“COVID launched our business for a loop”

UPTOWN – JT and Charlie Murray found the perfect Uptown storefront for their dream business, a home and garden showroom named Hearthstone & Terrace that combined their expertise.

Then the coronavirus pandemic struck. With retail closings and furniture deliveries delayed due to factory closures, the Murrays have had to revamp their plan.

They decided to open Friday as a garden center, selling seasonal plants from the store patio at 1329 W. Wilson Ave. Hearthstone & Terrace might have a slightly modified business plan to begin with, but the move will hopefully fill a need in the community when the store is introduced to the neighbors.

“We wanted to expand our patio and focus on the indoors first,” said JT, who lives with her husband Charlie in Rogers Park. “When we knew our furniture weren’t coming, we said, ‘How do we make it work? “”

JT closed its housewares store in Andersonville in July 2019, deciding to open more of a home furniture and design showroom. He hired Charlie, a botanist who worked at the Garfield Park Conservatory, to help him create a garden design showroom on the store’s 1,800 square foot patio.

But then the first roadblock happened. Furniture orders were not being filled after factories were forced to close. The Illinois stay-at-home order also meant retail stores couldn’t open.

State control was eventually relaxed, allowing retailers like garden centers to open their doors. The idea to move more to a garden center came out of an opportunity and a necessity, the Murrays said.

“COVID has made our business go on a loop,” Charlie said. “We try to adapt and make the most of it.

Hearthstone & Terrace will feature a variety of seasonal flowers, plants and vegetables as well as tropical indoor plants. The plants will be displayed on the store’s terrace, which will be taped for a one-way flow and limit the number of customers allowed at a time.

Plants can also be ordered in advance for curbside pickup. Part of the inventory can be seen on the business’ website.

The store will also be open. Part of the showroom was staged with the furniture delivered.

“People will at least get a glimpse of what we’re aiming for,” JT said.

Ultimately, Hearthstone & Terrace will look like the design showroom the Murrays had meticulously planned. In the meantime, the traders are happy to come to the neighborhood.

“We have a lot of hope,” Charlie said. “The neighborhood has supported me a lot. It’s already a warm welcome.

Hearthstone & Terrace, 1329 W. Wilson Ave., will be open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Monday. For online orders, click here.

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