopping for décor so much that I decided to start buying it and selling it online to fill the need to shop. It was therapeutic – since I could no longer buy anything for my own home.
We like to joke that it all started with a pillow. Erin ordered pillows for her rocking chairs, and at the time I was making home deliveries – something we couldn’t imagine doing today. I brought her the pillows, and she asked whether I had considered opening my own store. I had not, as this was only meant to be a hobby, something to soothe my soul and give me something small for myself. Although no one knew at the time, we had just found out that we were pregnant with our third child. I felt a heavy guilt – what if this child also would have autism? At the time Erin asked me about opening a store, I was working full time as a Regional Manager of four medical offices, I had two children with autism, I was selling online on the side, and I had just found out I was pregnant. It was a definite “no” to my own store. Unfortunately, we lost the pregnancy shortly after announcing it to our friends and family.
After the miscarriage, I poured more and more of myself into the online business. Erin decided to open a store and asked if I would put some of my home décor in, which I did. Emmie & J opened in November 2017 and the décor did really well.
In May 2018, the space at 303 Main Street became available. Erin spoke to the landlord about the space and gently pushed me to open my own place. We took a leap of faith and signed the lease the day before leaving the country for a vacation in Jamaica. Our storefront opened in July.
Throughout the fall of 2018, we increased our customer reach through live sales. We were doing really well, but then were met with another fork in the road – our nanny put in her notice in November right before the holidays – aka our busiest season. The thought of finding a nanny for two autistic children, one who is severe, was so overwhelming. We knew that it would be so hard to find the right person in a short period of time. Chris recognized that our only choice was for him to quit his job and stay at home with our boys. It was terrifying – a huge change. Two weeks later, I shared with our online customer community that I wanted to tell a story that was close to my heart – that was this story. It was difficult to share our emotional journey live in front of so many people, but the response has been overwhelming, and I thank all of those who reached out to me in the weeks and months that followed.
This is why shopping small and local is so near and dear to my heart. Without Loved by Loveless and our incredible community of customers and supporters – my husband would not be able to have quit his job to take care of our boys and take them back and forth to their many therapies. We are a family-run business; both of my sisters – Taylor and Haley – are involved. We still cannot believe our story and it’s truly an incredible testimony – without our customers, it would not have been possible. We are so thankful for you!