Search for table ends in a career

Woman owns successful furniture galleries

Harford Business

October 23, 2005|By KAREN NITKIN | KAREN NITKIN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For Nadia Peck, the inspiration for her furniture business came in the form of something she couldn't find - a glass-topped table.

Peck was looking for such a table in Harford County, with no luck. "That's where it started," Peck recalled, sitting behind her desk in the office of By Design, the business she started in 1994.

She decided that if she wanted a reasonably priced glass-topped table, surely other people wanted one, too. "In Harford County, it's very traditional," Peck said. "If it wasn't antique, nobody had it."

So Peck quit her job working for the county government and gambled on a 1,500-square-foot consignment store. Most of the furniture was practically new, having been used only in builder's models, but the prices were much lower than in retail stores. And the items had modern flair, Peck said.

Eleven years later, Peck has two locations next door to each other, a 14,000-square-foot store selling mostly consignment furniture, and a 16,000-square-foot store selling new, higher-end items - including glass-topped tables. Customers come from as far away as Virginia, New York and New Jersey, she said.

Though running her own business has been challenging, Peck said she has never lost sight of her goal: financial independence. "What I wanted was to have a big enough business to support me so that if anything gets thrown my way, I could handle it," she said. "I was a little bit afraid, but I always had my eyes on that goal."

Road to ownership

And Peck has had quite a lot thrown her way during her lifetime.

Her father was born in Siberia, Russia, her mother in Kiev, Ukraine. They both survived concentration camps during World War II and met after the war ended, Peck said. Peck was born in Belgium, and her family moved to the United States in 1956, when she was 8 years old. "Their whole dream was to come to America," Peck said of her parents.

Peck and her sister, Vera, could speak Russian, German and French, but one language they didn't know was English. Even when they learned the language, their heavy accents aroused suspicion. "I had rocks thrown at me because there was a cold war," Peck said.

First in New York, and then in New Jersey, Peck's parents, Daniel and Maria, struggled to make ends meet, always refusing government handouts, Peck said. Daniel Peck was a sanitation worker and carpenter, Maria worked as a seamstress. "I was very proud of my parents because they worked so hard," she said.

The family moved to Essex when Peck was a teen. After high school, Peck took a job with the federal government, then got married, moved to Harford County and had a son, Glen, now 31 and living in West Virginia.

Peck worked as a freelance makeup artist for Chanel, painting the faces of models at the now-defunct Hutzler's in Towson, she said. After she and her husband divorced, she took the county government job. Then she started By Design.

The week the store opened was about as life-changing as a week could be. "I quit my government job, I got married and my mother died the week I was opening the doors," Peck said. "She never saw it."

At first, Peck was the only one working in the store. Now she has 10 employees. "Slowly the business grew," she said. "The next thing I knew, I had to move."

Her next store was 5,500 square feet, she said. The one after that was 9,000 square feet. Now her two stores total 30,000 square feet. Peck attributes much of her success to her husband, Bob Peck, a commercial Realtor who provides motivation and support, she said.

Marcy Loane, marketing manager for Bob Ward Companies, one of the builders that provides furniture to By Design, said she has worked with Peck for eight years. "She's a wonderful person," Loane said. "Very professional.

"We started working with her when she was a very small store. She has grown tremendously over the years, and yet the service has never changed. ... You still get the same service as when she was still starting out and very eager."

As of now, Peck said, she has no plans to expand. "I think this is about it," she said. "But every year I say that, and every year I grow."

Customer service

The 14,0000-square-foot consignment gallery sells everything from colorful antique jewelry that might cost as little as $20 to sofas that are $800. She also sells new Ashley furniture.

The 16,000-square-foot new furniture store, which opened about two years ago, sells higher-end items, including china cabinets, entertainment centers, oriental rugs, dining room sets and artwork.

In both stores, customers can walk out with whatever furniture they buy - no six-week waits, as in some furniture stores. The rugs, a specialty of By Design, can be brought to a customer's home and unrolled to see whether they look right, Peck said.

On a recent weekday, Harford County resident Caroline Morris and her daughter, Susan Birchfield, browsed both stores, looking for dining room and office furniture for Morris. The women saw some things they liked, and planned to take some measurements before returning.

"I thought they had a nice selection," Birchfield said. "I think we'll be back."

By Design is located at 2220 Commerce Road, on the corner of Commerce and Jarrettsville Roads in Forest Hill. The hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. The phone number is 410-803-0795.

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