SIDNEY — Fred Horner, of rural Sidney, has been plying his craft for 14 years.
His artwork is carried by several stores in Columbus and has been purchased by football great A.J. Hawk and Ohio State University basketball coach Thad Matta, among other notables. But when it came time to open a shop of his own, Horner selected downtown Sidney for its location.
The Window Guy & Co. opened March 23 on the square at 107 E. Court St.
Horner salvages antique window sashes, refurbishes the frames and paints pictures on the glass.
“I take old, dilapidated window sashes that most people would think are junk and I turn them into art. I could have (pieces) in a lot more (stores in Columbus), but I only have two arms and two hands,” he said. “I can’t keep up with the demand.”
Most of his subjects are Ohioana and Ohio State University icons. He is licensed by Ohio State and by Miami University to use their logos and market merchandise bearing their names. They’re for sale in his Sidney store along with items made by 15 other Ohio vendors.
Shoppers looking for unusual or one-of-a-kind gifts will find coasters featuring Ohio scenes, change purses, historic photos, license plate art, pillows crafted by a retired home economics teacher, Ohio-map-shaped cutouts constructed from barn wood, bottles melted into serving trays, key chains, mugs, jams made in Russia, canned beef from Shelby County cattle, as well as Horner’s distinctive artwork.
Hanging on one wall of the tiny shop is a arched window reclaimed from the Shelby County courthouse, painted with statistics and interesting historical notes about the building. Near it is a line-drawing likeness of the late OSU coach Woody Hayes.
“His granddaughter and her daughter came up to my booth at a craft show. I didn’t know that’s who she was. Her little girl kept pointing to the window with Woody on it. Woody’s granddaughter said, ‘That’s the best depiction of my gandfather I’ve ever seen,’” Horner recounted. A friend of the son of University of Michigan’s great coach, Glenn “Bo” Schembechler, commissioned Horner to create a double window with likenesses of Schembechler and Hayes facing each other. It was a gift for Glenn III, known as Shemy. When Horner met Shemy and his wife, Megan, some time later, they told him, “We love our piece.”
“My fun time is watching the reactions of people coming in and loving what I make. I’ve heard people say these will be heirlooms they’ll pass on to other generations. It’s the appreciation of my work (that moves me),” Horner said.
The artist grew up in Kenton and studied for an education degree at Ohio Northern University. A personal relationship brought him to Shelby County, where he has lived since 2006. He started his professional life as a teacher, but that changed when a friend who knew of his artistic bent asked him to paint a flag on a window.
Horner’s mother, who sold her own crafts at art fairs, saw the flag and suggested he paint a window with a block O, one of Ohio State’s logos. He did. When a neighbor saw it and wanted one, “it just snowballed,” Horner said.
It’s been a full-time business for a decade or more.
“I spend days on a window. It seems I’m consumed with them all the time,” he said. During a busy season, like Christmas, this window guy completes as many as 125 projects in three months. While he may use templates for lettering, he freehands all the other artwork. He gets help with prepping, cleaning and painting base layers from Ken Metz, of rural Sidney, and Macy Harshfield, of Lakeview, both of whom also take shifts to keep the store open and work with Horner at art shows.
The inventory in the shop in Sidney will change often.
“You can’t buy it in big box stores. I’m always looking for unique items to sell. Everything’s Ohio-made. There are hardworking and talented vendors in this store. I’ve known these people for 10 to 15 years,” Horner said. The shop owner uses three criteria when deciding whether or not to include something in his inventory: Is it licensed? Would I have this in my house? and What does it cost?
“I don’t want something too expensive for someone to buy,” he said. “I want people to think when they walk in(to the store) that it could be in their living room.”
The Window Guy & Co. is open Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and by appointment. For information, call 937-492-9958.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.