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After devastating illness, Beyond is on its way back!

December 19, 2012
The brightly colored bench where people could sit and visit on Main Street in Bonners Ferry in front of Beyond.
Theresa and Tom Stahl
When Beyond closed its doors in the fall of 2011, many people in Boundary County were sad to see it go, and none more so than owners Tom and Theresa Stahl, who were forced to make the agonizing decision for the sake of Theresa’s health.

Now, more than a year later, Theresa’s debilitating condition is slowly improving, and Beyond is back, via the Internet. Online you can find all the wonderfully eccentric and unique items once on display in the store, and more. There’s still time to have gifts delivered for Christmas … and the shipping is free!

“We are hoping to someday open another store in Bonners Ferry and live the adventure again,” Theresa said. “We miss our friends on Main Street.”

For Tom and Theresa, Beyond was a long-time dream come true. The high school sweethearts, both from central North Dakota, always talked of being able to work together, and Tom, a concrete finisher by trade, always talked of opening a store someday. But earning a living for their growing family took priority. In 1990, when their son, Jonathan, was just one year old, they left North Dakota for the construction boom in Las Vegas, where they lived the big city life for four years.

But not long after their daughter, Olivia, was born in 1993, they came to realize they didn’t want their children to grow up in the city. On a three week trip to explore options, they discovered North Idaho. Tom sent out resumes, and in 1994 accepted a position with a company in Sandpoint, and while looking for a new home they found Bonners Ferry, and here was exactly what they were looking for.

For 15 years, Tom made the commute to Sandpoint while Theresa ran a computer business from their home and home-schooled Jonathan and Olivia until high school, both graduating from Bonners Ferry High.

One of Theresa's paintings from her "Reverie" series.
Around 2006, Theresa joined the artists at the Groove Studio, where her colorful fantasy art, available online at, seemed to go over well, and with the encouragement of friends and fellow artists, she opened an eBay “store” in 2007, she said, that far exceeded her expectations.

“The feedback from customers made me realize I had a unique taste in art,” she said. “I did commissions, custom murals, signs, even furniture. I love color, fairies, dragons, mystical creatures and things that send your imagination soaring. I discovered I wasn’t the only one who felt this way!”

She and Tom began talking about the sort of wares they could offer to compliment her art.

“Our entire family are avid rock hounds and we’re intrigued by the metaphysical, spiritual and odd wonders of the world,” she said. “We love kites and games. Tom and I are unabashed ‘never grow up’ kind of people who think life is too serious and much too busy.”

Tom, after years in construction, was ready to give his back a rest; with Jonathan off to college in Denver and Olivia starting high school, Theresa had little reason to stay at home. After all the talk, they decided it was time to fulfill their dream.

They came up with a name for their store during a chat with a friend, who asked, “What kind of things do you want to sell?”

“Things beyond the ordinary,” they replied almost in unison. “Things that make you stop and say, ‘cool!’”

Theresa found their storefront near the north end of Main Street while walking around downtown Bonners Ferry, and when Tom got home that evening, she told him they’d found their store. He gave notice, and soon they were hard at work transforming a dull space into a vibrant showcase, painting the walls in crazy colors, building floor-to-ceiling shelves and display tables, installing the art gallery and wiring the lights.

Olivia Stahl preparing for one of many of the events at Beyond.
“It was a labor of love, an amazing family project,” Theresa said. “Jonny saw the store space when he was home from college for Christmas break, Olivia worked with us after school and on weekends.”

On March 17, 2008, they opened Beyond, stuffed to the ceiling with jewelry, kites, games, puzzles, statues, local artisan crafts, art, rocks, gemstones and more.

“If it was cool and intriguing, we had it,” Theresa said.

It didn’t take long for customers to take notice of the eclectic shop.

“We had people knocking at the door before we even opened,” Theresa said. “We became a fun place for kids, since our store was very hands on and had all sorts of toys, puzzles and games for ‘testing’ while Mom shopped. We did a thriving special order business, and I took great joy in playing detective and finding those special items our customers couldn’t find anywhere else. We had tourists from other states and countries who came back to visit us every year and would call before Christmas to order things over the phone. We started doing local events, book signings for local authors, Christmas Eve parties for kids, live music events by local musicians. Tom and I being able to work together at last, the kids helping weekends and holidays … it was the best job in the world.”

Jonathan Stahl and Sampson enjoying a North Idaho summer.
Sadly, Theresa’s slow descent into ill health, a “mystery” illness she began to notice in 2000, reached a point where the good days began to be outnumbered by the bad. While undergoing an ever-increasing array of tests and treatments, she was able to spend less and less time at the store. With medical bills mounting, Tom had to go back to working construction; Jonny moved back to Bonners Ferry and took over managing the store and he and Olivia ran the store themselves the final summer it was open while Mom and Dad spent time at the Environmental Health Clinic in Dallas, trying to find relief for her worsening condition, brought about by the very environment she lived and worked in.

