The Picket Fence creates bedding sanctuary in old church

Retail Editor 5, August 6, 2012

Sun Valley, Idaho - A little white-washed church here in the town of Ketchum has survived many reincarnations.

Originally built in 1884 as the town's First Congressional Church, in more recent decades the site was gutted to become Louis' pizza parlor. But the restaurant eventually went out of business, and the structure was moved to a quieter spot in town to make room for new retail businesses.

About two years ago, the building was visited by divine intervention - again. Cast off and abandoned, the shuttered little church caught the eye of Lynn Simpson, a longtime seasonal resident, and more recently, the owner of local luxury home furnishings store called The Picket Fence.

She salvaged the church, had it moved to an empty lot adjacent to her shop, and breathed new life - and quite a different existence - into its walls.

For almost as long as the 34-year-old The Picket Fence has been part of this upscale resort community, it has served its seasonal and permanent residents from a quaint, red-painted wooden storefront.

It was only over the past six years that the specialty store experienced a change that took it to new heights.

Simpson, who for more than 20 years had been a regular shopper of The Picket Fence, one day in the summer of 2006 walked in and offered to buy the business. The owners agreed to sell to her, and Simpson got straight to work on expansion.

A top priority: Add the church to the property as the bedding showroom, explained Ray J. Gadd, marketing and photography director.

A major renovation ensured, as did plans to enhance The Picket Fence's luxury bedding linens offering and above all, its presentation.

"She really infused this business with a lot of inventory," Gadd noted. "We already were carrying the majority of the lines that we still carry today. Two new line additions were Coyuchi and Amity Home. Our ability to stock inventory and to carry a broader depth of lines came in to play. We added one additional display bed and were able to showcase the bedding all in one location, leaving us more room for tabletop and home accents."

Simpson, he said, is inspired by the design and fashion movements she sees on her European travels, and she is "constantly following new trends in the Bay area."

By October 2010, the church reopened its doors, sharing a central courtyard with The Picket Fence's original site.

"People are really drawn to us," Gadd said. "We are sort of off the beaten path, so it's hard to get people to the store. But once they recognize the church they are amazed how it has been through so many different phases, from a church to a pizza place and now seeing it transformed into this beautiful showroom. They are fascinated."

In fact, The Picket Fence forged a partnership with Ketchum's visitor center "to offer [tourists] not just a great retail experience but also a chance to see a real piece of local history with this iconic church building."

Combined, the neighboring storefronts occupy more than 6,000 square feet, one third of which belongs to the bedding showroom that is the church.

Whereas The Picket Fence could only showcase one bedding vignette in its original space, now it can present at least four display beds. Some of the store's most popular bedding brands are Sferra Bros., Matouk, Scandia, Nancy Koltes, and Peacock Alley; in bath, top sellers include Matouk, Abyss and Habidecor; and in table linens, the line comprises mainly Sferra product.

The mix spans utility bedding, including down product; fashion sheets and top of bed goods like coverlets, matelasses, blankets, boudoirs, Euro shams and others; and "a lot of basic white sheeting because that is a staple around here," Gadd said.

The original Picket Fence site is where shoppers can find home accessories like lighting, candles, decorative pieces, accent furniture, tabletop, and even jewelry.

In the courtyard shoppers can enjoy al fresco resting - and shopping, as all of the patio furniture there is also for sale.

With business growing since recent updates and developments to the store, The Picket Fence in July expanded into a two-store chain with the opening of its sister shop in Menlo Park, Calif. - Simpson's other hometown.

Standing at about 1,000 square feet, the new satellite site takes its cues from its predecessor but offers the locals a different twist that appeals more to its area's specific flavor, Gadd said.

"[Simpson] has been a longtime resident of the area and has noticed a lack of a complete luxury offering for the home that didn't have that supermarket feeling," he noted. "Our approach is a little bit different there because people have different tastes there than they do here. So we looked at what was successful here but also added different styles."

Menlo Park is stocked with "a variety of products, including linens, tabletop, home accents and accessories," Gadd said.



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