CARY — A year after Elizabeth Sullivan opened her store in downtown Cary, Elizabeth’s Home & Garden Shop is sporting a new look.
The 1920s building got a fresh coat of paint, and custom pink-and-white striped awnings and black shutters give Elizabeth’s a European flair.
The front door is new, as is a fenced garden to the side of the store.
All of this was made possible in part by a grant from the town of Cary, which offers money to businesses that want to improve their exterior.
George Sullivan, who handles marketing for his wife’s store, began working with the town in the spring, and the project was completed this month.
“It’s a complicated process with permits and approvals,” George said. “But the town of Cary held my hand the whole way. ... They did an awesome job.”
“They were really rooting for us,” Elizabeth added.
Already, the couple is seeing the fruits of their labor. New customers are stopping by to say they hadn’t noticed the store until the awnings went up and the garden area began to take shape.
The garden invites visitors to sit at a bistro table under the canopy of a large tree and enjoy a cup of tea or to browse the outdoor statues and decorative items available for sale. In the spring, it will be filled with flowers.
Reflecting on the past year, Elizabeth said the business has exceeded her expectations. “Being a new little shop, we have had a wonderful response.”
She specializes in unique and hard-to-find items, and she said she has listened to her customers regarding inventory.
“My customers give me the best leads as to what they want,” Elizabeth said.
When it was suggested that there is a market for high-end candles, she began carrying the Aquiesse candle line.
Some items have become mainstays. Jewelry by local artist MaryBeth Rubano is displayed prominently at the entrance to the two-story store.
“She has been with me since day one,” Elizabeth said.
In the upstairs tea room, visitors are encouraged to sit and enjoy a complimentary cup of tea.
“This was originally my office, but I found I didn’t have a need for it, so I opened this little tea room,” Elizabeth said.
Comfortable seating and a self-serve pot are nestled among merchandise. Books are available for customers to flip through for decorating ideas.
Groups can reserve the tea room for one hour, free of charge.
The Sullivans say the downtown location is ideal.
“My aim for this store from day one is that it’s not just to buy something, but we want people to have an experience,” Elizabeth said. “That has been my dream.”