BY G. HOWINGTON
Tribune Staff Writer
Progress, in the form of retail growth across Morristown, has not been limited to new builds, particularly in the case of The Purple Iris.
Owner Cynthia Reece, an artist who found her niche in recognizing the beauty of repurposed items, was not swayed by the flirtations of developments rising up from farmland on the outskirts.
Instead, Reece set her sights on a former lumber warehouse in a more central location. Once a Lowe’s, the shopping center now known as Fountain Plaza had previously undergone a transformation into a mega car dealership with a high-end look. After the dealership failed, the center was divided into retail space.
Well, almost all of it.
A section that had remained untouched since the home improvement days was a 6,000 square foot space with 24-foot ceilings that sported a very industrial look.
Reece, who has built a strong regional customer base by offering a mix of antiques, new furnishings and décor, along with refurbished treasures, is not one to back down from a challenge.
“This was a work in progress, to say the least,” Reece said during a sneak peek tour on Thursday. After several months of renovation — the process included closing her original store at Plaza Terrace — the multiple showroom space opened to customers March 18.
Reece and her team, with the help of contractor Moe Jones and his crews, divided the space into showrooms, a classroom/studio, offices, a large warehouse with a new bay door, a staff breakroom/lounge area and a gift-wrapping workroom. The technical strategy was to build shorter walls that hide the industrial components without diminishing the space. The creative strategy was to guide customers through a series of areas that offer a multitude of options with regard to color and style.
The large doors and windows fronting the shop create an expectation of “wow” and Reece does not disappoint.
“The retail floor is about 4,000 square feet,” Reece said. “I’ve got my warehouse on site now; it’s as large as my other building was. I was working out of seven storage buildings all across town. We were going back and forth all the time; it was wearing us out.”
The mix of antiques, new products, and artful inspirations that keep Reece awake at night, range from the giant clock face over the check-out counter that she describes as pure décor, to the discreet wallpaper used on the interior of one of the fireplaces: pages from old books.
Reece kept all the permanent fixtures from the previous store, including the wrought iron railings from the Prater home, now used as a support for hanging displays, with the magic of guide wires extended from the rafters — “Every piece of lumber, every 2 x 4 from the other store, we were able to use,” Reece said.
The Purple Iris is located at 2847 W. Andrew Johnson Hwy., on the west side of the Fountain Plaza building. Shop hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; closed on Sunday. For more information, call 423-839-4304 or follow on social media.