“The official diagnosis is a yard long and full of words I can’t pronounce or spell,” she said. “It’s easier just to say I have environmental illness; multiple chemical sensitivities and electrical hypersensitivity.”

The smell of perfumes and dryer sheets, or exposure to certain chemicals common in everyday life; car exhaust, wood and cigarette smoke, the sprays and solutions most of us can’t imagine living without, would leave her physically ill; sitting at a computer, being around fluorescent lights or a cell phone would bring on palpitations and debilitating headaches. As her immune system grew weaker, the symptoms grew worse.

Doctors were unable to help; even the famed Mayo Clinic could give no answers.

“This illness isn’t yet widely recognized in the U.S., though it is becoming increasingly obvious that our modern technology and way of life doesn’t sit well with everyone,” she said. “There is a term for people like me, ‘canaries,’ like the canaries sent into the mines to see if the air was safe. We’re the first wave of people getting sick from modern civilization. It may take a generation before we all see what we’re doing to ourselves and our planet … much like cigarette smoking used to be considered cool and the thing to do. Then people started dying from lung cancer, and we learned.”

She was fortunate, she said, to find the Environmental Health Clinic in Dallas while searching for help on-line, founded by a doctor who once suffered environmental illness (EI) himself. She spent five weeks at the clinic, lived in near isolation in a specially modified unit, the power to the room she stayed in turned off, high-tech air purifiers running non-stop. She and Tom missed Olivia’s high school graduation because she was too sick to return home. They discovered that she was now “sensitive” to nearly everything around her. The family dogs, wi-fi, most of the food she normally ate, common soaps and detergents, even fabrics. Her body was in constant fight or flight, trying to protect her from everything her immune system now considered dangerous.

When she finally felt well enough to come home, having lost more than 25 pounds, she and Tom had to leave the home they’d lived in for 18 years because they were unable to adapt the town environment to suit her needs. They now share an isolated cabin they’re renting from a dear friend; no carpeting, no paint, no cell reception, none of those things most of us take for granted. Her diet is strictly controlled, the water she drinks has to be filtered. She continues to work with her physicians and nutritionists in Dallas, her local doctor an intermediary, keeping her antigen injection therapy going and monitoring her progress.

She is improving; after a year and a half of nearly total isolation, she was recently able to pet her dogs again; late last month she was able to go to the library for a few minutes to check out her own movies. It was the first time she’d been in public since her condition peaked.

While her major symptoms appeared late, her doctors believe she may have been born with EI; as a farm girl in North Dakota, both she and her mother were exposed to agricultural pesticides and herbicides.

“While in Dallas, I met doctors, firemen, soldiers, airline attendants … people from all over the world who had amazingly similar stories and the same odd symptoms, most able to be traced back to chemical exposure” she said. “As sick as I was, I couldn’t help but still be relieved to find out I was not the only one! Emotionally, this illness has been both devastating, as everything I thought I was; business woman, artist, gardener, dog lover, home owner, was stripped away, and enlightening in a way I can’t even describe. It’s all about love and family … my family has been through hell with me.”

She still misses pizza, lasagna and other spicy foods, and while she can now tolerate more foods, she realizes that many of the things she used to enjoy are gone forever. She still has her art, though she can no longer use oils or solvents.

She also retains her love for the customers … the friends … she made during the time Beyond was open, many of whom still stay in touch … and who still say they wish they could find another such store.

She and Tom were setting up a Beyond website before the store closed, and when it did close, they kept all of the inventory. Making it available on-line, she said, was a natural progression.

Friend and fellow artist Jeff Hughart built their site,, teaching them at each step. Jonny, now living in Bonners Ferry, has taken over as computer guru. Tom built himself a light box and taught himself photography, Theresa writes the whimsical descriptions while Olivia, her boyfriend Mark, and Theresa’s Mom have all pitched in inputting text. After more than a year of work, the site went on-line last summer.

A Fairy and her Dragon, just one of a myriad of cool and unique items you'll find on-line at Beyond.
Once again Beyond is a family’s labor of love, a place where you’ll find intriguing objects beyond the ordinary.

The fun, the funky, the beautiful and the fantastic in an every-changing array will restore the wonder and imagination of your inner child, and delight your family and friends.

At the same time, you’ll be entertained; like the store, everything on the website is imbued with a magical and quirky humor, making the site a fun place to visit and just browse.

Those who'd like to learn more about EI are encouraged to read a feature published in the New York Times Sunday Review September 17, 2011, “Everything Makes Them Sick.” Planet Thrive is a website dedicated to surviving and thriving with EI and a great place for information on the latest research and treatment options.

To learn more about the Environmental Health Center – Dallas, visit
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