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  • Susan Dickenson

Retail Profiles: The Picket Fence, Ketchum, Idaho; Dominique's House, Friday Harbor, Wash.; The Miller House, Stephens City, Va.

'Homey' retailers emphasize the joy of nesting

The Picket Fence

the art of nesting

Lynn Simpson, owner of The Picket Fence, says her store and staff assists customers in the “art of nesting.”

The Picket Fence is an upscale home decor, linen and gift boutique located in one of the oldest houses in Ketchum, Idaho, about one mile south of the Sun Valley ski resort.

Originally opened in 1978 as a bedding shop, The Picket Fence's clientele includes locals and vacationers as well as fans that discover the site via the store's engaging posts on its blog, Twitter and Facebook pages.

Current owner Lynn Simpson describes her job as a labor of love. “It is hard to believe you are standing in a retail store. From the layout and floor displays, to the people who work here, The Picket Fence feels like home. We are truly the store that helps the individual in the 'art of nesting.'”

Describe your store: We have 6,000 square feet of retail space with accents on home furnishings, lighting and tabletop accessories such as linens, napkins/rings, dishes and glassware.

elegant display


What makes you different? The store originally opened because of a need in this area for fine linens and bath accessories. We've broadened our inventory to include accessories, gifts and bath and body care, and have introduced new children's and fine lingerie sections. We have loyal customers, both local and in other states, that think of us when updating their homes. The Picket Fence offers items that are not only traditional and unique, but also high quality, timeless items — with fabulous customer service.

How's business? Our local economy and our loyal customers have really supported the store. With our Web site, our popularity has grown and reached individuals who cannot come into the store or who have been in the store and continue to shop from other states.

How do you reach your customers? Mailings, Web site, blogs, Facebook, special events and philanthropic giving, advertising, repeat customers.

What is the most enjoyable part of your job? The customers! We have such a loyal following. The staff encourages our customers to give us feedback on whether or not an item should be carried in the store, and what we should continue to carry. Our store and products change often to give new perspectives on how to accessorize the home.

showcases traditional elegance in a historic dwelling
Although it showcases traditional elegance in a historic dwelling, The Picket Fence is using social media and modern technology to maximize its reach, grow its brand and expand its budtomer base.

Home accent categories: Accent furniture, decorative accessories, lamps, wall decor, decorative pillows, throws, permanent botanicals, tabletop, glassware, silverware, linens, garden accessories, home fragrance.

Trade shows/markets you shop: Atlanta, New York, Dallas

Key vendors: Simon Pearce, John Derian, Schleeh Morph Pads, Frances Palmer Pottery, Bulgar Dishes, Baccarat, Kim Sybert, Sabre, Diane James, Jan Barboglio, Sferra, Cashmere Wrappings, Rani Arabella, Yves Delorme, Matouk, Nancy Koltes, Ogallala Comfort Co., Ankasa, Anichini, Peacock Alley, Agraria, K. Hall, Yu-Be, Mor, Antica Farmicista, Cote Bastide

Are you on Facebook or Twitter? Yes, both

Web site:

Dominique's House

Design at Dominque's
Dominique Soracco incorporates 30 years of design and staging experience in the merchandising layouts of her Washington store, Dominiques's House.

Dominique's House in downtown Friday Harbor, Wash., is where San Juan Islanders come to “add new life” to their homes with rustic-yet-classic furniture styles, whimsical lamps and accessories, and elegant linens and tableware.

Owner Dominique Soracco opened her shop in 2004, bringing with her close to three decades of residential and commercial design and staging experience.

Soracco said her average customer is “on vacation, a boater, second-home owners who are here for eight months out of the year, upper middle to high-income bracket. They are looking for furnishings that are different, things they don't see on the mainland.”

Home accents account for about 75% of sales in the 1,700-sq.-ft. shop, which Soracco fills with ever-changing displays to showcase new inventory and keep things as fresh as possible. Over the past year, she's had success with more frequent promotions, and by maintaining closer contact with clients, “listening to their needs and fulfilling them.”

Layers of color and texture
Soracco layers with color, texture and an ever-changing mix of products to generate interest, encourage multiple sales and keep things fresh.

Describe your store: The store's layout sends you through so that you circle the space without repeating what you are looking at. Then you can go to what interested you in the same flow again. Mood setters include light rhythm and blues and nostalgic music, lighting and unique pieces of furniture — very eclectic. Everything is layered with color and texture and items that complement each other for multiple sales.

What makes you different? Our unique way of display and use of color and furniture choices that are more of a “collected” look.

How's business? The past year has been a challenge but our clients are treated well and are very loyal. My Christmas was great!

What's hot? I think comfort, eclectic or collected is where it's at. And, for the Northwest, lots of color.

