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Home grown: Shady Kate's Boutique

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it? I run an antique and art boutique. All the handcrafted items here in the store are created by local artisans. I've been an interior designer for 25 years. Seven years ago I made Shady Cove my permanent home, and I opened this shop in May 2009.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? I was born here and graduated from Medford High School in 1978.

What inspired you to go into this line of work? It took me a while to realize what the real opportunity was. When people come in here, they are buying local creations and that gives them an appreciation for what's here. They are one of a kind, and they are supporting the local economy — 60 plus local artists — not just me. Originally, this was going to be my satellite design building. I knew I wanted to decorate the walls with local art. I had my own antique furniture I was going to use for interior design ideas for my clients. I had my drawing room in one bedroom, my interior design resources in another room. When we opened, people saw I had art and some antiques, and they kept asking for more. It just morphed into an antique art gallery. Eventually, I did away with the drawing room because there just wasn't room. Because it's on the corner of Highway 62 and Old Ferry Road, and I live on Old Ferry Road, I would come to this intersection every morning on my way to work in Medford each day. This house was built in 1910, and it was Shady Cove's first gas station and mercantile store. It was beat up, but it called out to my heart. It took a while to convince the owner I could do what I could do with it. I'm leasing it, but we did a major overhaul. I still have my interior design business, and people realize this stands out from a typical antique shop. Everything is merchandised and displayed with that flair. One of the rooms is the cowboy and Indian room, with saddles, artifacts and tack.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? I would have started learning about antiques earlier. I have a very large library of resource books. I don't just take consignments, I go to auctions regularly, and I sit there all day from the beginning to the end. You have to know how to repair the antiques and refinish them. There is a new energy in this industry called upcycling. For example, where a dining room chair may have been used at a table in the past, I cut off the legs and use them as wall shelves to display pieces.

What's the toughest business decision you've made? It's an ongoing difficult business decision for me. I have artists that learn of Shady Kate's, and they bring their wares for me to represent them. As the business owner, it is my decision if it is appropriate for the store or the quality that would be of interest for my clientele. Sometimes I have to turn down an artist, and that's not easy because it's their heart, soul, passion and who they are. I don't like to discourage people from creating what it is they do. When I'm able to bring an artist's work in, that's when I have the enjoyment.

Who are your competitors? Butte Creek Mill in Eagle Point has an antique shop, and there are very cute gift shops — Chickadee's, Gift and Garden, Heather Cove and Book 'N' More in Shady Cove.

What are your goals? When we opened in May 2009, and I joined the local business association in Shady Cove, they asked me to come up with another idea that could bring traffic and more business to town. Next to our cottage is a half-acre yard. I wanted a Saturday market, barbecues and concerts there. The next holiday at the time was Father's Day so we started a celebration called Tie Days. It used to be in June, but because it still rains in June, we've moved it to the end of August and it's called Tie Days and Picker Run. I'd like to see this event grow — we had 20 other antique shops there last year. Beyond that, I could possibly, very easily grow out of this place. I've got 1,600 square feet, and space is at a premium because there are so many artists represented here.

What training or education did you need? I went to Portland State University and have a bachelor's degree in business. That was necessary for me to keep the books. We pay on commission, and keeping track of the commission books is tedious. You have to know what to charge for retail items to cover the overhead and to create the margins you would like so you can expand your lines and replace your inventory. You can't just go out and buy antiques, you have to understand why a 100-year-old purple glass is purple and explain why Depression glass is called Depression glass. I could never live long enough to learn everything I need to know about antiques.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? Research whatever line of business you are entering and find out who your customer is, where they are coming from, how far they are willing to drive, and how much they are willing to pay for your merchandise, and present it in the most optimal light you can. When I have customers come into the store, I greet them personally and make them feel welcome and find out what brought them into the store. I become acquainted with customers and let them know I'm human. It makes the shopping experience personal.

To suggest ideas for this column, about businesses that are at least five years old, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com

Kate Crowston is the owner of Shady Kate’s Boutique in Shady Cove. - Julia Moore