Things were busy to the point of frantic at The Cottage on Main Street in downtown Morristown on Friday afternoon, with no complaints from owner Penny Ward.
After helping booth owners make the transition from Christmas to winter items, clearing out a spot for a new vendor and welcoming a steady stream of customers, Ward took a seat on the bench at the front of the store for a short break.
“It’s like taking down Christmas at home,” Ward said. “You’re never sure where you’re going to put it all.”
The shop includes a large variety of sellables, ranging from smaller painted furniture pieces to home décor and hand-crafted gift items in addition to Ward’s collection of antique and vintage items.
“I’ve been interested in antiques for a while,” she said.
There are a limited number of booths rented out, a business plan that has resulted in a well-stocked interior that is not overly cluttered.
“This is really all I have room for,” Ward said.
Good friend Brigitte Williams, known for her decorative touches to Rose Center, just arranged one of the front windows, picking items that Ward sells herself to create a fresh look. Williams volunteers her time to periodically add or re-arrange items in the general retail areas.
“She’s been wonderful,” Ward said.
The comfortable, homey feel of the store is a direct nod to its owner. Ward is very familiar with the downtown area; she operated a similar business in the same location at 130 W. Main St., the former Roberts & Turner Drugstore, nearly a decade ago.
Her latest venture opened in September 2012.
“Before, I had been dealing with consignment items,” Ward said. “Now I enjoy having the booth renters here. They bring in such interesting things and they attract more customers.”
Ward has been pleasantly surprised by the changes to the downtown shopping district during her absence.
“Saturdays were just dead back then. Now Saturday is a very good day for traffic,” Ward said. She added that she’s had a measure of foot traffic every operating day since opening.
Another surprise has been the travelling distance of downtown shoppers.
“So many people who stop in are from out of Tennessee,” she said. “We’ve had people from as far away as Florida. Some are tourists or are visiting relatives. A lot have stopped in after deciding to get off the interstate and explore.”
Other changes are the increasing residential spaces located on Main Street and the evening hours during which several downtown businesses operate, including Lakeway School of Ballet and Dance, The Pink Pig (along with its second floor studio often used as rehearsal space by Encore Theatrical Company) and Jersey Girl Diner.
Ward’s husband, Taylor, is a fan of all four downtown eateries that include Timeless Elegance Tearoom, Java Garden and Little Dutch.
“I don’t think there is another area in East Tennessee where you can find four quality restaurants so close together,” he said.
The Ward family moved to Morristown in 1980 and their children attended school here.
“We’ve lived here long enough to feel like its home,” Ward said.
Two of the couple’s children still live in the area, son George and wife, Carla; and daughter, Elizabeth Minix. Son Andrew and his wife, Sarah, live in Kentucky and are expecting twin daughters any day now. The couple has 10 other grandchildren, nine granddaughters and one grandson.
“We have several reason to be in Morristown,” Ward laughed.
The Cottage on Main vendors include: ReStyle by Kim Bivins, Sputmuggins by Carol DeMonbreun, Scently Divine by Tammy Moyers Arwood, along with Buddy Lane, Diane Greene, Sherry Eason and Kathy Burch.
-By Glenna Howington, Tribune Staff Writer