Trained as an interior decorator, Chris Howard 10 years ago started a retail store on Bothell’s Main Street on what she called “a wing and a prayer and a credit card.”
The Homemaker’s Emporium “just didn’t make it,” Howard said. “Downtown wasn’t happening at that time.”
But Howard added she learned a lot from the experience. She went from Main Street to the Cranberry Cottage on Bothell Way Northeast, serving as a designer-in-residence for the home-decor shop.
“But I never lost that drive to have my own store,” Howard said.
On June 5, with no help from any credit card, Howard launched her second shot at entrepreneurship, opening Now and Again near the Rite Aid store on Bothell Way Northeast.
The formerly vacant storefront now is crammed with new and refurbished furniture, knickknacks, pillows, lamps and other home-decorating items reflecting what Howard called a “simple elegance.”
“I have nothing trendy … It’s all a bit traditional, but not fussy,” she said, adding visitors can create stylish homes while staying within a budget.
Howard terms the style of her own home “French comfortable.”
“I don’t have any formal rooms that you can’t use,” she said, adding she believes the approach she takes in her own decorating is reflected in the items she has chosen for Now and Again.
While not everything in the store is second hand, Howard added she is a regular at garage and yard sales.
“I love taking an old trashy piece of furniture and bringing it back to life,” she said, also mentioning something about being always on the hunt for that perfect home accessory or knickknack.
For example, decorative items in her shop include a large, old-fashioned wire bird cage of which she seems especially fond. Howard also has a number of what she calls faux antique books, basically boxes that look like, well, antique books. Howard said they can be used to decorate a shelf or be set beneath a lamp.
On this day, her inventory also includes a couple of glossy, high-back wooden chairs Howard said she found on the road side.
“And they were really ugly,” she continued.
But Howard apparently has an eye for what items are worth saving. She attacked the roadside chairs in the repair shop she has set up in the back of the store. Still, she doesn’t want Now and Again to be a furniture-repair or upholstery shop.
Besides furniture and home decor, Howard also stocked Then and Now with kitchen and bath items, including her own homemade soap, though she sells other soaps, as well. She also has a small selection of imported foods such as biscotti, caper berries, vinegars and gourmet pastas.
For now, one room of the new store is devoted to household bits and pieces selected by friend Jayne Vitulli, who concentrates on items from the ’50s and ’60s. Howard and Vitulli are aiming for the latter to take over the vacant space next to Now and Again, turning the entire storefront into a sort of home-decor shopping strip.
Howard likes the location of her new store, with lots of traffic out front. She said one lesson learned from her stay on Main Street was to avoid going into debt launching Now and Again. Her initial inventory was transplanted from Cranberry Cottage. Her home garage was her storage space.
“My husband is rather glad to have that stuff out of there,” Howard said, smiling. She added she slowly is transforming and improving the exterior of the storefront.
Howard said her new enterprise has gotten off to a “pretty good start,” though she is looking forward to the reported arrival of a few transplanted businesses into the nearby shopping center dominated by QFC grocery. According to Howard, at least two stores formerly located at Bothell Landing are moving into the strip.
A Bothell native, Howard said she has always lived in the city and home is three blocks away from her new store.
“It sounds corny, but I’ve never wanted to live any place else,” she said.