On a rainy Saturday morning, a steady stream of people made a beeline for Prim Rose Primitives in downtown Centralia. The shop was holding its fourth annual Christmas Open House, where the holiday-themed crafts, accessories, and furnishings were on display throughout the space.
Judging by the activity around the cash register, many residents are already aware of Prim Rose Primitives’ unique handcrafted items, and wanted to grab some before they ran out of stock. A couple of enthusiastic shoppers arrived 15 minutes before the designated start time, to which the owners happily opened the doors to give them a head start.
The following Monday, co-owner Rella Harrington shares the results. “Our open house this weekend not only broke records in attendance, but we ended up selling nearly all our furniture and most of our retail inventory. I’m having to do a very frantic restock. We are very happy with the turnout and a little nervous at the same time.” The response to the open house was so positive that a second one has been planned for December 2nd and 3rd.
When it comes to store operations and management, Prim Rose Primitives is a family affair. Rella’s husband Brett designs the tables, hutches, and other pieces of furniture, and Rella refinishes the furniture and creates many of the crafts and decorations on the shelves. Patti Crump, Rella’s mother, helps out with sewing and embroidery, with an entire section devoted to her crafted pillows. Rella’s niece Daydree Fawley creates the decorative signs and assists Rella and Brett during the peak hours and seasons, including this year’s open house.
”We like the family feel of it,” says Rella. “Brett works with me every day, people know us. When you make and sell your own stuff, it makes a difference. It’s a different feeling.”
With 18 years of creating furniture and crafts under their belts, Rella and Brett came to Centralia in 2011, acquiring dealer space in the now-closed Abundance Vintage shop. “We started out in crafts, and then we started doing the refurbishing of hutches,” says Brett. Two years later, they decided to make the leap to full-on retail store, opening their doors in October 2013.
“In order to keep the store full, we had to start the retail part of it,” says Rella. “We like to make everything, and then we just got so busy that we couldn’t keep up.” Additional products were added to the inventory that that fit the sensibilities of Prim Rose Primitives’ furnishings and crafts with a creative twist. The results are a perfect combination of all family members’ artistic sensibilities. “We’ve had people come in and see a hutch and they want to buy it exactly how it’s displayed, with the signs and pillows still in the shelves,” says Brett.
“We sell a lot of dining tables and a lot of hutches,” says Rella. “A lot of the big furniture. We sell our dining tables the first day they come in, and people keep checking back and asking for more.”
Adds Patti, “Sometimes the pieces get sold online or on Facebook before we get them into the shop.”
Some of the more notable non-handcrafted products in stock are furniture paint and varnish – very convenient when customers ask how they can repaint their furniture to make it look similar to Rella and Brett’s eye-catching works. “Painted furniture is really big right now, and we help the do-it-yourselfers learn how to refurbish,” says Rella. Custom furniture orders are accepted, provided they are placed outside of the holiday season. “At the end of January, we start taking orders for a little bit of slow time. Last year we got booked out for more than a year.”
Prim Rose Primitives adapts their space and inventory to coincide with holidays and seasons, constantly updating the merchandise and enticing customers to return to the store, whether it be for a heart-shaped pillow for Valentine’s Day, or a stuffed witch ornament for Halloween. “Each holiday, we take the regular items out and whatever that holiday is, we do it big.”
“Once the holidays are over, the related crafts are gone, and the everyday stuff comes in,” says Brett. “We take a couple of weeks off between the holidays to flip the store and revitalize. A lot of times, once we flip the store, people come in and say ‘Oh, that’s a new hutch,’ when it’s actually been here for a while – we’ve just removed the holiday-themed items from its shelves and counter.”
As the demand for Prim Rose Primitives’ furniture and crafts continues to grow, there are no immediate plans to expand or add more employees. “We kind of treat our shop like a farmers’ market, because we’re only open three days a week – Thursday, Friday, and Saturday,” says Rella. “The rest of the days, we’re at home making our goods and getting everything ready and then we sell them for three days and continue on and do it again.”
This business model fits in well with the Centralia community, who champions quality products made by a family business. “We don’t cut corners or take any shortcuts, and I think people see that and appreciate that and keep coming back.”
Prim Rose Primitives is located at 109 S. Tower Ave. For store hours and event announcements, go to their Facebook page.