It’s hard to believe that 25 years ago just about this time I was collecting merchandise in my garage in preparation to taking possession of my first shop location in Chester on May 1st, 1990. It has been a wonderful 25 years and I have hundreds of photos taken of the shop over the years. So take a walk with me down M.E.M.O.R.Y. L.A.N.E…
The first home of The Whistling Elk was at 9 Main Street, Chester. I hung a lace ceiling in this shop…it had a really ugly ceiling and the lace really improved it but I still had to cut holes in the lace for the air conditioning vent… It was a small shop just three rooms in 800 square feet. In those early days I remember that we sold a huge amount of silk flowers and vines.
Sadly, I don’t have a lot of pictures of the 9 Main Street Shop – this was before cell phone cameras…gosh I didn’t even have a computer then!! This location had two entire walls of windows…no where to hang anything…hmmm that must have been tough for me!
Here’s a few more shots of The Whistling Elk at 9 Main Street.
Below is a shot taken at a Showhouse that we were invited to participate in – early 90’s. We painted Adirondack chairs for the pool area which was surrounded by a beautiful garden of rhododedrons…the chairs were painted a light blue to reflect the blue of the pool and had beautiful purple rhododendrons painted across the backs. It was a pretty effect!
Two years after I opened The Whistling Elk 44 Main Street became available and I was able to secure that wonderful location. 44 Main Street was about double the size of the 9 Main Street shop. This move entailed moving about 60 feet from the end of Main Street closer to the center of town.
I remember selling an iron canopy bed because someone drove by as we were walking the headboard down the street to the new shop. We were selling a tremendous number of beautiful hand wrought iron beds at the time. The iron beds were probably among the first larger pieces of furniture sold at The Whistling Elk.
Here’s a shot of the front of the 44 Main Street shop. On this particular evening in 2009 we were hosting our Charity Evening.
I remained at 44 Main Street for 21 years – it changed sizes a couple of times over that period going from 1800 to 3000 square feet. During that time we sold oh-so-many furniture lines along with accessories, artwork and mirrors and lighting. Many lines we still sell today. Sadly, some important vendors were lost due to the recession over the last 6 years. We are always adding new lines though so things are never dull at The Whistling Elk!
We have participated in many showhouses over the years…here’s a Showhouse photo taken sometime in the 90’s at a showhouse in Chester. The room was a garden room..I think it was called “Holiday in Paradise”…as I recall the event was in December.
I used a mop and a bucket of watered down green paint to swab the walls of this room…I was going for a watered silk look. The walls had cracks all over and I didn’t want to repair them so I used a feather to enhance and make them look like cracked marble. This was my second showhouse but it was the first time I did a whole room.
I regret that I have no pictures of the beautiful showhouse that I did with Patty Fastook a few years later called Brookwood…in Montclair. It was a spectacular room but somehow I lost the disk that housed the photos…*sigh*
Here are some shots of some of the beautiful merchandise that flowed through the shop over the last 25 years….
and by contrast here is the bedroom at 50 Main Street Today!
Below…our custom cabinetry model….a beautiful bookcase over cabinets with slider to hide the TV…we moved this piece from 44 Main Street and had it re-built into the 50 Main Street shop.
We had a lot of room at the 44 Main Street location so we had up to 9 sofas on the shop floor all the time…this is a beautiful Hancock and Moore sofa…and it looks beautiful in front the model of our custom cabinetry. We still carry Hancock and Moore and Caracole sofas today although it is definitely harder to display them! We are still creating beautiful custom bookcases and furniture for our customers today also.
Ah! and PARIS…who could forget our fabulous shopping trip to Paris and Les Puces de St. Ouen….we brought back so many beautiful pieces for the shop!
I still dream about all the beautiful items we had to leave behind at the Paris Flea Markets because there just wasn’t a container large enough (or a wallet for that matter) to bring them all back to the shop…
Then a little more than 2 years ago we moved again! This time the move was about 20 feet into the building right next to our old location at 44 Main Street.
I feel very blessed that I still see customers today at the 50 Main Street location who started shopping The Whistling Elk at the 9 Main Street store 25 years ago!!
Wow, that amazes me and I am so appreciative for the support of the community and also the whole state…and beyond! Customers come from all over New Jersey as well as from New York, Pennsylvania and as far as California & Europe! It even seems when people move they don’t forget you – they stop by and shop when they are back visiting…even when they have left the country!
Here are some shots of the 50 Main Street Location of The Whistling Elk…and I am not moving again!
You will still find lots and lots of amazing home accessories at the 50 Main Street shop!
We still carry sofas….the Caracole line is one of our favorites with great quality and fair prices – although we don’t always have room on the shop floor for one. This was one that we did squeeze in!
Over the years many merchandise lines have come and gone. There are some some products that we have carried for a very long time. Like Kennebunk Weavers (our famous throw blankets) – 25 years! and Mark Roberts Fairies – 20 years and Lampe Berger – 17 years! We still love them today!
Our Paint Couture!™ line of furniture and cabinet paints and glazes is new for us…and have been a wonderful addition to The Whistling Elk along with our Paint Workshops. Painted furniture though is something that has always graced the shop floor at The Whistling Elk…we were painting back in the 90’s when we opened!
I am also humbled by the 2007 Award the shop received – “one of 50 Stellar Stores – Nationwide from Home Accents Today Magazine. That was an honor I never saw coming but it was sweet. Here’s the link 50 Stellar Stores Nationwide in 2007 – Here’s a little bit about that from the press release at the time…
“CHESTER SHOP NAMED ONE OF TOP 50 RETAIL STORES
Chester, New Jersey – The Whistling Elk has been named one of Home Accents Today’s “50 Retail Stars” by editors of the premier trade magazine for the home accents industry. The Retail Stars List recognizes enterprising home accents retailers who are experiencing success in their respective markets with innovative strategies and creative merchandising while maintaining a strong presence in their communities.”
