At 25, Showhouse aging gracefully

Familiar faces at Dana’s Showhouse – (L-R) Gwen Schmitz, Dana Berg and Wendy Childers. - ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo
Familiar faces at Dana’s Showhouse – (L-R) Gwen Schmitz, Dana Berg and Wendy Childers.
— image credit: ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo

Dana’s Showhouse is a family business that feels like home.

Now in its 25th year and still run by original owner Dana Berg, the Winslow Mall business features comfy, overstuffed chairs and reading lamps that invite customers to feel at home in the warm space.

Long-time retail staff Wendy Childers, who has worked for Berg for 14 years, and Gwen Schmitz, who has been at Dana’s for five years, contribute to the homey atmosphere.

“We’re the ‘island women selling furniture to island people,’ like the slogan painted on our delivery van,’” Berg said. “Our store is alive and well, due to the commitment of islanders to shop locally.”

Berg, a BHS graduate who got a master’s degree at Washington State University, founded her furnishings store in a historic Eriksen Avenue home she and her husband, Bart Berg, originally intended to fix up and sell.

“We opened selling just furniture,” Berg said. “It was 1977 – we had Marimeko fabric, chrome, oak and earth tones. I remember the orange-and-black shag carpets.”

The store opened three years before Berg had her first child, a fact that proved to be essential to getting the business off the ground – the intensity of the work and the steepness of her learning curve the early years would have been incompatible with raising young children, she said.

Berg admits she had no idea how to make a business plan, set up books or order inventory.

“They don’t teach you about business in interior design school,” Berg said. “They teach you about design. I was absolutely clueless.”

Berg took a $10,000 loan and proceeded to work 10 hours a day, six days a week for the first five years.

“It takes that long to establish a business,” Berg said, “and 90 percent of small businesses fail within that time-span.”

But the five-year mark found Dana’s Showhouse flourishing, with small items such as candles and picture frames enlarging the inventory.

And she raised her children together with her business.

“Alexandra, Elizabeth and Christian started as toddlers in ad photos, then graduated to assembly people, delivery people and, finally, to sales people,” Berg said.

In 1991, the business moved to Winslow Mall, and Berg teamed up with Terri Bryan. The partners enlarged the scope of the store to sell art, French antiques, paper goods and toys.

As Dana’s Showhouse became more and more an intrinsic part of Winslow’s landscape of small merchants, Berg made sure the store contributed to local social life and welfare.

“All the small businesses are outlets for island organizations and events,” Berg said. “We put up posters. The mall is used for Arts Walk, for the Fourth of July celebrations and also for the Chilly Hilly bike race.”

She also stocked the store with the wares of ocal artisans.

Berg still keeps long hours, with Dana’s Showhouse open 9:30 -6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. She keeps her hand in all aspects of the business, working the floor 15 hours, putting in another 20 or so at her home office, and sometimes even delivering furniture – although she reserves time for her favorite cause, promoting bicycle use on the island.

“I really do love the store,” Berg said. “Every year, like everyone else, I think, ‘Should I do something else?’ But it’s really a big part of my life.”

* * * * *

Dana’s Showhouse invites customers to enjoy birthday cake and discounts on merchandise, 4-6 p.m. Oct. 25 in celebration of the store’s 25th anniversary.

Information: 842-6945.

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