The story of Chestnut Hall in many respects could be the story of any number of small businesses. A father's career path provides industry familiarity for his children and as it so often happens, they end-up becoming involved in that industry. There is a natural ebb and flow in these situations that when one looks back at the chronology of the events, the outcome seems so predictable. For Chestnut Hall's co-founders, Karen Baty Rice and Michael Baty, this certainly seems to apply.
Our first store front was located at 2109 West Street in what a lot of people refer to as "old" Germantown. We unlocked this door at 10:00am, April 1, 1989 to our new showroom of 900 square feet. Since then we have unlocked our front door over 6,500 times and each day we have done so with a purpose. That purpose was and still is to be as much help to our clients and customers as we can possibly be. We will always be here to help.
Their father, Frederick Baty, was in the home furnishings business for most of his career. He had a natural passion and a genuine enthusiasm for the products and he shared that passion and enthusiasm with his family, more often than not at the supper table. He also had a very strong sense of personal honor in his dealings with his customers. One simple rule dictated the bulk of his operating philosophy; "If it is not perfect, it is not right". His customers truly loved him.
Karen, at an early age, began to share her father's passion for home furnishings although her eye was always a bit more discerning. While she was naturally attracted to the colors and fabrics used on the upholstery she was also intrigued by both the styles and trends. Her discerning eye and natural inclinations coupled with her formal education were the foundation of a talented designer with an easy, comfortable style.
Michael embraced his father's operating philosophies incorporating honesty and integrity and added to them an acute attention to detail. He also developed a keen appreciation for both the logistics of the business and how critical the movement of fine furniture is to a successful operation. Suffice it to say, as children, both Karen and Michael became very much "at home" with all aspects of the home furnishings business and their natural inclinations seemed to complement one another's.
As 1988 came to a close, the time had come to have a store of their own. By February of 1989, 900 square feet were leased in Germantown at 2109 West Street. A buying trip ensued, minimal space renovation was begun and completed, and by April 1, 1989 Chestnut Hall opened for business. The only items sold that first day were two verdigris ducks on one ticket to Mrs. Katherine Hitchings for $110. That will always be the first ticket.
This photo was taken on April 1, 1990, our first anniversary. It was a modest celebration at best. The idea, however, of having quality products at a competitive price coupled with knowledgeable and friendly service had survived one year.
Building a business based on old-fashioned customer service is as a rule a long-term process. But in fairly short order, one customer told another of the "cute little store in Germantown" and within six months more space was needed. In October of 1989 an additional 725 square feet of available adjacent space was added. Then in 1992, Chestnut Hall moved from the original location to a 4875 square foot building two doors down from the original location to 2123 West Street.
By the move to the second location, all available family members had been enlisted to help with the effort. Karen and Michael's mother and father had come out of retirement to help oversee the operations, which enabled Karen to concentrate on her clients and design projects. Michael's wife, Janet, a CPA, had also assumed the day-to-day financial responsibilities of the growing business, which was a luxury most small businesses do not enjoy.
By 1999, Chestnut Hall had more than out grown its second location. The volume of goods coming and going far surpassed the carrying capacity of the center of which it was a part. Eighteen wheel delivery trucks clogged the parking lot on a daily basis. Shipments into the store had gotten so large that they collided with the outgoing deliveries constantly. Doing business in a space ill suited for furniture had become very difficult.
It took the better part of a year to find a suitable commercial property to relocate to and still be in Germantown. The desire to increase square footage by at least 50% and have a suitable dock for deliveries were constraints that proved to be difficult.
As we entered our 12th year of operation, it was time to find a home that was more suited to the movement of large pieces of furniture. Construction started in late winter 2001 of our Forest Hill Irene store. Here we pose for a photo with Charles and Jason Speed, who built our building. We are still good friends with both of these gentleman today which is a testimony to their character. Directly behind us is what is now our Henredon Gallery.
In the spring of 2001 a suitable space seemed to be emerging from a list of potential locations. One big difference with the location that was "emerging" was that it was available for purchase, which was very appealing. With 10,800 square feet it met the space requirements of a modern high-end furniture store and it could be configured to facilitate both the display and movement of fine furniture. It took the better part of six months to complete the interior construction of the current location at 3075 Forest Hill Irene Road with a move in date of September 1, 2001 and an opening date of October 1 2001.
With the move to our Forest Hill Irene location the seeds were sewn for a home furnishings store that far surpassed the previous two locations. Not only was the size of the sales floor ample, the room setting design enhanced the product merchandising. With a "gallery" size store and enhanced merchandising capabilities combined with our "hands on" customer service it did not take long for premier manufacturers to seek out Chestnut Hall as a desired regional retail partner. Manufacturers that have become valued regional retail partners since we opened our new store include Henredon, Henkel Harris, Hancock and Moore, Councill, Hickory White, Lillian August, Theodore Alexander, Bradington-Young, Jessica Charles, Old Hickory Tannery, Pearson, Sherrill, Wesley Hall and Taylor King. Theses venerable lines joined Highland House, Grove Park, Sam Moore, Eddy West, Hekman, Charleston Forge, Hooker, Chelsea House, Jonathan Charles, Maitland-Smith and countless others.
Today Chestnut Hall offers its clients and customers the finest products manufactured in America as well as around the world. With all the changes that have taken place since the door was unlocked on April 1, 1989, two things have remained a constant. Customer service is a store hallmark and real value in the products offered to our customers is a relentless pursuit.