Very cool for The Whistling Elk!! One of my prouder moments!!
One thing is for sure…you will always find casual elegance at The Whistling Elk – It is interesting to me that in all this time I have never really changed my focus which was to provide “…distinctively different home furnishings and accessories…with an elegant European flair.”
Expect More of the Same Going Forward
Thank You So Much for 25 Wonderful Years!
Mirrors make such beautiful design statements…now take this one for example….the top is just breathtaking.
And the finish is wonderful because its a champagne metallic….a little gold…a little silver.. and just the tiniest bit of black.
You can put it almost anywhere (that it will fit – it is tall at 63″) and it will blend into almost any color scheme. It will add an architectural element to your room. Of course the “old world elegance” makes it look like you carried it back from les puces de saint-ouen. Mmmm let’s go back!
There little ovals are perfect for powder rooms….at 31″ L x 25″ w but they will make for a pretty collage too mixed in with some great artwork.
This last mirror is one I have blogged about before. It is so elegant and versatile. You can lean this 73″high mirror or hang it. You can hang it vertical or horizontal – design your room around it! Simple.Beautiful.Elegant. Perfect!
Several new mirrors have arrived at The Whistling Elk – The mirror pictured is one of my favorites and I set it up behind a little cabinet I was planning on painting. Sitting at my desk I can look out and appreciate the mirror – the chandelier reflected in it and now the little cabinet that I just finished painting. Love this little vignette!
The cabinet started out just a mousy brown and it is actually a new piece (not old) – I bought the piece with the specific intention to paint it. I painted a faded blue on the inside glazed it with champagne and stenciled some small Fleur de Lis randomly on the back panel. (sorry didn’t photograph that)
I embossed the stencil so it stands out nicely and the zinc and brilliant white that I used on the piece make the stencil design shimmer.
Silver Star is dabbed on the hinges and on the teardrop door handles. I took almost all the glaze off the top as I wanted it to look slightly different than the body of the piece.
It’s a lovely little French cabinet now!
Our next paint workshop will be March 20th…that is also the first day of Spring!
I can hardly wait. Sign up now and learn how to paint your own Masterpiece.
and I did get snow/iced in yesterday! Sigh…but I was prepared! I painted almost all day – a little snow wasn’t going to keep me down!
So previously I had painted two coats of Paint Couture on my signs…then I stenciled a background design on some of them and distressed it so it was faint. I used Paint Couture’s Embossing medium over top and stenciled on different Paris configurations.
Later after blowdrying the Embossing Medium with my hairdryer I used Glaze Couture!™ or Brilliant White to glaze over the entire sign. I am not finished with these yet though…I may apply a second glaze to some of them (like verde over the blue sign) and I know I am going to use the Paint Couture Gilding Wax to enhance them…when I do I will post the finished product!
Just looking at this stack of vintage books makes me smile!
I love to use groupings like this when decorating. They look great on a table or in a bookcase although this stack happens to be sitting on a mantel.
This line of vintage, decorated books is new to The Whistling Elk – a few strategically placed will start a conversation and add a little inspiration to your interior design!
The bedroom portion of the Paris Apartment room is almost complete. I finished the window treatments last night.
The cornice box is made of cardboard and painted with a white texture paint. I love the light feeling of this room!
These pastel vases are so pretty!
I would love to put them on my vanity.
A friend was incredulous that i was starting a new business in these turbulent times. It got me thinking….and reminiscing. When i started my first business i really had absolutely no idea what i was getting into (i didnt actually know that at the time…it hit me later when i realized how lucky i was to still be in business). What i do know is that i did follow my heart….and i had a lot of luck!
It took a year of planning and a lot of courage to actually quit my job and head out into the unknown land of no paycheck…and it took an act of fate. That act of fate was a simple thing – a budget revision…but just one too many. I remember marching into the boss’ office and giving two weeks notice. It was a good decision.
At the time it was like opening a door…
A beautiful door to open…
That was 22 years ago and it occurs to me now that i have never looked back. The first business took a full year to plan – this new one took shape almost instantaneously. Oh, my! As to the economic climate….i look at this new business as a way forward, like hedging a bet. The current business will be the incubator but then they will work in conjunction with each other quite nicely.
Just got the new biz card…its so exciting!
So I am wrapped up in details as i posted recently but i know that in my mind they are already worked out.
But, i am ready to walk thru another beautiful door….
This whole process is an amazing gift. To be immersed in something new is a truly wonderful and rejuvenating experience.
I think the left side of my brain must look like this inside right now…it’s neatly organized into compartments – Everything looks lovely! But inside the right side…all my plans, ideas, the logistics of the actions required, the supplies etc are all stuffed to overflowing inside those neat little compartments…it must be a mess of chaos!
I am bursting at the seams with excitement about all the things that have to happen to get this new store open – the trick is to keep things on a neat schedule….i cant get ahead of myself. Chaos is good right?
I think that sometimes adversity sharpens our creativity. Surprisingly this long, cold winter has actually been an inspiration for me. Maybe my present surroundings had something to do with it too….here’s a few rooms I love and that may have inspired me to take the steps I have planned…
This is a our “tea party” room in my shop – The Whistling Elk. I love the soft colors, the flowers and the pretty little tufted settee. Here’ s a few more of my favorites.
This fall I will be opening a new little shop…The long, cold winter was a kind of gift that provided me with the time to plan all the details for this vintage style furnishings shop.
It’s all on paper…so now the fun begins…selecting the actual colors, fabrics and trims, furniture and little trinkets to make it a reality. Yesterday I spent the day in New York selecting fabrics and trims! It’s all very exciting and makes the winter just a memory…