Blue Elephant set to open on Labor Day
Mother, daughter, and son team up to create a space to offer up consignment, art, and finds at affordable prices. Read on to learn more about their story and what you’ll find at this fun new shop on Strawberry Street.
With Tiffany-blue walls framed by crisp white molding, glossy white metal tiles on the ceiling, and tan ceramic tile floors, the new furniture consignment shop at 425 Strawberry Street is a refreshing oasis from the summer heat. With the feel and smell of new and old together, Blue Elephant offers up “consignment, art, and finds” at affordable prices. The new colors really open up the 1000 square foot space, which was very yellow and brown before.
Jessica Andrews will manage the store, with help from brother Johnny Andrews, who is the store’s visual merchandiser. Their mother, Patsy Margraf, is the owner. Margraf had plans to open a DC store, but found the Richmond market easier to break into. Jessica found the space by accident, having viewed a spot around the corner that was too small, and on her scooter ride home, noticed the Strawberry Street location for lease. The family signed the lease in July and will have their Grand Opening this Monday, September 6 from 9am to 6pm.
An old wooden desk serves as the front counter, just to the side of a cute picture window where Johnny plans a back-to-school display — the window’s theme will change monthly. A small porch out back will hold patio furniture and other outdoor items.
Of her 12-hour days this summer, admits Jessica, “I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but I didn’t know quite what I was getting into. Everything I do is for this business now. It’s a family thing.” Opening her second energy drink of the day, Jessica notes this is uncharacteristic of her. “I didn’t [drink them] either until I needed to,” she muses.
A carpenter installed the molding and trim, but the Andrews siblings did much of the work themselves. They planned for the trim’s ledge to allow for freestanding art, as well as a built-in picture frame rail for hanging. “I do want to have pieces from local artists,” Jessica notes, and she’s not just referring to wall art. She will also consign work from friends and local crafters, in the form of jewelry, hair accessories, ceramics, and more. Richmonder Karen Guard, who has gotten local and national press for her furniture makeovers via Darling Octopus Décor, will have items there. Blue Elephant will also feature re-purposed jewelry by Katherine McEachern.
Jessica and Johnny point out there is not really furniture consignment in Richmond proper, especially one that appeals to the city and VCU market– the emphasis is on affordable. In addition to consignment, they’ve have been scouting thrift stores, yard and estate sales for great finds they could put a little love into and re-purpose.
“We went all over Virginia looking,” says Jessica. “We found some things that turned out to be really valuable.”
They’re still working out their pricing, but will have a wide range of items. They don’t want their store to be thought of as stuffy.
“We’re really trying to shy away from the term ‘antique’,” explains Jessica.
“Other consignment stores are often musty, unorganized,” echoes Johnny. “We have pretty things for your home at affordable prices,” Jessica assures. Like two children’s desks, one repainted one with chalkboard paint, and the other repainted and decoupaged.
Besides furniture, I also noticed glassware, lamps, and typewriters. There’s a handsome teak Danish Modern dining table from the late 60’s/early 70’s, with a butterfly leaf for easy storage.
“Johnny’s been very into mid-century modern,” Jessica points out, though his favorite piece so far is a 1970’s lime green canopy chair.
Blue Elephant will charge a 50% consignment fee on furniture but is more flexible with fees for local artisans. Items will be on sale for a 90-day period.
Both of the Andrews siblings have a penchant for design. Jessica’s friends have always been amazed at how put-together her own house was, made up of items from Ikea that she tweaked, thrifted pieces, and flea market objects she’s re-purposed. Johnny has an eye for art and an appreciation of Antiques Roadshow.
“Their love of thrift stores comes from me,” says Margraf.
Jessica’s favorite find for the store is a suitcase picnic set from the 60’s. Inside, blue, green, and orange melamine plates, cups, and utensils are strapped in, and legs pop out to turn the top of the case into a table.
As for the store name, Blue Elephant, Margraf was working out color and animal combinations in her head. “Once I heard it, I knew,” she recalls.
Jessica has long had a thing for Ganesha, a Hindu deity widely revered as the remover of obstacles and worshiped on many religious and secular occasions — especially at the beginning of ventures such as starting a business. With the head of an elephant and only one tusk, Ganesha represents “not being confined to one thing,” describes Jessica. This nicely mirrors the store’s offerings and the family mission as well, it seems. A figure of the deity sits on the front counter.
In an odd turn, the two previous tenants of this space have also had color and animal names: the Pink Pig and the Black Rabbit, something Jessica didn’t know until her landlord heard the name of her store and clued her in. “Everyone who works on this block thinks it is hilarious,” marvels Jessica.
Website: blueelephantrva.com (or check out their Facebook page)
Location: 425 Strawberry Street
Hours: Tuesday through Friday 9am to 6pm ; Saturday 9am to 8pm ; Sunday 12pm to 6pm
(Images courtesy of Blue Elephant)
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