DANVILLE – For 31 years, the Browse-A-Round at 310 N. Vermilion St. has been the place for home décor in Danville, but its days in business might now be numbered.
Larry Schlunaker said he eventually will have to close the store after his wife of 35 years, Alita, passed away July 1.
The shop was Alita’s pride and joy. She and Larry — who ran a used furniture store on Hazel Street with his brother in the late 1970s — opened the first Browse-A-Round at 801 W. Williams St. shortly after they married in 1988. At one point the shop was located across North Vermilion Street from its current site where it has remained since 1999.
Alita’s passion was sewing, and before opening the shop, she had spent 20 years sewing at the Windbreaker jacket factory. Alita’s custom-made window treatments, cushions and pillows became the highlight of Browse-A-Round.
“I can’t run the shop by myself,” Larry lamented Thursday. “I can’t do what she did.”
The store is now open by chance or by appointment.
“We have a good variety of things, with the furniture, antiques and draperies,” Schlunaker said.
“I go to the shop once in a while, and a woman who worked for Alita opens it up for a few hours,” he said.
That woman, Beverly Black, who had been an interior decorator in St. Louis before returning to Danville 15 years ago, recalled how she had to convince Alita that she could sew well and to allow her to assist her with the business more than 10 years ago.
“She was really particular and wanted to make sure everything was done right,” Black said.
The women would go on to become good friends.
“I’d been sewing with her for 10 years,” she said. “My husband is named Larry too, so we would talk about ‘my Larry’ and ‘her Larry.’”
Now Schlunaker and Black are trying to decide how to move forward with the business.
“We don’t know what to do. We miss our boss,” Black said, referring to Alita, as she stood in the shop Thursday afternoon with Schlunaker.
“We hope to be open some regular days,” she said. “We’re just trying to figure out what the best days would be. Maybe we’ll be open a half day on Saturday and another day during the week.”
Black said she is still meeting with customers by appointment and fulfilling custom orders for window treatments and fabric accessories.
“If a customer buys furniture and can’t take it with them, we can make sure we’d leave it somewhere where they can pick it up, or we can deliver it,” Schlunaker said.
Both Schlunaker and Black said they wished they had the energy Alita did to open the shop more often.
“She worked from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., six days a week,” Schlunaker said. “She sewed window treatments, tablecloths, napkins, table runners and placemats, but pillows were her favorite.”
Last month, the Browse-A-Round was open for a customer appreciation sale in an effort to reduce some of the inventory.
Schlunaker said he was overwhelmed by the response to that sale.
“We were just covered up,” he said of the crowd. “We have some real loyal customers.”
But Schlunaker said he still had plenty of inventory to sell off.
“The furniture was my part of the business. I have six warehouses full of inventory,” he said. “I got lucky and had a local florist buy all of the floral pieces she made.”
Black added there are at least 100 bolts of fabric that is just for outdoor and sunroom furniture.
“I can open the store if someone wants to come and shop,” Schlunaker said. “Right now, I’d like to reduce the inventory to get the building ready for sale.
“I would love for someone to buy the inventory and the building and keep running the business,” he said.
If no one comes forward to take over the business, Schlunaker said he will have to close the doors for good.
“Eventually we’ll have a going-out-of-business sale,” he said.
Schlunaker still becomes sentimental when talking about the business that he and his beloved wife ran.
“Every time I look back there, I see her,” he said, pointing to the darkened room where Alita’s sewing machine sits idle.
Schlunaker then showed a framed 2008 Commercial-News article in which Alita said she planned to work as long as she could to help people make their homes beautiful.
“She was able to do that. She succeeded,” he said. “This was her life.”