When I was younger, if someone had told me that I would one day have four children in diapers at once, I would have laughed. But that is exactly what happened. As an only child growing up in the beautiful mountains of Grundy, Virginia, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, who taught me the value of family, nostalgia, and the “good mountain stock” of which we were made. Little did I know how much I would need their advice years later in having my own family. Grundy will always be my home, but my family moved to Bristol, where I graduated from Tennessee High School. I’m one of those people who wanted to stay in school as long as possible. After receiving an undergraduate & law degree from the College of William & Mary, and an MBA thrown in at some point, I still hadn’t quite found my niche. What I knew for sure was that I wanted to someday return to my roots in southwest Virginia. My first love was to do something creative, despite the types of degrees I had.
In the meantime, I practiced a little corporate law, built and operated a Bassett Furniture store, and oversaw The United Company Foundation. I’m lucky to have parents who told me I could do anything I set my mind to and who taught me to be confident. I wasn’t afraid to try things and wasn’t afraid to fail...and fail I did! It took years to finally figure out my “calling.” Questions like “what am I most passionate about?” and “what can I do best?” floated around in my head. In answering them, I decided to look back at the things I had enjoyed most over the years.
I’ve always loved making items and selling them. In 4th grade I created the Pine Cone Shop, where I sold crafts and painted pine cones to neighbors. From then on I was always trying to sell something.
I've always had gigantic yard sales. I had them every year at my grandmother's house and they became rather famous in our neighborhood. I pulled out all the stops for these events. I had a mailing list that I kept each year. I gathered items from several family members and had repeat customers who would call to see when I was having the next sale. People would show up two days in advance! I once sold a car, and a jet ski another time.
I officially had the sales bug at that point. After having a couple of moving sales with my mom, I started thinking about consigning! I decided to open a store. It was just going to be a part-time thing. I would see how it went, open 3 days a week until 3:00 p.m., no Saturdays, and it would all just be for fun. I knew I wanted to do both ladies' clothing and home furnishings so the name "House Dressing" seemed to work and be catchy!
We opened in April of 2017 in just 1,000 square feet, and got 75 consignors within the first month. We realized we had to expand if we wanted to carry furniture and reach our potential. After lots of advice from my business-savvy dad, we underwent a renovation project, and celebrated a grand reopening in November. We now have 6,000 square feet of selling space and 250 consignors. Now open 6 days a week, it’s not just a hobby anymore, although it’s the most fun job I’ve ever had. The store changes every day!
My vision for the store isn’t just about shopping. It’s about creating an experience for the customer. Recently we had 5 ladies hanging out on our “porch” after shopping, chatting and catching up. The moment perfectly captured what I had hoped for House Dressing: a place you’d want to be whether you’re purchasing or not. Don’t get me wrong, purchasing is the goal, but there are a lot of elements that go into making the customer happy and getting them to come back. From the music we play, to the lighting, to the feeling we give people when they walk in the door, it all combines to say we have something unique to offer.
We have an exciting event schedule at House Dressing, which started with our grand reopening in November when we hosted John & Sherry Petersik, New York Times best-selling authors of the blog Young House Love. Each month we host a “Consign, Design & Wine” event, which varies from workshops on fashion tips, to trunk shows, to “field trips” around the store illustrating how to use furniture pieces in various ways. In October, we will be hosting Eddie Ross, a design, decorating, and food editor, and the author of Modern Mix: Curating Personal Style with Chic & Accessible Finds.
My grandfather built mining machinery and that’s where I got my love of DIY. At House Dressing we accept items that might need some TLC, whether it’s a button, a little glue, or a coat of paint. Putting some elbow grease into a project gives a sense of pride and ownership. It’s all about creating a lived-in look where you can make memories with your family. I’ve learned that making your children front-and-center in your home is of utmost importance: hang their artwork, give them space to do crafts, let them ride their skateboard in the hallway. This simple act will fill your home with more love than any pricey piece of furniture can.
Both of my grandmothers spent time with me, telling stories about their families and showing me the pieces they had in their homes that meant something to them. They told me where they came from, their meaning, and what made them special. I’ve inherited many of those items and I display them proudly. I remember those stories and pass them along to my children. For example, I have two large balls of twine that belonged to my grandmother’s uncle. He was a butcher and every evening would tie his string together, eventually making a twine ball. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the story of the twine balls from my grandmother, each time soaking in more details. To me, they are works of art!
I think homes should be decorated with things we love. You’d be surprised what would happen if you just combine items you love, whether they match or not. The result is magic! Buy what you love and you will always find a place for it.
I know I’ve been greatly influenced by these Appalachian Mountains. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else and I’m proud to call them home.
Martha McGlothlin owns House Dressing and authors a blog, Martha + Jane.
www.shophousedressing.com * www.marthajane.net