Upon entering The Lady Jane shop in the Wetsel Seed Building in downtown Harrisonburg, it’s almost difficult to tell if it’s an actual retail store, the living room of a stylish and design-savvy best friend, or maybe even a much larger version of a very cool dollhouse. A soft glow of lamplight permeates the store with a soothing feel and playfully reflects off the various crystal chandeliers like shimmering fireflies on the walls. Teacups and saucers sit upon every surface, as if the place has just been host to some posh, English tea party. And the homemade decorations, hanging from the ceiling and piled high in the craft corner, invite shoppers to wander at their leisure, pick things up, take their time. A quiet place for reflection, design inspiration, and bargain antiques, the Lady Jane is one of Harrisonburg’s newest unique retail stores.
Sara Christensen, a 2008 JMU graduate, opened The Lady Jane in July of 2011. Sara had been teaching for two years but says, “There was this itching and nagging feeling inside me that there was something else out there I should do. So I started up a dream book of cut-up magazine pictures and started looking at design books and blogs and got this picture in my head of what I wanted to do.” So in a matter of a few months, Sara decided to move toward a different career path. She found the retail location in downtown and began a fervent search at flea markets and antique fairs for furniture and goods to sell at her soon-to-be home goods and accessories shop, The Lady Jane.
To sum up the style of her shop, Sara’s word choice is “vintage-inspired”. “I carry pieces that actually have a long history but I also carry new pieces with that vintage look and style,” she says. Sara gets much of her inspiration for the design of her shop from sources like Flea Market Style Magazine for DIY ideas, Pinterest and Etsy, and design books like Domino and Apartment Therapy. She also looks to many magazines from the United Kingdom for inspiration. “I want the store to convey a look of an ideal pastoral English home by showcasing a lot of lush fabrics and textures to create this cozy feel,” she describes.
But despite this specific style of the store, Sara finds that she has a wide range in her clientele. “It’s not just women who shop here. Many men are interested in the antique furniture and the pieces of art,” she says. “Those who are older feel nostalgic when looking at pieces from their generation while the younger customers can find nicer pieces as they begin to establish homes for themselves.” Sara’s personal favorite pieces in the shop are old rusted and chipped ladders. “They are great for holding books or as display pieces or for hanging things like scarves.”
Sara gets most of the authentic vintage pieces from flea markets and antique malls and from people who come to her with products they would like to sell. But for those who want new pieces with an antique look, there are several items available like pretty paper goods, pillows, and side tables. Sara also handcrafts much of her merchandise as well. But what makes The Lady Jane different from other antique shops is the way that Sara presents the merchandise in the store. “When I am antiquing I am usually crawling though piles of things that are not clean,” she says. “I set up my shop so that it looks like a house and people can envision the items in their own home. I want to do all of the cleaning and organizing for people so customers can come in, take the item they want, and use it right away.”
What is most important to Sara is that customers have a positive and inspiring experience at the shop. “I want people to feel enveloped in calm and at home in the shop,” she describes. “I only use natural light and lamplight and I play soft music. I’ll even offer tea.” As someone who moved around a lot as a child before coming to Harrisonburg, Sara feels that this town is the only place that she can call home. That’s why Sara strives to give back to the community by replicating in her store the experience of inclusion and community that she herself has received from living and working here. “I want this to be a place where people can come and share ideas,” she says. “There is such an ebb and flow to design, this give and take of ideas, and I want people to come here and find their creativity.” Sara invites people to come in, have a good time, and get inspiration even if they don’t buy anything. She even holds regular book clubs at the shop and wants to start having crafting sessions. Sara is very grateful for the support she has already received. “The customers make the unreliability of owning a new business worthwhile,” she observes. “I’ve made many new friendships and I also love being a part of the downtown businesses where everyone comes together and works as a team.”
So if you are looking for some beautiful and unique items for your home at very reasonable prices, visit The Lady Jane at 128 W. Market Street, Suite 101 in downtown Harrisonburg.
A side note:
If you are beginning to shop for holiday decorations and gifts, Sara has you covered for classy and elegant merchandise reminiscent of Victorian-style Christmases. Stop by the shop for Sara’s homemade ornaments (they are displayed on trees in the store so you can pick the ones you like best), unique tree toppers, vintage-style wreaths and garlands, large pillar candles for your holiday table, Christmas cards and stationary, and celebratory Christmas crackers, straight from England.
Katie George is the Promotions Intern for fall of 2011. She is a senior Media Arts & Design major at James Madison University.
All photographs © 2011 Katie George