CHARLES TOWN – Cheryl Phelps spent her first two decades here making the long commute down Interstate 270 to her job at the National Institutes of Health. Now her drive is taking her in a new direction.
After retiring this spring, she’s embarked on a new career: offering up beautiful but affordable vintage furniture and other home décor in downtown Charles Town.
Her new business, A Touch of Class, is located at 109 S. Fritts Way. The 1,400-square-foot space sits behind the Wear It Again, Kid! consignment store at 311 W. Washington St.
It can be reached by turning onto Fritts Way either by West Washington or from West Congress Street. “That’s my No. 1 job now – letting people know where they can find us,” Phelps said.
She believes the time is right for her store. Either for economic or environmental reasons, many customers are happy to spend only $300 on a high-quality couch that’s been gently used rather than thousands on a brand-new item from a showroom, she said.
Many homeowners find themselves with furniture and other possessions that come to them when their parents downsize, move into a seniors facility or pass away. “Rather than have nice things end up in the landfill, they can sell them here,” Phelps said. “This way, I’m able to help two people – the buyer, who is looking for a good price on something they need for their home, and then for the consigner, too.”
Phelps offers a 50-50 split with those who consign with A Touch of Class. By keeping prices low, items sell quickly so that the consigner gets his or her money in a timely fashion, Phelps said.
Her store now has pieces from Henkel Harris, the upscale furniture company based in Winchester, Va., as well as Broyhill, Pennsylvania House, Ethan Allen and others. Glassware for sale includes such sought-after brands as Fenton, Waterford, Fostoria, Hull and more.
Other items for sale include framed art (including shots of early Charles Town), clocks, mirrors, tables, lamps, vintage cookbooks, dressers, cabinets, end tables, rockers, picnic baskets, chess sets, throw pillows, knick knacks, dinnerware and other items.
If an item has a crack or blemish, Phelps is quick to point it out to her customers. “I don’t want anyone to buy anything here and then not feel good about it,” she said. “We want customers to know they can come here and pay a fair price and get treated well, whether they’re looking for something for their own home or to give as a gift. I want this to be a place where they want to return to again.”
Phelps, whose business partner is her longtime boyfriend Larry Fritts, also expects her store to attract out-of-town visitors as downtown Charles Town continues to attract crowds with art events and new businesses such as the nearby Beasley’s Books and Eccentricities.
“I love to look at antiques – it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing for years,” she said. “It feels good to offer that kind of place right here in Charles Town.”