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Home store, antique sales flourish during recession.

Byline: Retail Notebook by The Register-Guard

FRIENDS: By many accounts, 2001 has been a miserable year for store owners. But many does not include all, such as Eugene shopkeepers Judy Wilson and Teresa Moshofsky.

Wilson owns Department of the Interior, a decorator fabrics store at West Third Avenue and Lawrence Street. Moshofsky operates an antiques shop inside Wilson's store called Bureau of Antiques.

In spite of the recession, the two merchants say business has been strong, particularly during the holiday season.

"I'm usually busy for the first 10 days of December and then it tails off," Moshofsky said on Christmas Eve. "But this December has been off the charts."

The merchants think their success may relate to the focus that some people have put on their homes in the wake of Sept. 11. As Americans turned inward, the theory goes, they cut back on overall spending but still bought items to make their homes comfortable and homey.

Wilson said one customer told her: " 'We are not going to Europe this year, but we are just going to fix up our home.' "

Of course, during lean times it helps to have customers with money. The Department of Interior caters to mostly middle-aged women, many of them fans of decorating maven Martha Stewart.

Wilson's store specializes in fabric for drapes, furniture, bed covers and other items. Lately, many of her customers' projects are "to make their homes seem inviting and safe," Wilson said.

She opened the store five Decembers ago with the help of husband, Doug Wilson, a vice president at Palo Alto Software in Eugene. The couple spent $52,000 to fix up the 5,000-square-foot, warehouse-type space in an old building of the former Eugene Planing Mill. The store's inventory - dozens of fabric on 54-inch-wide rolls, custom made wooden racks and other fixtures - cost $208,000.

At first, business was slow and the couple failed to make a profit for two years. In 1999, the store had a before-tax profit of $52,000. Last year, sales turned south with the stock market drop, and the store lost $43,000. This year, thanks to the better-than-expected fall and winter, the Wilsons expect to turn a profit of $51,000.

Three years ago, after spending $13,000 on inventory, Moshofsky began sub-leasing 550 square feet in the Department of Interior. She previously sold antiques on consignment through other shops. Judy Wilson, a friend of Moshofsky's, thought of the idea for a store within a store.

Another Wilson friend - Sarah Melonuk of Corvallis - helps fill the Department of Interior by selling vases, lamps, clocks and other home accessories there. In exchange, Melonuk gives 10 percent of her sales to the Wilsons.

Written by business reporter Ed Russo. Retail Notebook runs Thursdays.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 27, 2001
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