Jimni, a custom engraving and woodworking business in downtown Culpeper, has recently expanded into creating and selling furniture called “live-edge.” That change sparked a ribbon-cutting event with the Culpeper Chamber of Commerce.
“ ‘Live-edge’ uses the wood’s natural edge, so it ends up not square or manufactured, but more organic,” business owner Jim Schorr said in an interview Tuesday. “We started providing that service to customers and wanted to let people know.”
Jimni has been in business in Culpeper since 2014, and at its 154 East Davis St. address for the past six years. Formerly a farrier, Schorr decided to change directions and appeal to his creative side.
“I’d been shoeing horses since I was 17 years old—I learned it from my grandpa,” the Indiana native said. He moved to Culpeper more than 30 years ago and married Alice, now his wife of 29 years.
“I got tired of fighting horses,” Schorr said of his past occupation. “I bought an engraving machine, and it’s just grown from there.”
At last Friday’s ribbon-cutting, neighboring businesses It’s About Thyme, Kankal’s, Seriously Sweet and Vinosity helped with refreshments, offering participants a wealth of delicious food.
“We’re so grateful to everyone who stepped up to help, all the downtown businesses have been so fantastic and supportive,” Schorr said.
A shortened form of “Jim and I,” the store’s name Jimni refers to Jim and Alice. She has been as involved in helping the business thrive as Jim, the couple said during the ribbon-cutting event.
Like other small businesses, Jimni was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Schorr has been struggling to get back to more normal sales after they dropped off during 2020.
One way he addressed that problem was by partnering with John Beck, who moved to the area from Tallahassee, Fla., last fall with his wife, Carol.
“We have a darling granddaughter, Caroline Lucy,” Beck said Wednesday. “We moved up here to be closer to her and my daughter’s family, who lives in Arlington.”
Originally targeting Fredericksburg as their destination, the Becks liked Culpeper better, and settled into a beautiful 120-year-old house on Blue Ridge Avenue.
Retired from a 25-year career in sales for products such as Windex and Raid, Beck was on looking for something to do with his time. After wandering into Jimni and talking with its proprietor, he was intrigued by the quality and beauty of its offerings, and thought he might be able to help.
“I walked in there in November and told Jim, ‘I’m going to give you an offer you can’t refuse,’ ” Beck said. He offered to work for Schorr for free to learn the business, for two months.
“The idea was to learn everything I could about how it all worked, and then I’d come up with a sales strategy,” he said.
The partnership has proven a good one. The men say they like working together and appreciate the talents and abilities of the other.
“It’s been a life-saver for me,” Schorr said. “He’s helped tremendously with his input and has done a phenomenal job. It’s freed me up to do the work I really like doing best.”
Schorr said he enjoys the challenge of having a customer come in and explain what he or she wants, and then fulfilling—and often, exceeding—their expectations.
“I’m very meticulous with what I do, and I stand behind my work,” Schorr said. “I like the idea that when you create a piece of furniture and invest the time and effort to do it right, that piece will be around 100 years from now, compared to what you might buy at some big-box store.”
Schorr creates pretty much anything a customer might want, from wall-hangings to plaques to bird houses or street signs, in addition to fine pieces of furniture and wrought-iron artwork.
“The core pieces we try to concentrate on most are home and office furniture—tables and desks, coffee tables, benches and mantles,” Beck said. “So many people, now that they’ve been working at home for the past year and are likely will continue to do so in some form or other, are renovating their home office space, making it a satisfying and comfortable place to live and work.”
Also for sale in the store are creations by artisans from across the region—ceramics by Susan Dienelt, wooden bowls by Mark Heatwoe, wooden pens and lamps and other items by Joe Wilkinson, and framed nature photography by Jennifer Gonzalez.
“They all do fantastic work,” said Beck. “All this is right up my alley—the texture of this kind of artwork just speaks to me. It brings me joy. And I’m sure it does the same for others as soon as they see these beautiful pieces.”
Schorr and Beck expressed gratitude and support for other downtown business owners.
“The ribbon-cutting isn’t just about John and me,” Schorr said. “We couldn’t be successful without all the businesses around us. When we all work together we build each other, and our success benefits everyone who lives here.”
Customers from as far away as Hawaii and Maine have purchased items from the store. Others have come from places like North and South Carolina or Northern Virginia, Schorr said.
“People come in here because of the fine dining and the great reputation of all the unique stores that are located here,” Beck said. “And the Chamber, Culpeper Renaissance and the town’s economic development center, they do a lot to keep us educated on all the grants, and have really made the difference in keeping us alive.”