When Wendy Addison and Debi Wilkins met at a neighborhood party a few years ago, they immediately connected: “It didn’t take us long to realize we were birds of a feather,” explains Wendy. The pair discovered that they shared an artistic sense and a passion for relics from the past and breathing new life into them.
Debi had been painting custom artwork pieces from small canvases to wall murals, and featuring her work in local homearama models and several local papers over the years.
Meanwhile, Wendy ran an online Etsy shop showcasing her artwork and participated in art shows, including Charleston's Spoleto festival. She sold her creations all over the world, and she lived for several years on an island in Charleston, South Carolina where she operated a small shop named “Soul".
So although they had plenty to do, friends and family coaxed them into join forces and do something special with their shared talents. Convinced their paths had crossed for a reason they recently opened “Relics” in the Smithfield Firehouse 1939 shops in downtown Smithfield.
Their love of antiques gave them the concept for Relics. Wendy describes their vision: “Rescuing a forgotten and neglected treasure, having the ability to see through the dust and grime with the vision to create a new, stylish, functional design from it. We see the potential in an otherwise ‘cast off’ piece of history. That’s our gift. The end result is something special, something with a past, a story, something unique possessing a sturdy and true test of time. Something, in our opinion, leagues above a mass produced item.”
The word relics is defined as ‘fragments from the past.’ For Wendy and Debi it means “Something old that’s been rescued, re-envisioned and re-purposed to fit with today’s style and function.”
Wendy says opening Relics “…just fell into place. It really went very fast, very smooth and very easy. We wanted to create a dreamy, magical, ethereal and enchanting shopping experience, a place that appeals to all your senses. A place that makes you stop, take a minute out of your busy day to breathe and say 'ahhhh'.”
The Relics experience is enchanting with twinkling white lights from ceiling to floor, hanging branches that envelope you, soft soothing music, the intoxicating aroma of artisan soaps and candles, a welcoming dish of candy or cookies, and chancing upon that perfect piece that says “take me home.” Relics will quickly become a shop you remember and want to visit often.
And Relics sells more than furniture. The wide range of merchandise includes such pieces as an early 1800s Mansion Bed repurposed into an entry way, a cedar-lined storage bench, and an early 1800s fireplace mantel converted artfully into a large mirror. There’s also exquisite English Sea Glass jewelry, vintage-style handbags, mirrors, candles, candle sticks, and more!
“Our style is typically French Farmhouse/Shabby Chic/Cottage. Although our pieces change, the style is consistent. We offer custom work for clients, and if they are looking for a particular piece, we do our best to accommodate. If a client has a piece they would like painted, we can help with that as well,” says Debi.
When asked why they chose Smithfield for their new shop, the partners agree. “That’s easy. We love it! Smithfield is such a quaint and charming town full of southern hospitality, history and beauty. The very first time we laid eyes on the result of Mark Hall’s vision of the 1939 Firehouse shops and Smithfield’s ‘HeART’ district, we knew we had found a home for Relics.”
Relics’ customers enjoy the overall "feeling" they get in the shop and the fact there’s something new each time they visit. In fact, when you purchase one of their pieces, you’re getting an original, one-of-a-kind design. But because you’ll never come across that identical piece again, the partners suggest that if you like it “…act fast and take it home.”
Wendy and Debi explain that they don’t have “employees,” they have a “Relics family Wendy’s mother Michael is one of their shopkeepers and designers, and “the person responsible for teaching me everything I know about creativity and having the strength to believe in and pursue your dreams.” Debi’s fiancé, Robert, and Wendy’s husband, Aaron, are the “delivery drivers, banner hangers, and handymen extraordinaires.” The “family” also includes resident jewelry artist Eileen Shirk , whose stunning jewelry designs featured in the shop, use all organic materials, including shells, pearls, sea glass, semi-precious stones, sterling silver and copper and reflect what she loves the most – the sea.
Family is extremely important to Wendy and Debi. Both are Coastal Virginia natives living in Carrollton and have five children and eight pets between them including a chinchilla! The partners agree their most challenging yet rewarding work is not opening a shop, but motherhood, and gush with pride “We love them all dearly!”
Still, while Wendy and Debi would love to be spending down time with their extended family, they love what they’re doing at Relics.
Wendy explains, “We hear it again and again when folks enter the shop – ‘Wow’ and ‘This is magical!’ That is one of the most satisfying moments for us. And it never gets old. It warms our hearts each and every time. It’s a wonderful feeling when someone falls in love with a piece you personally designed. We pour our hearts into our work. It’s not just a job for us, it is our passion!”
Relics – Smithfield Firehouse 1939
113B North Church Street in downtown Smithfield, Virginia
Winter Hours (returning to 7-days a week in the spring):
Tuesday - Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
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