By Dana Delgado
If Tina Holbein, owner of Tina’s Cottage in Liberty Hill, had it her way, the world would have a neon glow and likely have another shape.
That’s just her nature.
With a boundless imagination and a palette of bold colors, Mrs. Holbein has crafted out an artistic niche in a world of re-creations by giving things a different spin and making them unique collectibles.
For the last six years Tina’s Cottage has been not only her studio but a mecca for creative, mostly one-of-a-kind personal and home pieces as well as being the go-to store and headquarters for Liberty Hill Panther bling merchandise including paw pendants, bracelets and earrings, purses and totes, as well as All Sports Booster Club and PTO shirts.
“It’s a nice feeling when people walk in for the first time and say, ‘Oh look at how cute this is’ or ‘your prices are so good. I’ll be back soon and bring a friend,’” she said.
There’s nothing mundane about the enterprising and creative or personal spirit of Mrs. Holbein. Color her bright turquoise, electric lime or bold anything and throw-in flourishes of this and that and add some strokes of sheer enjoyment and even accent zebra stripes and you get a good snapshot of Tina Holbein.
Her store is filled with her artistic pieces including repurposed furniture to fun signs, and imaginative jewelry pieces at most affordable prices.
Homecoming mums, novel Christmas trees in daring colors, and striking wreaths have been major artistic triumphs, but there are also creative t-shirts, cups, mugs and crosses.
While Mrs. Holbein has mastered a variety of creative arts, she does have her preferences.
“My first love has always been interior design,” she said. “Second would be party planning.”
In addition, Tina’s Cottage has custom gift baskets, helium balloons, and special order flowers. She also carries the work of many of the area’s most imaginative artisans and is delighted to carry local merchandise on consignment.
“Nothing expresses your emotions like the perfect gift,” she said. “Each day comes bearing its gifts.”
Time permitting, Mrs. Holbein would like to do party planning including weddings, club or team dances and sweet sixteen celebrations.
“I love the people here in Liberty Hill,” she said. “It’s been a special time and my sons, Dylan and Trevor, got to be on both state football championship teams here. That was such a fun ride. We had just moved to Liberty Hill and everyone was so kind and welcoming. The spirit was contagious. I bleed purple.”
Mrs. Holbein moved to Liberty Hill with her family about nine years ago from the city of Freer in south Texas where they had lived for 20 years. While in Freer, she managed the Chamber of Commerce where she coordinated an annual three-day Rattlesnake Round-up Festival that attracted thousands to its concerts, booths and carnival.
“It was a great feeling to know we had all come together to pull off a huge and successful three-day party that had a side benefit of a real economic boom for the city,” Mrs. Holbein said.
She had also been active in the Freer Little League organization, assisted with the school’s booster clubs and was involved in an automobile dealership that she and her husband owned. So endeared for her efforts in Freer, Mrs. Holbein was honored as “Citizen of the Year.”
As the only child of sorts with two older half-siblings, her early years in Waco were pretty “ordinary.” Ordinary, unless you take into account her bright yellow bedroom with fashionable orange and yellow shag carpeting and an orange fur bedspread to boot. It was the 1970s after all, but it was also a sign of things to come.
Her mother, Billie Sumpter, now 83, was a nurse then but had a major influence on her daughter.
“My mother was first and foremost,” Mrs. Holbein said. “She gave me the love of crafting and design. As a child I used to make candles which I think started me on my love of crafting. But my mother has helped me through some health and personal problems that I’m not sure I would have made it through. She has sacrificed more for me than I deserve. I would not be the person I am today without her.”
While Mrs. Holbein has become an accomplished artist, she has been a master at cultivating lasting relationships, and friendships that have encouraged and supported her. One junior high school friend, Laurie Bowen, would be among those special friendships that has lasted a lifetime.
“We would watch out for each other,” she recalls. “We stayed close and just clicked.”
The two were roommates while attending McLennan Community College in Waco and not surprising, belonged to the same sorority. Even after she left for the then-North Texas State University to get her bachelor’s degree in psychology, the two remained close. They were maids of honor in each other’s wedding and today, decades later, nothing has changed with the relationship.
“In my spare time, I can’t think of anything better than hanging out with Laurie at her home in Georgetown,” she said. “She has always loved and supported me through everything.”
Her friendship with Ms. Bowen was one of several that would enrich her life. Shannon Jesmer from Austin, who was a classmate of Tina’s in high school, has remained a loyal friend showing her how to be independent and to take care of her health. Her mother-in-law, Mary Holbein, taught her to love beautiful things.
Delfina Alaniz of Freer “pushed me” and had great “faith” said Mrs. Holbein. “Delfina has been a rock for me when times were good and bad. She has helped me see that God has a plan.”
Another valued friend who helped with Tina’s Cottage from the beginning is Janice Cantwell, who was handy with power tools and was a crafty woodworker.
“I call her my pusher,” Tina said. “She helps me get things done. Without her, homecoming mums would not happen. She has shown me how to work hard and stick with it.”
Connie Maples of Liberty Hill has been another invaluable friend who has also been a tremendous helper with the business.
“Connie is the latest of my pushers,” Mrs. Holbein said. “As I have been going through some rough times, she has helped me out at Tina’s Cottage with her time and energy and forced me to look ahead.”
She could not overlook her tuxedo cat, CC (cottage cat), in naming those that have helped her in her journey.
“She (aka Soft Kitty) used to live at my shop,” she said. “She’s helped me through some rough times.”
So appreciative of her friends as well as her customers, Mrs. Holbein says she has always tried to reciprocate the friendship and loyalty by helping others out including organizations in need of a special item for a drawing or as a door prize.
“Our goal is to provide great products at reasonable prices in order to keep business at home,” she said. “Keep our community unique. Where we shop, where we eat and have fun — all of it makes our community home. Our one-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of the distinctive character of this place.”
Tina’s Cottage is located at 13000-B State Hwy 29 in Liberty Hill.