Antiques shop offers old home atmosphere Victorian touch in Mount Airy SOUTHWEST -- Mount Airy * Woodbine * Taylorsville * Winfield

October 09, 1992|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

The customer wandered in, presumably to browse, and ambled through the Victorian house looking at the furnishings.

"How much is the sled bed upstairs?" she asked Mary Spanberger, manager of the Great American Country Furniture Store.

"It's $625," Ms. Spanberger replied. "Isn't that a great price?"

"Oh, I'll take it," the woman said, adding, "I'm usually not an impulsive buyer."

Another successful sale in the 5-year-old shop, by treating a customer the way she'd like to be treated, Ms. Spanberger said.

"That's the way things always are around here," she said. "People see things in here and fall in love with them. We have a lot of happy people."

Located in a 100-year-old home at the edge of Mount Airy, the Great American Country Furniture Store carries furnishings and accessories in country and Victorian styles.

Stuffed dolls and candles sit around the shelves, while several towns' worth of the Cat's Meow line of tiny replica buildings grace the cases in the back room.

Furniture from about 60 vendors is also available in the store, several lines local and handmade, and each is American-made and individually chosen by Ms. Spanberger.

"I'm not a catalog buyer," she said. "I have to see the product and know that it is up to the standards I expect for the shop.

"If I wouldn't want it in my own home, I wouldn't put it in the shop."

Customers are encouraged to wander at a leisurely pace through the two-floor, seven-room home and make decisions without pressure, Ms. Spanberger said.

"I remember being a young bride looking for things and having a salesperson jump on me when I walked in the door," she said. "I didn't like that pressure, so I want a person in here to have the space they need to make the decisions only they can make.

"People know when they come in here they aren't going to get a high-pressure sell."

And children are always welcome in this retail home, Ms. Spanberger said.

"People would think this isn't a place to take a child, but it isn't the case," she said. "In the entire time of the store, we have only had one thing broken by a child."

For one thing, Ms. Spanberger said she's comfortable with children and they're at ease with her, allowing themselves to be entertained while their parents look for that perfect piece of furniture.

For another, the manager always keeps jars of cookies and candy on hand for her younger visitors.

"All the kids know I have them," she said with a laugh.

The site, formerly a rest stop for travelers in the 1800s, was chosen because the owners wanted to display the furniture in a home-like atmosphere, said Ms. Spanberger.

"The setting of a home seemed to appeal to the owners and it bubbled from there," she said. "We wanted to address the needs of the community with quality furniture and keep it as affordable as possible."

A partner in the business, Ms. Spanberger now manages the store and makes all the day-to-day decisions, she said.

While the area may have been hit hard by the recession, the Great American Country Furniture Store has kept a fairly consistent clientele, Ms. Spanberger said.

"We always would like more customers, but I can't say that we've been dramatically affected," she said.

"In fact, we've seen a definite increase the last couple of months."

All due to the easy-going atmosphere and wide price range in the store, Ms. Spanberger said.

"We've got a variety of things to choose from," she said.

"Someone can come in and make a large purchase, like a new bedroom set, or just one little item to place on the living room wall to cheer them up."

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