Flash back to 2011 and Mary Corso, owner of Courtyard Antiques in Olympia, has ventured off to Tacoma to open an antique business called Dover Court Home.
Except it’s not going well because the location isn’t working out.
But one day a customer walks through the door and inquires about a brand of paint called Annie Sloan. Corso doesn’t sell the paint, but the customer’s enthusiasm about the brand leads her to look it up.
The Tacoma store may not have worked out, but the Annie Sloan paint proved to be ideal for painting furniture, so Corso, 69, took her expansion idea and instead moved about a half-block east of Courtyard Antiques on Fourth Avenue in Olympia to open Courtyard Studio 721 in January.
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That’s where she sells painted furniture, but also offers classes on light upholstery, faux finishing and kitchen cabinet painting.
Sometimes, the residents of the apartment building on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Plum Street even donate their furniture, Corso said, and she paints it and sells it using Annie Sloan. She praised the paint because it dries quickly, has no odor and is easily applied.
But the business that made the studio possible is Courtyard Antiques, an antique mall that has grown to about 70 dealers from 25 nearly 12 years ago, and that continues to grow. The business has filled out 10,000 square feet and is ready for a bit more, Corso said, expecting to take another 5,000 square feet on the second floor this summer.
The overarching theme of Courtyard is home decor: furniture, light fixtures, glassware and art. But mid-20th-century items also do well with the younger set, Corso said, and one of the mall’s most popular dealers is the one decorated black and white, meaning everything for sale is one of those colors.
For example, that area of the store is home to a black rotary dial telephone.
Another recent hot item was a massive etagere, made of burled walnut, that sold within days for $1,200, she said.
And space is available for more dealers, but she first has to meet and interview them, Corso said.
“People look at us as a unique space, so we want to keep that vibe,” she said.
And when she’s not busy running the antique mall or studio, Corso’s probably working on downtown Olympia.
She’s chairwoman of the Parking and Business Improvement Area board and chairwoman of Girls Night Out, an Olympia Downtown Association event.
“I’m never reluctant to get involved because that’s how you make a difference,” she said.