Collector transforms space for 'unique' business
by Clay Neely / email@example.com
'There is nothing like this in Newnan,' said Simply Unique Finds owner Beth Murty. 'Once people know about it, they're crazy about it.'
Murty moved to Coweta in 2003 after living in Indiana, Chicago and Charlotte. She worked as the general manager of operations for a large picture framing company for some time and had the business training. Murty always considered herself to be a 'trash-to-treasure' kind of person.
'I had my own booth in Woodbury at High Cotton [antique mall]. Between all the treasures I had accumulated and my own personal business experience, I just figured 'I'm not getting any younger' and decided now was the time to make it happen,' said Murty.
Murty and her business assistant, Amy Charboneau, spent their summer renovating the 6,000-squarefoot renovated warehouse that many Newnan residents may remember as the old Olsonite building, or in the 1950s and '60s as Royal Molded Products - a manufacturer of toilet seats - on First Avenue.
'We really didn't anticipate going the whole nine yards in terms of the size of the building, but it was available and the price was reasonable so we went with it,' Murty said.
For two months, Murty and Charboneau were in the building, working 10 to 12 hours a day, braving the Georgia summer heat.
'We cleaned and cleaned and cleaned,' said Charboneau. 'I think we spent three straight days riding on an industrial floor cleaning machine to get all the grease off the floor before staining,' said Murty.
One of the most substantial renovations of the project was to enclose the entire facility by erecting a brand new wall. As it was, the showroom was adjacent to CrossFit 55, a gym that occasionally used the empty room for cardio training.
Once the final wall was erected between the gymnasium and the showroom, all the walls were then pressure washed and painted to lighten up the area dramatically.
'I don't even want to get into the toilet situation,' said Charboneau. She produced some pictures of the 'before' shots and no explanation was needed in regards to the work they had cut out for them. Rubber gloves, masks and industrial strength cleaning products were dispensed in order to attack the nightmare that was the old restroom.
'And then that's when we had all of our inventory delivered from our garages,' said Murty. 'That's when we had to sort out every single item we had accumulated, and that's when we began to build our display units, which are based on a pallet design.' The current inventory had been sitting in the garages of their respective homes for months.
'Because of the way we buy our products, if we find a good deal we have to buy it immediately or forget it,' said Murty.
'Our husbands graciously allowed us to keep our finds in the garage,' laughed Charboneau.
However, along the way, Murty and Charboneau found themselves facing some Herculean tasks. For one, the flooded loading dock, filled with stagnant water.
'Thankfully, the Lord has sent us Willie Graham,' said Murty.
Willie was introduced to Murty by Janet Cantrell from Encore Decor. 'I was over there picking up some paperwork and he was working with her (Cantrell). I noted to her what a nice person he was. The next thing I know, he walks into our place and announces his arrival. Everyone just kind of jumped out of their seat in surprise! Now he's over at our place helping us out and he's been incredible,' said Murty.
'If there is something that is beyond our realm of ability, Willie never fails to volunteer to help and he is truly a blessing - a rare find. He's honest, respectful, and embodies all the qualities in a gentleman that you just don't find that often these days,' said Murty.
There were a few hurdles with the city as well that needed to be addressed before the store could finally open.
'Our building was zoned 'light industrial,' which means no retail. So the exception we pursued was to have it zoned as a flea market even though it's not. However, all the criteria listed for a flea market we fit,' said Murty.
'I think our neighbors were a little worried about the 'flea market' status at first,' chuckled Charboneau.
Things really came down to the wire as their official business license was issued on Sept. 24 at 9:30 a.m. They opened their doors to the public just half an hour later.
The initial reaction to Simply Unique Designs has proven to be positive for Murty and Charboneau. 'We had a great first weekend, a great response. We find that Facebook has been the best method of getting our word out,' said Murty.
Murty makes it clear that their inventory is not 'trash to treasure' but brand new items which were all acquired through exclusive arrangements with designer showrooms at wholesale prices.
'The showroom provides an ideal combination of location and space in addition to the perfect setting for turning design ideas into reality,' said Murty.
'We love working with people, sharing what we know and helping them save money because that's us. We created a store that we would want to frequent,' said Charboneau.
Murty also notes that their inventory is also quite varied with styles ranging from contemporary, traditional to trendy and eclectic.
This, she hopes, will help inspire decorators and planners to use their facility as a one-stop-shopping experience instead of going from one boutique store to the next.
To Murty, decorating is like taking a blank canvas and creating a painting. The wall color, the flooring, the furniture and fixtures all come together to create a work of art.
Simply Unique Finds is currently hosting three vendors and accepting more, and Murty expresses a desire to grow with the vendors.
'I have also selected a few local artists and vendors to add to our inventory in order to create a diverse and unique collection of merchandise,' said Murty.
When asked about their goals for the future, Murty responded: 'I suppose the big one would probably air conditioning. It's really not that bad in the summertime but there are some days when you wish you had one.'
Although they are open every fourth weekend of the month they are also open by appointment during the week.
Said Murty, 'We're just really excited to be here and hope everyone feels the same that shops here. It's a dream come true for me and I think we have endless possibilities in Newnan.'
PLEASE NOTE: Due to a last minute project being filmed near Simply Unique Finds location, please follow the detour/directional signs down LaGrange Street to Buchanan Street to 1st Ave. Simply Unique Finds WILL BE OPEN while filming is going on Thursday, October 24 from 10-6:00 p.m.