Life in our Foothills June 2023 – Find Your Happy Here – Wild Petunias Gift Shop & Boutique
Published 3:50 pm Wednesday, June 28, 2023
When Stuart and Connie Cook purchased Vines of Tryon, a unique gift shop located at 112 North Trade St., Suite #6, it was already a well-established fixture in the community. After changing the name to Wild Petunias and investing lots of love into the boutique, they have continued to cement this eclectic Tryon gift shop’s reputation as one of the premiere shopping experiences in the Foothills.
Stuart and Connie Cook are a dynamic duo who had a dream of starting their own business. They both worked in the design and advertising industry in Chicago for years. Eventually, Stuart became a product manager for a tradeshow sign manufacturer and Connie began working with several of the companies whose products are now sold in the gift shop.
They eventually left Chicago when Connie took a job offer in Spartanburg, choosing Tryon as their home because they wanted to live in the mountains but still have easy access to her new job. They quickly fell in love with Tryon’s artsy, eclectic charm and small-town values.
Stuart says Tryon reminds him a bit of his hometown. “I’m from a tiny little town in Illinois of 5,000 people called Lake Bluff, and Tryon shares many similarities that certainly remind me of it,” he says.
Connie had already become a customer and fallen in love with the gift shop before they decided to buy it. “The corporate world was no longer appealing to me, so one day, I googled businesses for sale in Tryon and Vines of Tryon popped up,” she says. “I did my research, twisted Stuart’s arm slightly, and when the time came we decided to jump in with both feet.”
After purchasing the store in 2020, the couple soon realized that their professional backgrounds were ideally suited for their new venture. Stuart’s expertise in sign-making and graphic production proved invaluable, while Connie’s creative skills came in handy when she designed the store’s new logo and handled all marketing efforts. Additionally, Stuart took on the responsibility of crafting the Morris the Horse mailboxes, a beloved postal tribute to Tryon’s iconic equine mascot, after being entrusted with the project by a retiring local craftsman. These mailboxes are now available for purchase at the shop.
“The previous owners really set us up for success,” Connie says. “They had the business for twenty years, and we’ve been blessed to continue to build on their previous work. We didn’t make any major changes to the store, especially in the first year. We were of the mind ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Though we eventually changed the name after a year to Wild Petunias.”
“Then, when Mountain Trail Soap moved out to their new location we took advantage of the opportunity to knock out a wall and expand the store,” Stuart adds
The shop is known for carrying a wide variety of well-curated lines of bath and body products, jewelry, crafts, and gift items.
Wild Petunias features several popular product lines, including Caspari, a renowned publisher of exquisitely designed and printed paper products. With a reputation spanning over seven decades, Caspari has earned its standing by reproducing the works of esteemed artists and museums worldwide. Another noteworthy brand is Thymes, which offers premium bath and body products along with a distinctive line of fragrances. Additionally, Thymes produces the highly sought-after Frasier Fir candle line, boasting a wide array of delightful scents that can be found at Wild Petunias.
“I was a national speaker in design and color trends, which helps in my decisions of what to bring into the store,” Connie says when asked how they decide what to carry. “We also have wonderful sales reps that bring us some interesting items.”
At Wild Petunias, you can also find a range of exceptional creations from talented local artisans. For instance, Sue Salvatera Pottery from Weaverville offers a beautiful collection of multi-functional ceramics, while Scott Paly, the building’s owner, showcases his exquisite glass art. Motawi Tileworks presents its magnificent handmade tile artwork, while Wild Petunia’s Lotion Bars have become a favorite among Tryonites. Also, the store carries top-notch greeting cards from Quilling Cards and Cardthartic, along with an assortment of handmade cards by Kim Attwool.
As an active member of Tryon’s monthly Fourth Friday events, Wild Petunias frequently hosts a diverse array of creators and vendors. In a recent event, Michael Murphy, the talented artisan behind the My Buddy Pal greeting cards, showcased his exceptional collection that celebrates pets of all kinds.
On Friday, June 23, Wild Petunias will hold a trunk show for Michelle Parisou’s dresses and garments, from 10 a.m. -7 p.m. Every Parisou garment will be offered at 20% off, and Michelle will donate a dress to Steps of HOPE for every one sold.
Of course, they carry something for the kids, such as Solmate Socks, a colorful line where no sock matches the other completely. They also sell things kids like more than socks, like Jellycat plush toys and Faber-Castell Arts & Crafts.
“The store’s motto is, find your happy here,” says Connie. “Nothing makes me happier than hearing customers walking around the store commenting and enjoying the different items.”
Stuart, “What I love about the store is the local people coming in and meeting my neighbors and, of course, when they bring their dogs. The treat jar is always full. It feels like an extended family.”
Wild Petunias owes its success to the exceptional efforts of Stuart and Connie Cook. Using their expertise in design and advertising, they have transformed the store into one of the most sought-after shopping destinations in the Foothills. They’ve curated a diverse range of items that cater to a broad spectrum of tastes and preferences. When in Tryon, make sure to visit Wild Petunias and explore their remarkable assortment of gift items, crafts, jewelry, and bath and body products.
Photography by Storme Smith and Carri Bass