RUTLAND — A husband-and-wife team, drawn to the downtown by Rutland’s revitalization, recently opened a home furnishings store on Merchants Row.
Stephen and Allison Willoughby opened Kindred Spirit last month at 53 Merchants Row, with an emphasis on contemporary, modern furniture. Lamps and other home items are also offered in various styles.
“We think of ourselves as an alternative home store,” Stephen Willoughby said, with an eye toward “eclectic, hard-to-find items.”
He also has access to over 43,000 items he can order, and if it’s in stock, Willoughby said, it’s guaranteed to ship within 48 hours.
He noted that several items in the shop are cheaper than the online prices of the big-box retailers — something Kindred Spirit can afford since its overhead costs are so low, he said. Right now, it’s just the couple working for the shop.
Stephen Willoughby brings years of sales experience, including a recent stint as sales manager at Laflamme’s Furniture in Rutland, and he also has experience in web development. His wife, Allison, an independent accountant, handles the finances for the business.
The couple, who also live in the city, want their new business to add to the growing vibrancy of the downtown. Stephen Willoughby noted the hours that stretch into the evening: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
“Most of our customers work 9 to 5, and so, we want to be open when they’re out of work,” he said.
The Willoughbys also keep a steady amount of Vermont-made furniture in the store, along with using some traditional suppliers. In mid-June, seven of the store’s 12 suppliers were from Vermont.
“We help them, it helps our community,” Stephen Willoughby said of working with Vermont furniture makers. “It’s just the right thing to do.”
He said they’d been thinking about opening a business for years. They were looking for a home in Rutland, and eventually bought a Baxter Street house out of foreclosure, through NeighborWorks of Western Vermont.
In planning and finding a home for their business, Willoughby said Mike Coppinger of the Downtown Rutland Partnership and Brian DeClue of the Vermont Small Business Development Center were very helpful during the process. They were also grateful to their current landlord Mark Foley for the Merchants Row space.
Stephen Willoughby grew up in Wilder, and Allison grew up in Pittsford.