Location: St. Joseph, Mich.
Owner: Kellye Wilson (since October 2018)
Square footage: 5,000 sq. ft.
Rent or Own: Rent
Perennial Accents, which was launched in a barn in 1995 as a family-owned business growing perennial plants, making dried wreaths and selling cookware, got a turnaround when former Whirlpool executive Kellye Wilson bought the business last October.
She moved the retailer into a new, larger location at 220 State St. in this resort town, about a click southwest across the water from Chicago, and drastically changed the product mix. Seven staffers help with the work, “from unloading packages to sweeping,” says Wilson, who notes during an interview that she is multi-tasking by cleaning the pantry.
While keeping the home, kitchen and garden theme of the original owners, Wilson upgraded and expanded the product assortment. Out went the dried wreaths and in came a focus on a more elegant home and outdoor living experience with an expanded range of categories.
“Everything to make home entertaining easier,” Wilson says. “We cater to a wide group of customers. Whether you are starting out in your first apartment or living in a beautiful home along the lake.”
While she stays away from formal china, “we are not the place for your place settings,” the store stocks a full range of barware. “We have every kind of muddler, mint julep strainer and an assortment of cocktail ware for both indoors and outdoors,” she says. Is drinking popular in St. Joe’s? “We have a need up here,” she answers. “Long winters.”
Add to that the popularity of the town as a tourist and second home destination—it is ranked number 5 as one of the top places to retire. Wilson estimates 75 percent of her shoppers are either visiting as tourists or enjoying their weekend homes. The town also helps by offering public activities year-round. “We don’t shut down in the winter,” she says.
Wilson adds to the fun by offering culinary classes, with chefs demonstrating a range of cooking techniques as guests watch while sitting at an elegant custom-made kitchen island. They get to eat a meal and start the class off with a mocktail. Classes sell out quickly and are promoted both at the register with flyers and on the store’s Facebook page.
“We do a good job presenting and merchandising beautiful things,” says Wilson, who first learned to merchandise while a buyer at Macy’s. “We don’t offer formal design advice, but we sell to many designers and coach people with their choices.”
With a wide assortment of products, what are the best sellers? “We have a great selection of Lodge Cookware,” says Wilson, who notes that she is from the south and Tennessee-based Lodge is a personal favorite. “I can teach you how to cook with it and use it as a weapon.” GreenPan™ cookware is also a top seller.
“Right now, my number one seller is the Gurgle Pot, the adorable fish-shaped pitcher that gurgles when you pour. I’ve sold about 500 of them this summer,” she says.
Another top item is Found Dough Bowls, 100-year-old reclaimed bowls made food safe. “They are a beautiful statement piece for your kitchen.”
There is a lot going on, but as Wilson notes, in housewares stores “selection is important. Stock lots of great things for home, outdoor living and kitchen. Things that make your home fabulous.”