By Steve Sears
Owner Barbara Clark Collins and her Chester-located home furnishing and design shop, The Whistling Elk, are celebrating a 30th anniversary in a special way this year, and being a three-decade business is not the only reason. The Whistling Elk was recently named one of Home Accents Today’s 2020 Retail Stars.
Collins, who was also nominated in 2007, says, “It makes me very, very proud. I love my store, I work very, very hard, and my customers love my store, and it brings happiness to people who come in here. That means a lot to me.”
The Whistling Elk, which was founded in 1990, is a home furnishing store, and Collins also does interior design. “What I like to think,” says Collins, “is that it makes people happy to come in my store because it’s absolutely beautiful – and they enjoy it, it makes them feel good. I help them put their home together, so they have the same feeling. So, I kind of feel like I bring a lot of happiness to people.”
The Home Accents Today Retail Stars list recognizes independent retailers, including furniture stores, home accessories boutique stores, and interior design showrooms, and those that merchandise creatively, are a positive presence in their local community, and stand out from their competitors. The Retail Stars list is sponsored by AmericasMart Atlanta and Las Vegas Market, and it is published yearly in Home Accents Today’s May issue.
Collins reflects on the past 30 years. “The economy has gone up and down over the years. In 1990 when I started, it was down and then it went up, and then Y2K came along and that was a crazy year, but that was actually my best year ever. The economy kind of went down during the last administration, and now it is up again, and I think it is going to come back like a raging fire. If yesterday (the first day back opening the store to customers since the pandemic began, a day which she coins “phenomenal”) was any indication, it is already back. I saw so much business yesterday.”
Home Accents Today’s digital & managing editor, Thomas Lester, and research analysts compiled the 2020 Retail Stars list. “While retail faces severe challenges due to the Coronavirus crisis, we believe these stores are among those that will step up and up with safe and creative ways to revitalize their business as shutdown restrictions gradually lift,” says Lester. “This honor recognizes their skills, hard work and dedication, and should serve as a reminder to us all to support local businesses.” The list of winners is available at www.homeaccentstoday.com.
“I love Chester,” says Collins. “I’ve been here for 30 years and it’s a great little town. It is relaxing to come to work here every day; it is just a wonderful place to do business. I think that’s really part of the whole package. What they say is ‘Location, location, location!’ I am so glad and blessed to be here.”
The Whistling Elk is located at 50 Main Street in Chester.