When the Air Force recently made a switch to new uniforms, one Texas woman wasn’t content to let her old duds sit collecting dust in the closet — so she reworked them into a decorative wreath, a project that has since grown into a booming business.
Staff Sergeant Nicole Pompei, 29, tells PEOPLE that since launching Wreaths by Nicole in July, she’s fashioned some 200 wreaths out of old military uniforms for happy customers to put proudly on display.
“I started the business because the Air Force was switching over to new uniforms, and I wanted to find a cool way to memorialize my old ones,” she says. “Thanks to some help from my crafty mother, we came up with this design.”
Pompei — who is currently active duty in the Air Force and previously served in the Marines — hand-makes the wreaths in all different sizes and designs; some are patriotic, with stars and stripes, while others have festive holiday themes. She estimates that each wreath takes about four hours to make from start to finish.
Earlier this month, she even handcrafted a special wreath for a customer who sent in three uniforms from 1946.
“This was the second time I’ve received uniforms that were almost 80 years old,” Pompei wrote on Facebook. “I almost didn’t have the heart to cut them. I’m happy I did. Now they have a blended memento that they can hold with them for a lifetime.”
Pompei, who lives in San Antonio, says she never intended for her wreaths to become a business, but after she showed some of her friends her first design on Facebook, her inbox was flooded with requests from others who wanted one for themselves.
“The most rewarding part is hearing all of the stories of my customers and their family members,” she says. “I feel so honored that I can memorialize and honor their service. I have such respect for anybody who has served in the military.”
And as she told CBS affiliate KENS, that rewarding feeling often extends to the recipients of her custom wreaths.
“I often joke that my motto should be, ‘Wreaths by Nicole P’ – Making moms cry since July 2020,’” she told the outlet. “I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had customers tell them the recipient began crying from being so overwhelmed with their gift.”
She added: “Each wreath tells a story, and that’s my favorite part about it.”
For those who want to purchase a wreath of their own, visit Wreaths By Nicole on Facebook, or email nicolewreath[at]gmail.com.
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