Karen Wilson had driven through Poolesville for years, admiring it as a charming small town. But Poolesville began to stand out as she started scouting locations for a market for refurbished furniture.
Though the Blue Hearth is only open one weekend a month, Wilson has jumped into what she sees as a budding small-town economy and is doing her part to bolster it.
She opened the shop last September in the old Dr. Thomas Poole house on Fisher Avenue, where she features 10 vendors in the many rooms and hosts decorating and art classes in the step-down kitchen.
With some help, she hauled a bright red footed bathtub from the upstairs bathroom to the backyard to use as a planter.
Wilson is focused on how different businesses in town can work together to share customers and attract people to Poolesville. She is drawing on local talent to teach classes and host events.
“She’s become a portal for our other local businesses,” Town Commissioner Valaree Dickerson said. “It’s the only business that has come to Poolesville in a long time that is giving opportunities to other local businesses and residents.”
On a recent Saturday, Wilson deployed her teenage kids to pass out reusable bags at White’s Ferry, with information inside from businesses around town.
George Virkus, general manager at Bassett’s Restaurant down the street, said that the past few years, businesses have tried to help each other through poor economic times. The restaurant gets some of its desserts from Zaglio’s Bakery Cafe and makes sure to tell customers of the source. And when customers buy something at the Blue Hearth, they get 10 percent off their meal at Bassett’s.
The Blue Heart is open Friday through Sunday on the first weekend of every month. Virkus said he’s noticed a fresh flow of customers.
“One weekend a month — it makes this spot a destination,” Wilson explained. “It creates a sense of urgency.”
Plus, finding and fixing up furniture takes time. Vendors from Poolesville, Darnestown, Frederick, Silver Spring, Rockville and Hagerstown bring in antique side tables, shabby-chic painted dressers, and bar tables made from old tractor parts.
Though a history aficionado, Wilson describes her personal style as modern. But she loves a mix of the two. Pieces in the store tend toward traditional.
A Darnestown resident, Wilson spent much of her time over the past two decades in Chevy Chase and Bethesda, recommending fabric patterns or toting side tables to test in the homes of her clients as an interior designer. Later, she shifted to Gaithersburg, where desperate home sellers in the early 2000s were hiring decorators to spruce up their homes for market.
She dabbled in custom refurbishing and got the idea to open a store. Her real estate search took her all over the county, but Poolesville’s history and charm stood out as just the place to open a furniture market.
“It seemed to me like it was on the verge of an economic upturn, so it seemed that it was a perfect place to land,” Wilson said.
The airy, old, three-story, 6,000-square-foot house, with its moldings and seven hearths, was the antidote to Wilson’s search of other business spaces in strip malls. The shop gets its name from the bright blue hearth in the kitchen.
With new homes under construction and a highly ranked high school, Wilson anticipates Poolesville to be on the upswing.
She also wants Poolesville to capitalize on its rich history.
“Poolesville had a huge place in Civil War history. It should be drawing people for that, but it’s not,” she said.
The memory of that history seems to lurk in the house, which, built in 1835, belonged to the son of John Poole, who founded the town.
One day, Wilson heard a clatter of silverware and followed the noise to find a single spoon on the floor in the middle of the room, five feet or so from where it had started on a table. No one had been in the room.
Dickerson worked her first job at the house back in the 1970s, when it was King’s Head Tavern. All of the wait staff avoided trash duty at the end of the night because eerie things happened out back, she said.
But the ghosts aren’t keeping any customers away, and classes have been selling out. A favorite class has been what Wilson calls Masterpieces and Vino. Local artist Madison Barnes sketches masterpiece paintings on canvases and instructs participants how to paint the piece.
Wilson also has brought in local flower-arranging and wreath-making gurus. For Mother’s Day, she’s planning a spa night on Thursday, bringing in local estheticians to give massages and pedicures.
Soon she plans to expand the business into an event space for rent. She’s been buying up linens, flatwear and other supplies to host any type of event in the courtyard behind the house.
“We hope to be a big source of change for Poolesville, a big source of growth,” Wilson said.