Featurepreneur: Braving a Pandemic

By Genevieve Allen Hearn

It’s been a long time since something other than The Market was located at 456 Main Street in Wolfville. When The Market moved into its new, roomy location down the street, it took something really special to fill its shoes. It also took a business owner brave enough to open a shop during a pandemic! Enter Morgan Jane Home, a home design store curated by Morgan Jane Miller. Miller has turned the space into an upscale, eco-friendly, dreamy space that feels like a cozy oasis during a time of uncertainty.

The Grapevine (GV): What got you into home design?
Morgan Jane Miller (MJM): I got into design, you might say, by the back door. I was working as a medical photographer and filmmaker in Halifax. After art school, I had made a film about cancer in women and was very involved in the women’s movement because I was upset with how women were being treated by medical professionals. After three years of media work, I got burned out and ran away to the country, bought a Cape Cod house that was built in 1769, and restored it. Someone saw my work and asked me to work on his house, which I did. I worked on quite a few homes over the next 15 years.
I moved to the States during that time and worked on projects in New York, Paris, and upstate New York. We moved west for my husband’s work and I started a shop on Bainbridge Island in Washington State. It was called Vintage Home and Garden and I did that successfully for a few years.

At the end of 2018 we decided to begin to make our way back to Canada. I longed to be back in Nova Scotia, and in March of 2019 I got an email with an image of my dream house! I flew out and fell in love with it. The next day, my husband flew out and then it was ours! We moved in a year ago April.
After spending the year working on the house, I decided to open another store. Morgan Jane Home would build itself around an environmental sensibility and graceful living, with products that will become heirlooms and last forever.

GV: What is the philosophy of your store? What should customers expect to find?
MJM: I have five words that I try to live my life by. They start with: To bring about beauty, simplicity, order, grace, and whimsy.

Our soaps are organic and have no harmful ingredients for people or the environment. We formulate our own brand of soaps as well as a line called Common Good—cleaning and laundry products that have refill stations so people can bring in their own containers. We have quality linens and towels from Libeco in Belgium, and woven throws from Brahms Mount in Maine that are still woven on a two hundred-year-old loom. There are wonderful vinyl floor mats from Israel, cleaning tools from France, hand-thrown pottery from Farmhouse Pottery in Vermont, and a line of dishes from Fable, which is a Canadian brand. There are market baskets from Morocco and other beautiful accessories. We also have a smattering of vintage goods as well from France and Europe.

GV: What advice do you have for folks who haven’t quite figured out their personal style?
MJM: When people are making a home for themselves, I tell them to buy things that will take them through time. Things that in 10 years, they are still thrilled with. Things that make them happy. Personal style is something that must be developed over time. Pinterest is a wonderful place to get great ideas and to be inspired. My own style is somewhat simple, I am a military kid and we had to be organized, and accumulating a lot of stuff never made much sense. My mother instilled in me a love for quality. I may not always be able to afford all the things I would like, but I can buy one or two pieces that make the other things in my home look great.

GV: You have run businesses in other towns in the past. What sets Wolfville apart from your previous experiences?
MJM: I had an antique store in Mahone Bay in the late ’70s. Then my shop on Bainbridge Island, and now our little shop in Wolfville. I love Wolfville. It is friendly and welcoming, and the university brings the world to our town with its many students who come from all over the world. Diversity at its best.

GV: What is it like to start a new business in the middle of a pandemic?
MJM: So, we got the lease on the shop in February—just before COVID-19 hit. Then March happened. Perfect timing! I have to admit that we almost bailed on the idea, but by the time we realized the impact of the virus, we had a garage full of product. We considered doing the business only online, but we had the shop, so we just decided to go ahead. We are glad we did; the town has been so supportive, and it seems like people realize the impact on the retail businesses in our wonderful downtown and are out supporting us by shopping. It is just lovely!

Be sure to stop by Morgan Jane Home at 456 Main Street. For more information, visit morganjanehome.com.