Sharon Garfield has a sixth sense for location, even when she is not actually on the lookout for a new one. An interior designer and the owner of Traditions Interiors & Accessories, in Charlotte, NC — a better-end furniture and accessories store and interior design shop recently named Charlotte Magazine’s Best of the Best for 2020 — is currently ensconced in just under 8,000 square feet in the Park Road Shopping Center.
It all began when the designer relocated to Charlotte in 1985 from Laurens, SC, where she occasionally “babysat” Carolina Furniture & Interiors, which belonged to her sister, Linda Dickens. As it happens, Garfield’s new next-door neighbor in Charlotte turned out to be an ASID member, and it was not long before they became friends, often decorating prestigious show houses (think Symphony Guild of Charlotte) together. One guess as to where the two designers turned whenever they needed to borrow furniture for their high-profile showhouse projects.
Garfield decided to open a space at Interiors Marketplace in Atherton Mill. “We were successful there from the first month,” she remembers, “because you put stuff in, but you didn’t have to stay and man the store.” Eventually, the partners rented a tiny space of their own “between two hairdressers. We used it for inventory and office space but quickly found that being positioned between two salons was actually a perfect spot for a home furnishings store,” she says.
Finding the Happy Place
Still, Garfield had still not quite found her happy place. “Every year, for I guess seven years, I would call Park Road Shopping Center and ask if they had any vacancies,” she relates. “I would say, ‘Is there any chance that you’re ever going to open up a spot in the front of the shopping center that I could have?’ One year, the woman who answered the phone simply said to me, ‘You know what? If you are ever going to come over here, you are going to be starting in the back.’” To which she replied: “OK, I’ll take what you give me.”
The 1,200-square-foot space Garfield was offered was in the back of the shopping center. Among her neighboring tenants were “a huge dance studio, a shoe repair shop, a dentist and a hairdresser, and I was in the middle of all of it. And there was another building beside it housing a salon where ladies with a set appointment each week went for massages, nails and facials.”
The salon was a magnet for female shoppers who naturally gravitated to the lovely home furnishings shop next door. The location was so successful that Garfield eventually bought out her partner and took on an intern from the Art Institute of Charlotte. Then, after seven years of proving herself in the back court, she got the call she had been waiting for: One of the storefronts at the front of the shopping center was available. There was just one problem. At 5,550 square feet, it was almost five times the size of her existing space. However, she took the leap and opened in the much larger space in 2007, right before the crash.
Survival of the Fittest
When the bottom fell out of the economy, Garfield’s small enterprise had eight employees. “I didn’t want to let them go,” she recounts. “We made pillows and we did a lot of crafting. Burlap was a trend in 2008 and we would applique words like ‘Love’ on these shabby chic burlap pillows. We added pocketbooks, candles and gifts. We started selling jewelry, and we still sell jewelry. It has remained a big draw for us. We tried baby items and a wedding registry. I had no choice but to make a success of it, and by the grace of God, the store started making money.” When an adjacent store closed, Garfield expanded her square footage again. Today, Traditions Interiors is a must-see destination for upscale home furnishings lines like Lee, Wesley Hall, Sherrill, Sarreid, Century, Bungalow 5, John Richard, Interlude, Aidan Gray, Woodbridge, Wildwood, Chelsea House, Regina Andrew and more.
The can-do spirit Garfield exhibited during the Recession has been serving her well this spring. “When North Carolina issued stay-in-place orders, we shut down, but our floor supervisor Dave Hunt continued coming in to field calls. We did virtual designs and our designers remained busy. One woman wanted to do her house, so I met her at the store, both masked. She bought several rooms of furniture. Our design business has supported us.”
The constant remains her older sister. “I’ve depended on her for her knowledge of the business from the start,” Garfield says. “She forged the way for me, and we followed in her footsteps.”