HOME GROWN: WHS grads find their niche downtownPublished 10:50pm Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Stand on any corner of the intersection of Main Street and Market Street and you will be a stone’s throw from a business owned or co-owned by a woman who graduated from Washington High School in the past 12 years.
Lone Leaf Gallery and Framing, Bloom Women’s Apparel and the new Cottage Junkies are all run by the under-30 set and they have staked their claim to downtown.
Meredith Loughlin (WHS class of 2002) opened Lone Leaf Gallery and Framing with her husband, Neil, in 2009.
“It’s nice to see people who grew up in Washington come back and then want to invest in their community,” she said.
To Loughlin, owning a business downtown is rewarding in so many ways. She recommended her Main Street neighbors enjoy the perks of hometown business, like patrons you can get to know.
Loughlin said she got emotional watching this year’s homecoming parade.
“It was a reality check. I was in that 10 years ago. Now, I own a business downtown. I’m pregnant and in a few years, she’s going to be in the parade,” Loughlin said. “And I thought, ‘Wow, what an interesting circle of life in Small Town, U.S.A.’”
She said the best preparation for owning a business downtown was working there. Loughlin worked at Whimsy while attending East Carolina University. She recalled what downtown was like when she was growing up, a few businesses but lacking the unity and activity of today.
“It’s kind of neat to take part in the evolution of downtown,” Loughlin said.
Leigh Gertz (Class of 2005), owner of Bloom Women’s Apparel, said she chose her corner store in downtown Washington because of the visibility.
After getting a business degree from the University of Mississippi, Gertz said she knew she wanted to open a clothing store.
“I was young. I just turned 25. But I was ready to do it so there was no reason for me to wait,” she said.
Gertz said she loved seeing more of her generation with downtown businesses.
“I think it’s exactly what Washington needs,” she said.
Brooke Newman (class of 2005) opened up Cottage Junkies with her mom, Tricia Woolard and sister, Landis Woolard (class of 2001). The new store specializes in painted and refurbished furniture, found objects and handmade accessories for the home. It opened Dec. 8.
Newman said choosing to open a business downtown was evidence of the pride her family had in Washington.
“So many flee from Washington and we’re trying to make something of it,” she said.
Tricia Woolard said her daughters inherited their entrepreneurial spirit.
“Landis is the interior designer. Brooke, she’s the photographer. And I am the one who gave them those genes,” she said, then added that both sets of grandparents were business owners in their own ways.
Newman said the hardest part about opening the business was being accepted.
“This is our style. We would go out of town to shop in stores like this,” she said.
Landis Woolard said they were bringing Pinterest to Washington, showing how to add personal touches to the home.
“We have a passion for this,” she said.
Tricia Woolard said the reception from the public has been nothing but positive. People have had nothing but good things to say about the eclectic mix of old and new.
“And they’re buying it, not just looking around and leaving,” she said.
She loved that so many locals have opened downtown businesses.
“I think it’s wonderful that our hometown girls are staying in their hometown,” Tricia Woolard said.
Lone Leaf Gallery and Custom Framing is located at 101 West Main Street. Cottage Junkies is located at 103 North Market Street and is only open on Saturdays. This week, the store has expanded hours for Christmas shopping and will be open Friday. Bloom Women’s Apparel is located at 100 West Main Street.