How do you reach your customers? Advertising, mailings, e-mail, special events and community outreach.

What is the most enjoyable part of your job? Making my clients smile when I am done with their homes.

Annual sales: Less than $1 million

Home accent categories: Accent furniture, lamps, wall decor, decorative pillows, throws, permanent botanicals, tabletop, garden accessories, home fragrance, decorative accessories

Trade shows/markets you shop: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Atlanta and local shows in Seattle

Key vendors: Company C, Palecek, Vietri, Napa Home and Garden, Uttermost, Zodax, Root Candles, Arteriors Home, Bailey Street, Classic Home, Furniture Classics, Global Views, Zodax, Sarreid, Home Source International

Are you on Facebook or Twitter? I just signed up on Facebook

Web site:

The Miller House

Ouside display
Owner Brenda Miller incorporates lots of seasonal colors, textures and themes in her displays and numerous in-store events.

The Miller House, a furniture and home decor retailer in rural Virginia, is housed in the former childhood home of Brenda Miller, who co-owns the business with her husband Kevin. The one-story, three-bedroom house measures about 2,200 square feet, and the operation includes a 3,000-sq.-ft. warehouse.

Open since July of 2000, about 35% of The Miller House's sales are home accents. “The design of the house sets the stage for merchandise to be displayed in room settings,” Brenda Miller said. “Customers can really visualize how the furniture and accessories might look in their own home.”

Miller recently added interior design services, a move she says has been very profitable. “To many, we appear to be just a furniture store but we also offer lighting, prints, bedding, pillows, florals and seasonal decor. We could truly furnish your entire home down to the soap in the bathroom.”

Describe your store: I try to create vignettes and room arrangements that inspire our customers, incorporating seasonal colors and textures. I come back from tradeshows very excited and often move things around to re-create some of the displays.

residential layout
The "residential" layout  of The Miller House provides the perfect setting for customers to visualize how the merchandise will look in their own homes.

What makes you different? Every piece of furniture sold in the store is made in the U.S. and we often include the American flag in our advertisements. For every furniture purchase, we hand-write a personal thank-you card to the buyer. I also offer to create floral centerpieces or wreaths for customers using their own containers. It is not uncommon for me to do many things for customers on my own time. Quality customer service always places you ahead of the competition.

How's business? This past fall/Christmas was one of the best ever. Our regular hours are 9 to 5, Wednesday through Saturday, and 12 to 5 on Sundays. From Nov. 1 through Dec. 23, we are open seven days a week. Overall, our business this past year has been relatively good. During the recession, I've tried to come up with ways to draw more customers to the store. One of my better ideas was a fall decorating workshop; I limited the workshop to 15 but ended up with over 25 participants.

What's hot? Made in the USA. Also, customers are looking for specific items that are built to last. There's a market for home accents such as lamps, mirrors and pillows over larger ticket items. The small accents can really refresh a room without the high cost.

How do you reach your customers? We created a Preferred Customer Card for customers to sign up to receive special e-mail announcements, and we send out a “From the Cupboard” quarterly newsletter. We have a database of about 2,000 customers for bulk mailings and send out postcards about three times a year.

Special events with incentives and refreshments are another way we say “thanks” to our customers. Our Christmas open house draws hundreds of people including some from out of state. In January, we have a customer appreciation day with everything in the store marked 15% off. During our February Cherry Sale, any piece ordered in cherry is discounted and we serve chocolate-cherry dip and chocolate-covered cherries throughout the month. At our spring open house, we introduce some of the new products purchased in Atlanta. Every July, we hold an anniversary sale. Harvest Eve, with later hours, is the second Friday in September. In alternating years we have “Harvest Faire in the Valley” and invite artists to set up on the grounds.

What's the most enjoyable part of your job? I love to come to work every day. Being able to help customers make their dreams into reality is the best feeling in the world. We strive to help them make their house a home.

Annual sales: Less than $1 million

Home accent categories: Accent furniture, lighting, wall decor, bedding, pillows, florals and seasonal decor

Tradeshows/markets you shop: High Point, Atlanta and smaller shows in Pennsylvania

Key vendors: Chandler 4 Corners, Pine Cone Hill, Homart, C&F, European Soaps, Dressau, Picture Galleries, India Overseas, Charles Sadek, Hillhouse Naturals, Gat Creek, J.L. Treharn, Harden, Greene Brothers, Johnston Benchworks

Web site:

Are you on Facebook or Twitter? This year we created a Facebook page, but we don't have a blog — yet.

Other Home Furnishings Sites

Casual Living
Gifts and Decorative Accessories
Home Accents Today
Kids Today
Home & Textiles Today