By Jessica Isaacs
After three decades of success as a family owned and operated retail store, one of Boone’s longest standing local businesses — Shannon’s Curtain, Bed and Bath — has reached an impressive milestone. Now, the owners are reflecting on the store’s history and inviting you to celebrate its 30th anniversary with a special sale.
IN THE BEGINNING
Driven by her interest in all things home décor, Shannon Russing left a career in education in the early 1980s to pursue something she’d always wanted to do.
“I was a high school English teacher and I always loved going to home stores. You have to remember, at this point in time, the only place to buy home textiles in town was Belk,” she said. “I was looking for something to do and my husband and I talked about it. We decided to investigate and that’s what we did.”
Ready for a new adventure, the Russings did their research and got started on their new business. With her family by her side and the advice of an expert in tow, Shannon got started on turning her dream into a reality.
“We hired a consultant who had a similar store on the coast and she helped me find suppliers and sales reps and that kind of thing,” Shannon said. “So, that’s how we started. It was pretty intense, and we had a steep learning curve, but we grew pretty quickly.”
The Russings purchased the A-frame building on Blowing Rock Road in 1985. Soon after, Shannon’s Curtain Bed and Bath was open for business.
The storefront first occupied just two rooms in the building when Shannon’s opened for business. After three decades of growing and changing, however, the store now offers 5,000 square feet of retail space.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
The Russings’ daughter, Sarah, spent her adolescent years helping her parents with the business. She now serves as its merchandise manager and has played an integral role in its success.
“Sarah, at the time, was a sophomore in high school. She helped us open up here and worked here through high school,” Shannon said. “Then she got her degree in interior design from Appalachian State — that’s really important because she is a big part of what we buy.”
Sarah and Shannon agreed that running a business with your family isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely right for them.
“It’s amazing how well we get along. We have worked together for years and we’ve never had a cross word,” Shannon said. “We’ve never really had a fight and I don’t think many families can say that.”
The Russings attribute much of their success to the hardworking staff that helps keep the place going. Together with the mother-daughter-duo, the four-person team includes Janice Tester, who’s been with the store for more than 20 years, and Dionne Lanphear, who’s been there for nearly a decade.
Between the four of them, the staff boasts a combined total of more than 100 years of experience in the retail home furnishings industry.
“We are all very versatile. Everybody knows how to do every job here — you have to be when you have a small staff,” Shannon said. “Everybody knows how to run the register, do stock, do displays — you’ve just got to pitch in and do what needs to be done.”
CHANGING WITH THE TIMES
Like any business owner that operates for many years, the Russing family has had to remain versatile in order to adapt to changing trends and continue growing.
“We took a big hit, as every retail store in America did, in 2008 with the downturn in the economy. The real estate market still has not come back to what it was, and I don’t know that it will,” Shannon said. “We used to have so many people coming in here furnishing second homes. We have some of that now, but nothing like we used to.”
The store has also had to account for waves of change in the textile industry, including a shift in the last two decades from locally sourced American-made products to merchandise made overseas.
“It’s much more difficult now because most of our merchandise is no longer made in America. When I first started out we had a dozen or more domestic mills,” Shannon said. “It was very easy for us to get merchandise in those days, but not anymore. The big box stores are the ones that can import in mass quantities, so we have to be very careful about what we buy and who we buy it from.”
The Russings have also learned to adapt to changes in taste and what’s popular in home décor.
“A lot of folks are looking for what’s trendy instead of shopping for quality,” Shannon said. “It used to be that people looked for value in that things would last for a long time.”
In order to keep the business changing with the times and appeal to different customer bases, Shannon’s has continued to add to its vast array of products.
“We’ve tried to reinvent ourselves by branching out into different lines of merchandise,” Shannon said. “We have a lot of accessories in addition to the traditional bed linens, table linens and window treatments.”
THE STORE TODAY
Although surviving in a struggling economy has been a challenging task, the Russings have remained committed to offering the best in home furnishings at a great value to their clientele.
“Our customers still, and this has been true all the way along, are people who are looking for a quality product at a good price,” Shannon said.
Today, the store still offers a wall-to-wall variety of unique, high quality items to meet every last one of your home textile needs. It has become known for its expansive display of products that fit right in to “the lodge look” that most people work to achieve in their mountain homes.
“Our customers may have a very formal home in Charlotte or a coastal home in Florida, but they want their home in the mountains to have that rustic look like a mountain lodge,” Shannon said. “Because of that, we know what they’re looking for and we have the merchandise.”
All-cotton quilts, which are not as heavy as traditional comforter sets and are often pet-friendly, and duvet covers are among the shop’s most popular items.
“We sell a lot of cotton quilts, and part of that is the fact that people’s animals sleep with them — that has changed our business as much as anything. They’re looking for things that are light and easy to take care of,” Shannon said. “They like duvet covers because they’re versatile and they’re easy to wash.”
To meet the needs of its customers, which range from homeowners to interior designers, Shannon’s has in recent years expanded its variety of window treatments and boasts an impressive inventory of styles that fit almost any budget.
THE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE
Over the years, the store has remained an anchor in the community and continues to draw local shoppers and visitors to the area.
“We do have a lot of people that think of us almost as a destination. They’ll come from out of town and just look for hours,” Sarah said. “It takes awhile to see it all because there are so many nooks and crannies. We try to move things around so that the next time you come in you’ll see things you didn’t see before and you’ll find things that other people don’t necessarily have.”
Shannon noted that touring the store’s wide variety of merchandise creates a unique and sought-after shopping experience.
“We have a lot of girls trips, too. They’ll come to the mountains for a week and spend an afternoon shopping with us,” Shannon said. “They’ll spend hours here and just have a great time. This place is like a maze and you can meander in and out to find unique and interesting stuff.”
Shannon wears many hats in the store, but says the best part of her job is sharing her passion for home décor and getting people excited about their ideas.
“One of the things I enjoy is working with the customers who come in and find a quilt they just love, and they’ll decorate their whole room around that quilt. They’ll come back and tell us about it and show us pictures,” she said. “It’s just really thrilling to find just little things that make that room — whether it’s a throw pillow or a little lamp that kind of ties everything together.”
If you need to decorate your new home or you’re looking to freshen up your place, even if you’re not sure where to start, stop by the store and let Shannon help you turn your house into a home.
“Just wonder around and look for a fabric you love, because the fabric is what starts the whole thing,” Shannon said. “It’s finding the pattern with the right colors and all that and we can then work around it. Even if we don’t use that fabric again, at least we know the colors that speak to you.”
The Russings invite you to join the celebration of the store’s 30th anniversary. Stop by soon and mention “1985” at checkout to receive 30 percent off one item in the store.
Shannon’s Curtain Bed and Beth is located at 1950 Blowing Rock Road in Boone across from the Holiday Inn Express. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call 828-264-8321 or visit the store on Facebook for more information.