For the want of a rug, a Duluth business was launched.
When Stacie Stamper and her family arrived in Duluth, it was via a number of places worldwide, including London, Germany, Texas, and Singapore. While residing in the latter, she developed an interest in Oriental rugs.
As a result, when it came time to decorate her home in Sugarloaf, she was unable to find anything to her liking, despite a search of over a year. One day at a gas station, she spied a Liberty Oriental Rug truck, asked to take a look at their cargo and was smitten. Unfortunately, they were not a retail dealer, so she couldn’t purchase from them. “I followed the truck back to the warehouse,” Stamper remembered, “and just kept talking my way in farther inside."
Stamper persuaded Liberty to make a deal: If she could sell $20,000 worth of their rugs in a month, they had to hire her. “That was my first day of eight years with them,” she said.
Unfortunately, when the real estate market collapsed, her rug sales and many of the contacts that she had made in the home improvement, interiors, and decorating industry, went with it. “So many couldn’t keep their showrooms open. Some went Internet only, and others closed.” Stamper, along with some of her friends and associates in the design industry decided it was time to try something different.
“We were very fortunate that the City of Duluth helped us when we needed space,” Stamper said. Main Street retail space was sitting empty, and the city was contemplating tearing down the buildings in the Old City Hall Block. Stamper and her team of designers and suppliers persuaded the city to let them use their expertise and materials to renovate the space and set up shop. Soon thereafter, Frugally Yours Interiors or fyi Duluth was launched at 3097 Main St.
“It was just a band-aid for the first couple of years," she recalled, “but when Pure Taqueria committed to Downtown Duluth, we started thinking about making a long-term commitment.” The team again pooled their resources and talents, as well as those from other businesses in town, to transform the space into a state-of-the-art showroom.
In addition to Stamper, the fyi talents include Chris Gheorghies’ Emergency Response Team, DJ Cross’ Home Entertainment Team, Laurel Miller’s Indoor Living Team, Shelia Jones’ Kitchen & Bath Team, and Suzi Pryles’ Outdoor Living Team, as well as a host of artists and artisans that comprise the showroom as it is today.
The studio offers furniture, kitchen and bathroom remodeling, lighting ideas, home theatre, outdoor living, window treatments, and an assortment of art, all tastefully arranged in a comfortable, uncluttered manner designed to make clients literally feel “at home.” It also carries decorative asccessories suitable for holiday giving and gift certificates for merchandise and services.
Team members know that while sharing the costs of space, utiiities and website design is a benefit of their arrangement, working as a cohesive unit is integral to their success. Although each member works under their own company masthead as well, the face to the customer is all fyi, which enables the client to use this as a “one-stop shop” to solve a variety of home challenges. The client speaks directly to the person whose area of expertise best serves their need without a need for tremendous overhead, Stamper said.
The studio works exclusively local, ensuring reliable after-sale service, said Stamper. “Contractors that can’t afford brick and mortar showrooms can leave clients nervous about where to turn if they have problems. Here, they just come to our showroom, and we get them to the right person.”
The cooperative spirit extends beyond the boundaries of fyi. “There are things that we can’t provide, and we understand that. However, there are often solutions right here in Duluth. So many of the other business owners here have been a help to us," she said, "and we try to send business their way and help them where we can."
Stamper is still amazed that the fyi team has been able to weather the real estate downturn. “We’ve survived, and right now, that’s success,” she said smiling. “When I think of what would have happened had we not joined together, and Duluth hadn’t been so supportive...” Her voice trails off, and the smile temporarily leaves her face as she considers the grim alternative.
But they banded together, and Duluth did support and accept them. And it was all for the want of a rug.