Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
December 11, 2023 | Katelyn Keenehan

From ‘survival-mode’ to a thriving renovation business

Ashley Garner founded Nest five years ago, with a passion for refreshing, restoring, and renovating home items in Knoxville.

It can be a fun experience to hunt for a quality piece at the flea market, yard or garage sales. We’ve all heard the saying ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.’ Ashley Garner, a local business owner in Knoxville, takes the concept a step further. She takes one person’s trash and turns it into every person’s treasure.

“I have experienced a crazy amount of growth, and really organic growth,” Garner said.

Her business “Nest” is committed to renovating old furniture, antiques, and china into useable, desirable household décor.

Each week, Garner scavenges online groups and markets to find pieces to rehab. Sometimes, she gets the old piece of furniture for free, and other times she may pay a small price. From there, she cleans, sands, pants, and makes it look like new.

“The first thing that I ever refinished was my great grandmother’s bench. I redid it about eight years ago,” she said. That was the moment she caught the bug for rehabbing.

Since then, her interest has expanded beyond the typical furniture refinish. She’s picked up an interest in fine glass, china, and brass. Now, she sells her pieces on Etsy and other in-person markets.

“When I do markets, I bring a lot of mid-century brass. Also, I bring my candles now. They’re really popular,” Garner said. “When I shop estate sales, there are many of these beautiful vessels. But, we don’t use the same things that our grandparents used. For example, we don’t get wedding China anymore. But, this stuff is gorgeous and people sell it for like 25 cents.”

Garner had the idea to start buying up quality brass and glass containers to begin rehabbing them as candle vessels. The idea took off and is some of her most popular work.

“I think people are drawn to my candles because of the uniqueness of the vessels. They’re so beautiful and can truly elevate your home,” she said.

She said turning this idea into a reality took a little partnership with Anjannette and Torrie Dreier at 865 Candle. Garner shared how she finds the vessels, and 865 Candle pours the wax and wick inside. Garner said she met them through The Maker City.

“The Maker City is a great connector. I think they do a really good job of if you’re just maker curious – how do you take that next step and become maybe a hobby maker? If you’re a hobby maker – How do you take that next step and become a full-time maker? If you’re a full-time maker –  How do you scale what you have?” she said.

Getting started as a full-time maker

Garner said those Maker City resources were helpful. Today, she’s successful at getting orders regularly on Etsy, but it wasn’t always that way.

“It was so hard. I am very good at figuring things out and being in a survival mode. And that’s kind of what the first couple years were just work, work, work, work work,” Garner said.

It was five years ago when her hustle really started. Garner shared that she fled a bad marriage, and was determined to make it on her own and support her three children. At the time, her children were one, six and eight, which made working a conventional job difficult.

“I couldn’t go get a job because at the time my kids were so young. I had a bachelor’s degree, but there’s no job that I could get as a single mom with three kids and afford childcare,” Garner said.

While she was getting Nest off the ground, Garner said she was cleaning houses, walking dogs, refinishing kitchen cabinets, and doing side jobs just to make ends meet.

Today, her hustle has paid off. The business is thriving, and growing in new, unexpected ways. Garner is an active member of The Maker City Community, and has dozens of items on sale through the holiday season.

If you are looking for gifts from local makers, be sure to check out the Maker City Holiday Gift Guide.

You can also check out items from Nest on Etsy, Instagram, and at


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