A broom from the WV Broom Barn in Kirby always sweeps clean.
Years ago, Wanda Hott received a broom from her sister as a Christmas gift. She’d needed one—something sturdy and reliable—but this wasn’t just any broom. It was a Jim Shaffer creation. A West Virginia resident, like Hott, Shaffer is known for his many decades of fashioning impeccable brooms from straw and wood. Hott’s new broom would do a fine job sweeping up a mess, but more than that, the care and craft that had gone into the product were clear.
“I looked at it, and I remembered that my great-great-grandmother had handmade brooms at one time,” Hott says. “So I started learning on YouTube.”
With some video tutorials under her belt and a few educational visits with Shaffer himself, who was generous with his knowledge and has even sold her some of his machinery, Hott was ready to roll. She’d needed something to pass the time. Basket weaving and chair caning occupied her for a bit, but something about making this basic household item resonated with her in a big way. Now the owner of WV Broom Barn in Kirby, Hott uses her own two hands to create traditional brooms that make their way to barns and porches across the country.
Hott delivers not only your standard, time-tested corn brooms, but she also adds flair for customers who request it: a blue-and-gold-dyed piece for a West Virginia University fan or maybe a purple broom for a family that wants to match the decor in their living room. And her standards are high—if Hott is not happy with a broom, she has no problem tossing it and trying again. “I’ll tear them apart,” she says. “It does not bother me. We don’t try to zip through brooms—we want a good quality broom.” The quality control is evident. Hott even carefully utilizes a needle to tuck in loose strings so they don’t unravel, something she says many big manufacturers bypass but that she believes makes all the difference in durability.
Though Hott breaks out some specialized production machinery for large orders she receives for fundraisers or clubs, most of the brooms that customers can order at her shop or online are made with her own two hands—and those of her husband, Steve, who helps with the process. “It’s a project we can do together,” Hott says. Hott’s granddaughter started making brooms as a child, too, and now continues to enjoy it as she nears 18.
“She’s even more particular about the brooms than I am,” Hott says with a laugh. “But she does an awesome job, and I’m glad to teach her.”