Dana McGrath was “ready for something more.” With the youngest of her four children preparing to leave for college and with more than a decade’s experience working as an interior designer and buyer at Merkel Furniture down the street, McGrath–a West Virginia native who moved to the Chelsea area in 1995 with her late husband–says “it was the right time” to launch her own business. This past November, McGrath opened La Maison, her furniture and home decor gallery in Village Shoppe’s former location on Main.
After a whirlwind two-month renovation of the 1,200-square-foot space, she calls the end result “a great example of what I’m capable of doing.” The sunlight-filled rooms feature furniture pieces and accessories in the casual, contemporary Industrial style. “It’s a Restoration Hardware look–with heavier pieces and textures,” explains McGrath. “I think it really complements Merkel’s rather than competing with it. Now there are two places to shop [for furnishings] downtown.”
“A lot of men seem to really like it here because there are heavier pieces,” she says as she points out a round black end table. It retails for about $300 and has a functional large crank that moves the tabletop up and down. She says wooden barstools, wall art, lamps, and end tables have all been popular.
McGrath is also the only supplier in the area of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and accessories. The English company’s paint is popular for producing a “vintage restyled” look and texture in thirty-two colors, from “Duck Egg Blue” to “Paris Grey.” McGrath, a self-described Annie Sloan fanatic who says painting “brings out my creative side,” offers how-to Sloan workshops. A few examples of her work are for sale, including a refinished bookcase.
Village Shoppe customers will still find a couple of items that were sold at the former store, including a large selection of Cherry Republic products and Mole Hollow candles. In the future, she’d like to add artwork and accessories by local artisans. “I want to evolve and keep it fresh … The Village Shoppe was awesome and it was here for eighteen years–I hope I’m here until I retire.”
La Maison, 104 N. Main, 562-2750, Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Sun. lamaisonchelsea.com
After ten years tucked away in a South Main strip mall, Wags to Wiskers pet supplies owners Dena Gilmore and Nona Iott built their own 6,500-square-foot store in a higher-profile location across the street.
“We were running out of space, and rents were increasing,” explains Iott about the decision to buy Bull Dog Car Wash’s old space. They broke ground last March and opened in November. Iott says there’s already a marked increase in traffic “just because we’re on the main road.”
Wags to Wiskers, which Gilmore started in Saline and which also has an Ann Arbor location, offers a variety of brands, but specializes in natural and holistic foods for dogs, cats, birds, fish, small animals, and reptiles. “We have employees who are well versed in nutrition, and we offer personalized service,” says Iott. “We try to bring in products that people request.”
Gilmore and Iott–both Manchester residents–have used the extra space to add food and toy lines as well as an on-site Creative Pet Grooming location. The store hosts animal rescue events weekly, and Iott says they plan to add more community events in the future.
Wags to Wiskers, 1171 S. Main, 475-7000, Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Chelsea lost some of its warm fuzziness at the end of last year with the closing of the Chelsea Teddy Bear Company. Parent company Midwest College Marketing Group made the decision to relocate its retail and production operations from the Clocktower Complex to Missouri. About twenty customer service employees remain in Chelsea.
“Unfortunately, corporate decisions are often driven by the bottom line, not necessarily the community,” says Chelsea Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Bob Pierce, who says company founders Bob and Kara Turner have been “amazing supporters” of Chelsea over the years. A sign taped to the front door of the vacant storefront thanks customers and explains “the Chelsea Teddy Bear Company brand will continue to exist and be sold to college store customers and United States military base stores.”