Think for a minute of something you want, or need, for your home. Maybe a lamp for an oddly-shaped space… maybe a vase for your mantle… maybe a piece of furniture you’ve been meaning to buy but you haven’t scraped together the cash just yet… or maybe a decanter for a nice bottle of scotch.
Good. Now drive on down to Hess Furniture because they probably have it in stock. And chances are, you can afford it.
A few years ago, when the economy started to tank, my pay got frozen (five years now), and I became the sole breadwinner for my household of three, I had to radically change my spending habits. The ONE thing I absolutely won’t compromise on, despite steadily climbing prices, is fresh, quality food for my kids — in a few short years they’ll be spending their money on Doritos and Twinkies and I will have lost all control of their dietary intake. I’m going to control what they eat while I can. So rather than cut the food budget, I gave up cable, my gym membership, my land line phone. I stopped buying new books, opting now for thrift store finds and old fashioned borrowing. No more Netflix — now I check out movies from the library. I refuse to buy clothing that’s not on sale, and truthfully, I really don’t need more clothing. My 80’s clothes have come full circle and are back in style now. I frequently buy gently used clothes and toys, and gratefully accept hand-me-downs, for the kids — they’re still young enough not to care about brands, and we wouldn’t even have a LEGO room if someone hadn’t sold me a bathtub full for $75. In other words, I had to get creative. And Harrisonburg is a great town for creative spending.
This is where Hess Furniture comes in. Why go buy something new and (possibly) poorly made when you can buy something old and sturdy, dusty and weathered, and still spend your scraped-together cash locally?
Specifically on this day I was shopping for a buffet, sideboard, or some piece of furniture to hold my place mats, tablecloths, and such, which had been stuffed in a kitchen cabinet with fish tank supplies, a cooler, the Crock Pot I forgot I even owned, the cats’ food and water dishes I hid in there when they died because I didn’t want to upset the kids by callously throwing them away, and a bottle of Greek liquor shaped like a naked man. I swear, THAT was a gift. I’ve never been to Greece. Plus I had this big empty space beneath a painting in the dining room. It needed sompn.
Brandy, Danielle, and I entered the store, along with the four kids who instantly vanished amid hundreds of chairs and tables, stools and dressers, stacks of records and knickknacks. Before they were out of earshot, I managed to yell, “No running in the store! And don’t get lost! And don’t hurt yourselves! And come find us if you do!” And I might have mentioned running with scissors and playing with matches, too.
Right away I spotted this slick, mid-century modern piece with a couple cabinets and a couple drawers, looked to be the right size although maybe a tad long…. I couldn’t find the price tag on it, so I called over their furniture connoisseur. He explained that that particular piece had already sold (drat!), but then he said, “Now don’t follow me, because I’ll find you something faster if you don’t.” So I busied myself with a cute teapot set, and like some sort of blood hound, not thirty seconds later he’d unearthed buried treasure. Really buried. “Ma’am?” he called. I followed the sound of his voice and found him on the right side of the store, moving various items out of the way to reveal the prize. To my disbelief, he’d hit upon the PERFECT piece on his first try: a cherry-colored sideboard with a cabinet and four drawers, whose top opens up to reveal a black, leather bar top. Ka – ching! And it was the perfect size to go right under my painting and hold all my table linens.
In the meantime, Brandy had discovered their stockpile of albums, Danielle found one of those butlers/garment trees/suit hangers (please, someone comment and tell me what the heck this thing is called), and the kids were playing Ninja spies or some such hiding game.
We loved seeing all the other treasures of the store: lamps, vases, silverware, salt and pepper shakers, plates and platters, vintage appliances, sofas with the side table built in that remind me of family beach trips, even jewelry.
One might think that pouring over other people’s items is kind of… creepy or strange. For example, yard sales. I always feel like I’m just ransacking someone’s stuff, and that if I don’t buy anything, I’ve somehow rejected the person selling it. When I buy used items, I rarely know the story of the item — whom it belonged to first, what that person was like, the story of the life of the item. Of course I’m curious about it because I love stories. But it’s also romantic/sentimental to welcome an item into my home without knowing anything about it… other than it’s old, someone else once really liked it, and its life will continue.
Next time you’re in the market for something “new” for your home, instead of buying something perfectly pristine and shiny, consider rescuing an old treasure from Hess Furniture. And, trust the staff to help you find it. It’s a lot for a customer to sift through, but they are personally familiar with every gem in the place.
Hess Furniture is located at 139 North Liberty Street, just north of the Union Station building. Open Monday – Saturday.
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