In the last five years, Thursby has faced cancer, loss, and a flood, but she’s finally ready to start the latest chapter in her life: reopening her store, Red Shoes, in Stadium Blvd.’s Lamp Post Plaza.
A lifelong artist, she opened the first Red Shoes on Ashley St. in 2004 as a place to sell local artwork (both her own and others’) and unusual gifts. In October, her offerings included jack-o’-lantern pillows she created from recycled sweaters, a vintage picnic basket with utensils and plates included, patterned tea towels, and a “Week of Poor Choices” weekly planner.
“I hate the word ‘whimsical,'” she laughs. “I can’t stand that word. A lot of people describe me as that, and it drives me bonkers. I like to say that I’m fun and playful.” Her own artwork features colorful pigeon-like birds with large almond-shaped eyes, available on canvas paintings and as throw pillows.
Though she is vibrant and cheerful, sitting among the vintage rustic furniture in her new south-side store, Thursby admits the last few years have been a struggle for her. “It’s just been all these trials and tribulations,” she says.
The trials started in 2014, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thursby had spent the prior ten years gaining a dedicated group of customers while maintaining her art career, but she had to close the store during her treatment.
In 2017, finally cancer free and ready to pick up where she left off, Thursby reopened the store–but just a few months later, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She closed again to provide support and then deal with logistics after her mother passed away the next year.
Thursby reopened again last fall, for what she hoped was the final time. But then a pipe burst in the Ashley St. house. “I wasn’t there, so we didn’t know how long it had been running,” she says. “Thankfully, it didn’t come out into my retail space. It just basically stayed in my studio and then soaked into the basement, so there wasn’t a tremendous amount of damage [to the inventory].” But the structure of the house was damaged, and, when maintenance workers ripped up the floors, they found black mold. “They had to instantly seal up everything and put up these big industrial fans,” says Thursby.
She happened to see the “for lease” sign in the window of the former Vosenna cosmetics store near Trader Joe’s on E. Stadium. “I just made a call on a whim, and now here I am!” she says, gesturing around the store.
The simple space, with a wood-laminate floor and large windows facing the plaza, suits Thursby’s penchant for interior design. Artfully arranged painted wooden shelves and tables display everything from handcrafted pot holders to canvas bags with an ironic “butcher’s diagram” of a cube of tofu.
A large birdcage (housing a live parakeet, a former pet of Thursby’s son) sits in one corner, and a children’s section featuring soft stuffed animals and warm blankets occupies another.
Thursby is excited at the prospect of being more visible to potential customers than she was at the Ashley house, which could have easily been mistaken for a residence by passersby, and her dedicated customers are excited for the free parking. “I really am a lucky person, even though it seems like I’ve been unlucky,” she says. “I think this whole situation is going to work out well.”
Red Shoes, 2386 E. Stadium Blvd. (734) 358-0150. Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. redshoeshomegoods.com