Couple chooses Natchez as new home, place to build new businesses

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

A new life and new business in Natchez have fulfilled all the high expectations Jeanie and Ken Attenhofer brought with them from New Orleans only two years ago.

She retired from a position with a utility company and looked toward putting all her energy into what she loved most &045; art, history and people.

For Ken, the move brought a chance to expand an already successful career in stained and painted glass work, creating new designs and restoring old pieces, something he has done for more than 30 years.

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With the opening of Attenhofer Studios at the Canal Street Depot, the couple has filled a need within the Natchez business community, too, said Jeanie Attenhofer.

&uot;It was an omen. The day we signed the final papers for our Natchez house was the day Stitch & Stuff closed,&uot; she said, referring to the popular needlework shop operated for many years by the Smith family.

At her new shop, Jeanie has amassed an impressive inventory in the four months since it opened.

And she continues to add more.

Buyers will find pre-stitched canvases, Persian yarn, tapestry wool, hand-painted canvases and many other items sought by needlework and crafts buffs.

&uot;I’ve already done a lot of special orders,&uot; she said. &uot;I can get crochet thread; I even ordered a bolt of flannel for making receiving blankets.&uot;

When time comes to begin costumes for the Pilgrimage season, she will be prepared to assist with lace, beads, ribbons and other items dressmakers might not be able to find in the area.

&uot;Jeanie asked me how much she should get to put into the store,&uot; Ken Attenhofer said. &uot;I told her to get everything everyone needs.&uot;

Ken has a small studio in the loft area of the shop but does most of his glass work in a studio at the couple’s home on Arlington Avenue. He continues to travel to New Orleans every two weeks to work on extensive projects going on there.

&uot;I probably have worked on every church in New Orleans,&uot; he said.

One of his first projects in Natchez was working with friend Gary Conn on a window restoration for Holy Family Catholic Church.

The Attenhofers have found the Natchez way of life suits their own lifestyle. They have found the town friendly, welcoming and busy.

&uot;There may be 10 times more opportunities to do things in New Orleans, but you don’t hear about them, and people don’t ask you to be involved,&uot; Ken said.

In Natchez, they have joined clubs and organizations and have settled into a life that includes the right amount of work mixed with socializing and pursuing other interests

&uot;We’ve joined the Scottish Heritage Society,&uot; said Jeanie, pointing out that they share a Swiss-German heritage but also a Scottish one. &uot;I bought Ken a kilt, and he’s learning to play the bass drum to accompany the bagpipes. I was afraid he wouldn’t wear it, but I can’t keep him out of it. He’s already been in three parades.&uot;

The couple will celebrate 35 years of marriage in September. It was on their honeymoon that they visited Natchez for the first time and together dreamed someday they might live in the city that to them was a living history museum.

&uot;We both love history and old houses,&uot; Jeanie said.

The two artists have learned quickly the Natchez way of shopping and doing business.

&uot;You don’t just walk into a store and buy something in Natchez,&uot; Ken said. &uot;First you talk about 45 minutes about who you are. You get to know one another before you do business.&uot;

Jeanie said both local shoppers and visitors have kept the shop door revolving.

&uot;This is a great place, a prime Natchez location,&uot; she said. &uot;We have a lot of foot traffic. And besides that, when Ken is out of town, I can walk to work.&uot;

Ken Attenhofer plunged into his artistic career without any formal training many years ago, leaving behind his work as an electronic technician working on biomedical equipment.

&uot;My mother was a nurse and my father ran an electronics school,&uot; he said. &uot;They thought something like art was a useless thing. I was good at the electronics. It was very fine work.&uot;

Still, art won out; and the rest is history for Ken Attenhofer.

&uot;I had a good job and I told him to go for it,&uot; Jeanie said. &uot;And now he’s doing the same thing for me with this shop.&uot;

Jeanie learned needlework as a very young girl.

&uot;I come from a long line of crafty ladies,&uot; she said, laughing as she described her 87-year-old mother who still visits nursing homes to teach arts and crafts to the residents there.

Her original, hand-painted canvases are attracting the attention of her clientele. Already she has begun taking orders for special designs.

And she has accepted requests to speak to clubs, soon to deliver a talk on Mary Queen of Scots, an avid needleworker and designer, Jeanie said.

In January she will present a history of needlework to a meeting of the Natchez Garden Club.

Joan Gandy

is community editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at (601) 445-3549 or by e-mail to