Beadboard Upcountry Offers A Little Piece of Europe in The Birthplace of Texas
Cecile Corral -- Furniture Today, November 20, 2013
BRENHAM, TEXAS - This small town situated halfway between Houston and Austin is home to Blue Bell Creameries and, more notably, the Birthplace of Texas.
But within its compact 8.8 square-mile area, all land, Brenham has room for at least one other interesting resident: Beadboard Upcountry.
An upscale linens retailer, Beadboard Upcountry has brought a taste of Europe, Italy in particular, to its all-American hometown - just as its owner Maryanne Flaherty likes it.
Flaherty was working in the home fashions retail sector before she got into business for herself.
"I worked in a lot of things," she told HTT. "I opened most of the April Cornell stores in Texas, working as a store manager. And I also worked for Store- House Furniture [before it was acquired by Rowe Companies]." Flaherty started with April Cornell in California, "and then they wanted someone to open their [then-]biggest store, and it was going to be in Dallas. I offered to be there a year. Then they wanted a store in Houston, so I opened that store there. And then Birmingham, Alabama, then Memphis, and then I went back to Texas for the Holland Village store."
She was working for Store- House Furniture when she and her husband decided they wanted to move "out to the country," so the couple bought a house in Brenham and Flaherty spent the next three years commuting 60 miles daily to her job.
That lasted until Flaherty started thinking about opening her own linens business, and she found just the place to do it.
"There was this wonderful little spot in town. It used to be a bank a long time ago, and a gentleman had totally restored it beautifully," she explained. "He totally gutted it, added beautiful details. The lighting is gorgeous, and there are two types of ceilings - one has wood panels in vanilla and mint and the other is tin with decorative tin tiles in mint."
Perfect, she thought.
"It was the only place in this town where [my business] would work," Flaherty continued, "so when it became available I realized it would be the perfect spot to open a high-end linens shop."
An added bonus is that the site, the former Farmers National Bank, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
"All we had to do was build some shelving and add beadboarding, since our name is Beadboard Upcountry," Flaherty said. "The idea for the store was to offer upscale country looks."
Even the cash register was part of the upgrade - "we wrapped it in beadboard, too, and added a marble top," she added.
But since 2006 when the 950-square-foot store opened its doors, its wares have evolved from chic country linens, home furnishings and antique-type pieces to a high concentration on European and high-end linens in a variety of brands, with the Italian Arte Pura collection at its core.
"We went to Paris several years ago for a show and that is where we found [Arte Pura]," she explained. "I love it because it's not like bedding you've ever seen or ever imagined."
Beadboard Upcountry started working early on with Arte Pura, selling one bedding collection, and the reaction it got from customers was encouraging, to say the least.
"People went crazy for it," Flaherty said.
Today, Arte Pura is the central brand at Beadboard Upcountry in bedding, bath, and table linens.
The store has much success with its other brands, which include Peacock Alley, Anne De Solène, Libeco Lagae, Brahms Mount, Down Inc. and Nancy Koltes, all of which get showcased on the store's three bed displays in mix and match fashion.
"While our focus is Arte Pura, now I feel like we have the perfect mix of brands," Flaherty said. "We love Peacock Alley for sheets and matelassé coverlets. We love Anne De Solène for her sheet quality and colors, which are an almost identical match to Arte Pura's. I sleep on them. They are 200 thread count, 100% cotton, and they rock. Just absolutely fantastic."
Brahms Mount is Beadboard Upcountry's key blankets supplier, Arte Pura and Peacock Alley provide bedding, and Down Inc. is the store's down supplier.
In bath, the assortment includes "beautiful, fabulous, durable towels" from Peacock Alley, a 32-color palette of terry and linen towels from Arte Pura, and others.
Beadboard Upcountry offers interior design consultations, but Flaherty is keener on being "a damn good shop girl."
She elaborated: "I like décor okay. But I prefer working in my shop selling linens, working with designers and educating them on our products. I consider myself a designer, but I'm also proud to be a damn good shop girl who knows the linens business."
Beadboard Upcountry is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, but is available Sundays and Mondays for private consultations.
"In fact, sometimes we do more business on the days we are closed than on days we are open because we can show people our different products and interact more with them on a one-on-one basis. We show them how to layer one designer line with another to achieve a unique look."
Shoppers stretch from local neighborhoods to distances as far as Australia and Norway, she added, to whom she ships special collections they bought from her website - www.beadboardupcountry. com.
Drop-ins are also welcome to the shop.
"We've got Bluebell Creamery right here, so they can take the kids over for an ice cream and then stop in here and see us," Flaherty said.
Looking ahead, Beadboard Upcountry has plans to expand its presence into "big city" territory - Houston, Austin or Dallas.
"We're looking for an investor to take us into big city markets," Flaherty said. "We want to expand outside the small town environment."
Top left: The store is located in a historic bank building. Top right: Maryanne Flaherty at her vintage desk. Below: Italian luxury linens brand Arte Pura is the core offering at Beadboard Upcountry, as seen here in one of the shop’s three display beds.
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