The owner of a decades-old furniture and upholstery company is closing the business after 10 years on the Boulevard, but she’s not letting go of her real estate in the increasingly busy neighborhood.
Whetstone Upholstery & Interiors’ last day of business at 1122 N. Boulevard will be April 22. Owner Madalyn Hopkins said she had the business on the market for a year but didn’t get any serious offers.
“I can’t run a business anymore,” said Hopkins, who has an autoimmune disease. “It takes too much energy.”
While the business is on its way out, Hopkins, 63, took a bet on Boulevard’s future and snatched up Whetstone’s building earlier this month for $242,700 in cash. She plans to lease out the 3,000-square-foot space.
“When Starbucks moved across the street I said, ‘We have arrived,’” Hopkins said. “There has been lots of growth on the Boulevard, and Scott’s Addition is on fire.”
In addition to the Starbucks that opened last year, property transfers and new leases are fueling development along the Boulevard. Both a Wawa and an Aldi are in the works for the street, and the former Car Pool property is set to get a new tenant.
Hopkins said she has not yet found a new tenant for her property.
She opened on Boulevard in 2006, in part because of the generosity of her late friend and neighbor Jean Garver, a portrait artist. Hopkins said one day Garver approached her near their homes in the Fan and said she wanted to buy a property and lease it to Hopkins. At the time, Hopkins was running Whetstone out of a space at the corner of North Rowland and West Cary streets, where she said had an upper floor used as a police lookout and had endured two fires.
“I was always extra grateful she had given me a safe place to work,” Hopkins said of Garver. “She did a lot of good in her life.”
Hopkins said she was the third owner of Whetstone when she bought the 40-year-old business in 2000. She said the highlight was providing furniture for the production of Steven Spielberg’s film “Lincoln.” The acclaimed 2012 movie won an Oscar for best production design.
“If I never do another thing, I did that,” Hopkins said. “If you just hold on long enough something good happens.”
Hopkins said she once worked on a chair formerly owned by Napoleon Bonaparte covered in sterling silver bullion.
“We take chicken pooh and make into chicken salad,” Hopkins said.
Whetstone is holding a sale in preparation for its closing. New furniture costs between $1,500 and $2,300 and reupholstering jobs range from $795 to $895.
In life after Whetstone, Hopkins, who was married in October, has plans to move to North Carolina. She said her decision to close the business comes at a difficult time for interior design ventures.
“I’m glad to be at retiring age.”