In 2000, Joyce Hawley and her two daughters opened Eclectic Garden, a store that sold quirky, colorful decor and hand-painted furniture.
Each woman had a job: Chrissy Pressley handled the book-keeping, Liz Ennis took care of stocking and buying for the store, and their mother painted furniture and dealt with the myriad details involved in running a business. They served loyal customers in the Triangle, many of whose names and backgrounds they knew by heart.
Now the business – and the family dynamics – are changing as the store focuses less on retail sales and more on interior design.
Last year, the family sold the property at 1932 Wake Forest Road in Raleigh where their store had been located for 12 years so Hawley, 71, could retire. It was a big decision for Hawley, a former singer and restaurant owner.
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Twice Hawley had beaten cancer and kept the business going during her health struggles. Though the store was owned by all three women, Hawley was the “heart of the business.”
After closing temporarily last summer, the store reopened in October with a new name, Eclectic Furniture and Design, in a smaller space at 3029 Stonybrook Drive, less than 5 miles from the old location.
Though Pressley still manages the store’s social media accounts, she is less involved with the business than she used to be, and Ennis has taken over the bulk of the business operations. Hawley stops in occasionally to visit with customers.
“It’s changed the dynamic among the three of us and rekindled our roles as a family,” Ennis said. “It’s different when you’re working together almost every day. It’s also changed us. My mom has had to learn to slow down, my sister is taking a new direction and I’m figuring out how to juggle a lot of balls in the air. It’s been overwhelming, but challenging in a good way.”
Ennis, who had been doing interior design work for several years, decided to expand the store’s interior design consulting services and downsize the showroom space. The store’s new name reflects the change.
Ennis saw the change as an opportunity to meet a need she said is missing from the community. While some other home decor stores offer interior design consulting, customers know they can expect bright colors and wild patterns from Eclectic Furniture and Design. The store also works to revive older furniture rather than tossing it.
“I try to push people outside of their comfort zone,” Ennis said. “Color is something everyone wants but isn’t quite sure how to get. Mixing styles and color to create a unique space is something I can offer.”
The store will continue to sell furniture, art and decorative items and offer furniture-painting services, but the hours have been reduced. The store is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and several weekends every month or by appointment.
While the changes have helped the three women spend more time with their families and develop “a better work-life balance,” it’s been tough for some customers, Ennis said. Some were accustomed to stopping in to browse the space on Wake Forest Road.
Many customers continued supporting the business during the recession, a time when small businesses struggled with declining sales and the growth of online retail giants like Amazon. Ennis credits the success of the business to personable, “non-automated” customer service and niche offerings like hand-painted furniture that can be hard to find online.
“We were creative enough to develop a business with products that people really can’t get online,” Ennis said. “It’s not only about the furniture and the items, it’s about an atmosphere.”
She hopes the store’s clients will continue to stick with the business through this next season.
“It’s been a mixed bag of changes,” Ennis said. “But that’s what growth is about.”
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; firstname.lastname@example.org