FAIRFIELD — Downtown Fairfield has two new stores that between them can help people furnish their homes with everything from dressers to the kitchen sink.
Pieces of Time and Grandeur Design both opened in recent weeks. Both gave vacant storefronts new life.
Downtown Fairfield has long been a work in progress, looking for its niche in an age of shopping malls and big box stores. Main Street Association Executive Director Margaret Manzo sees the new stores as a step in the right direction.
“These kind of businesses really bring the window shoppers downtown,” Manzo said. “I feel strongly it’s going to continue to expand the retail component we need. The more cute, quaint shops you get, the more other shops will say, ‘This is a great place to do business.’ ”
Kristi Kuehl had no idea last March that she would be opening Pieces of Time in the downtown. She had just opened a business at her home refurbishing vintage furniture.
Kuehl takes old furniture pieces – not antiques – that are what she calls “cosmetically challenged.” They once might have been prized pieces, but are now scratched up and headed to the junk heap.
“They’re ugly,” Kuehl said. “And when I’ve painted them, they’re cute and people want them.”
She paints them with chalk paint and gives them a new look. Some of her furniture fits in with the “shabby chic” movement, though Kuehl doesn’t want to be limited to that label.
Her undertaking did so well that she needed more space than her house could provide. In a recent month, she sold 36 pieces of furniture.
What had once been a hobby for Kuehl had become a business big enough to require its own shop.
She launched her business in large part by using Facebook. Her customers living in such places as San Jose, San Francisco and Danville can’t travel constantly to Fairfield to see Kuehl’s latest projects. But they can see what’s for sale on the Internet.
In that sense, Pieces of Time might not have been possible a decade ago.
“I would not have been able to build this business without Facebook,” Kuehl said.
She does her painting in the shop and has chalk paint classes there, but the smell of paint does not linger in the air. In fact, Kuehl doesn’t use a mask when she uses chalk paint.
“It’s completely nontoxic, eco-friendly,” Kuehl said. “No toxic anything in it.”
Kuehl chose downtown Fairfield when locating Pieces of Time because she would like to get foot traffic, even though she doesn’t depend on it. To that end, she recently placed an attention-getter outside in front of her showroom window. Passers-by will see a dresser painted red, its draws open and holding flowers.
Grandeur Designs is located a short distance away. It recently had a grand opening that could really be called a grand reopening. The kitchen-and-bath design showroom is something new and something old.
Local general contractor George Konstantinopoulos founded the original version of the store after he built his own house in 2003.
“I had to go to Sacramento to look at granites and Pleasanton to look at cabinets,” Konstantinopoulos said. “It was almost like the breaking point for me, where I had to travel to look at all this different stuff.”
He opened Grandeur Designs in 2004 at Clay Bank Road and Air Base Parkway. But he lost his lease there in 2009 when the building owner got foreclosed on, he said.
Fairfield owned a downtown building it wanted to sell, the former Goodwill store building where it temporarily located the Art Explosion art gallery. In 2010, the City Council approved selling the building to Konstantinopoulos for $450,000. Then Konstantinopoulos went to work transforming vacant space into a showroom.
After the Clay Bank Road store closed, Grandeur Designs went almost four years without a showroom. That hiatus ended Oct. 5, with the opening of the downtown location.
Konstantinopoulos said people pass by the downtown location on the way to courthouse and other destinations. They might see his showroom and, even if they’re not ready to remodel at the moment, might keep it in mind.
“It’s like an auto mall,” Konstantinopoulos said. “You know where they are but you don’t come every day.”
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.