Meet Sara Christensen, a 2008 JMU grad and owner of The Lady Jane. Her shabby chic boutique — Harrisonburg’s first ever — is located at 128 W Market St., Suite 101, and has brought vintage furnishings to the forefront of the downtown denizen’s imagination. With its porcelain place settings, weathered tables, and assorted trappings from days gone by, the shop is a timeless reflection of its owner.
A self-confessed old soul, Sara credits her affection for antiques and all things ancient to the historic homes in which she spent much of her childhood. “From an early age, I was in love with crown molding, dumbwaiters, tall ceilings, and wood floors,” she reflects. “Things that were new and shiny just didn’t appeal to me like those that were chipped and worn.”
In 2004, Sara moved to Harrisonburg to study elementary education at James Madison University. When she wasn’t hitting the books she was out getting a much different education visiting thrift stores, flea markets, and antique shops.
Upon completing her graduate studies, Sara took a teaching post at an area elementary school. Though she enjoyed her work in the classroom, at the end of long days, she found herself clipping photos of vintage furniture, compiling do-it-yourself tips, and saving business cards from antique dealers. “I did a lot of collaging and checking out blogs and ended up putting together an idea book,” relates Sara. After receiving positive feedback about the book from her family and friends, Sara decided it was time that her passion and profession intersect.
Since its July 2011 opening, The Lady Jane — named more for Jane Austen than for the Nine Days’ Queen — has been well received in the community, especially by nostalgic types. Sara, a romantic herself, smiles as she shares about the kindred spirits she’s met. “Sometimes someone walks in [to the shop] and you just know they feel the same way about things as you do by their initial reaction.” At other times, responses to Sara’s shop take a more dramatic form, “like two sisters [meeting] after a long time.”
In fact, several friendships have developed as the result of Sara’s entrepreneurial endeavor. “I have a couple that comes in on a weekly or monthly basis just to talk,” shares Sara. “[Others] will come in and say, ‘I saw this amazing thing [online]’ and they’ll come behind the counter and we’ll look it up together.” Two book clubs have also begun meeting in The Lady Jane thanks to a mutual love for literature and the sharing of ideas.
From going antiquing with customers to decorating her shop, Sara couldn’t be more happy with her new downtown business. “Sometimes I’ll go pick a handful of flowers from the yard, walk down to the store, put them in a glass of water, and just think, ‘This is my job. I’m so lucky.”
Rob Musser is the Founder and Creative Director of Sidecar Studio, as well as a member of the HDR Promotions Committee.