by Lauren Chamberlain
From Conesus Lake to Otisco Lake, the Finger Lakes Region holds a special place in many hearts – including that of Jeffrey Wells. The Naples resident and entrepreneur was so impacted by the area’s grandeur, he wanted to create something to justly represent it.
Wells designed an image of the 11 Finger Lakes encapsulated within a green heart – known as the Green Heart of the Finger Lakes. He stated his goal in creating the masterpiece was “to communicate the love for our gorgeous region and to promote the feeling of preservation of the nature that surrounds us.”
Before Wells was an entrepreneur, he served his country in the U.S. Army. He enlisted at the young age of 17 in the summer of 1977 and was deployed to Mainz, Germany in 1979. It was in Germany that he met his late wife, Claudia and where they raised their two daughters, Jenny and Denise. Wells was honorably discharged in 1986 and chose to continue to live in Germany afterward.
When his time with the military was over, Wells wanted to dig deeper into his family tree and German heritage. Using his grandmother’s stories and memoirs, he was able to piece together his family tree starting with his great-grandfather, Tuisco Greiner, who initially immigrated to Naples around 1860. Greiner was a direct descendant of Hans Greiner, Wells’ eighth great-grandfather, a famous glass master and the co-founder of Lauscha, Germany.
The creation of the original Green Heart of the Finger Lakes came after Wells discovered his ancestral roots in Lauscha within the Thuringian Forest. This forest happens to be known as the Green Heart of Germany – Grünes Herz Deutschlands. Thus, his inspiration was born.
With the help of Jenny and Denise, Wells created the Green Heart of the Finger Lakes. They pulled inspiration from a map of the region where one can see that the major highways navigating around the lakes make an almost perfect outline of a heart. They used it to market his family’s store, The Olde Country Store and More – 1849 that carries all of his Green Heart of the Finger Lakes products. Their store opened on July 4, 2015 in North Cohocton. In order to pay homage to his ancestry, the store includes a German Corner which showcases German goods and Christmas ornaments imported from Lauscha.
Currently, the retail business is fully controlled by Jenny and Denise, leaving Wells free to spend his time, as he describes, “dreaming, designing, promoting, ordering, packing, delivering everything Green Heart of the Finger Lakes.” Currently, nearly 40 stores carry Green Heart of the Finger Lakes products.
Wells stated that the most profound takeaway he took from this experience was becoming a successful business owner and salesman. Even though, as he says, he had “absolutely no training or experience in the field,” when he started. “My hope was to get a sticker on as many cars as possible,” Wells said. “Knowing how popular the FLX stickers were, we felt sure that ours could be at least as popular.”
Not only did Wells and his family start to get customers thanks to the Green Heart of the Finger Lakes, they started seeing excitement for the design itself. “We were ecstatic the first time a customer walked in and told us that they saw our sticker on a car out on I-390,” Wells said. “They searched it on the internet, found our store and turned around to get a sticker for their car.”
Wells remembers one of his favorite encounters that really made him see his impact. He was visiting Brew & Brats at Arbor Hill while wearing one of the t-shirts when a couple walked in. They noticed Wells’ shirt and began talking to him. It turned out the woman had recently bought one of the shirts. “My partner offered the fact that I was the creator of the Green Heart. The woman talking with us then sincerely proclaimed that if she would have worn hers that day, she would have asked me to sign it for her,” Wells shared.
While there are already nearly 20 product categories available from stickers and glassware to clothing and more, Wells is always looking for new ways to display the Green Heart of the Finger Lakes. However, he is determined to keep everything local. “We are proud to have 100 percent of our products made or finished in the United States, with a growing number of products being made right here in the Finger Lakes Region,” Wells stated.
When inquired about what we could look forward to, he shared that he has recently added a combo keyring and bottle opener. He is also working with a woodworker from Victor to produce a wooden ornament dedicated to next year’s Total Solar Eclipse in the Finger Lakes Region.
Even after nearly eight years being the sole wholesaler, marketer and on-the-road salesman Wells is excited to see the Green Heart of the Finger Lakes pop up in his travels. “I am still thrilled and taken back with a profound sense of satisfaction every time a car passes by with a sticker or magnet on it,” he said. “Or when someone posts in Facebook that they are enjoying a Finger Lakes wine or beer from one of our glasses. I’m especially touched whenever I visit a potentially new customer’s shop to show them our wholesale offering, and they tell me that they’re seeing this everywhere!”