My Secret World

Either you love to shop, or it’s a despised chore to be finished as quickly as possible. Some avoid the sale racks and bargain basements at all cost. These are the happy people that organize their calendar to shop the first bikinis of the season. . . in February at full retail. Others view shopping as a sport and find great entertainment in finding that perfect bikini 2 months after summer ends. . . 90% off retail.

I can honestly say that I don’t remember paying full retail for anything. Maybe it’s a combination of beating-the-system and more-bang-for-the-buck, but there’s also a huge thrill-of-the-hunt syndrome. It would stand to reason then that my favorite job would be shop-keeper (i.e., full time shopper).

Parker Robinson the night before our grand opening.

I happened onto this title by accident in 2004 when my husband surprisingly agreed to one of my more hair-brained ideas of something we could do together after retirement. There was an empty retail space on upper Main; an open, loft-like showroom with original terrazzo floors.

We named it Parker Robinson – my paternal grandmother’s maiden name (Parker), and the maiden name of my husband’s mother (Robinson). Our neighbor to the right was a Pawn Shop, and a sports bar held court across the street. We couldn’t have been more proud.

A Few of Our Favorite Things
BY STAFF 5/1/2005 AT 1:00AM

Best way to give your house Hollywood glamour…
Choose a piece from the collection of mirror-clad furniture at Parker Robinson on Main Street.

Don’t forget to…
Indulge in 600-count Pratesi linens ($1,480 the king set). Coco Chanel designed the classic three-line or chain-stitch trim in the 1950s.
Parker Robinson, 1521 Main St., (941) 366-3343.



A local magazine snapped our picture for their article “Draped in Elegance,” a reference to Parker Robinson’s ready-to-hang draperies. I sketched out their design, a local workroom made them into beautiful drapes, and we sold them by the panel to folks from all over the country. 

For 3 years I sat at my desk/check-out counter at the back of the store, and shopped. The more exclusive and elusive the item the better. It was a dream job, until an interior designer from New York walked through the front doors and said he wanted to buy my store. I left a piece of my heart on upper Main, but I took that designer’s money.



A few years later the economy crashed and retail stores sat empty everywhere. It spurred another hair-brained idea to “pop” into a space for a few weeks, sell my heart out, and close it down. What could be easier? Having shopped the exclusive-elusive, we quickly learned exclusive-elusive could be found at bargain prices, if you knew where to look. We knew where to look, and Parker Robinson was now being sold in a bargain basement. We called it Canny Rooster, and it was loads of fun.


My husband has gone back to work 3 more times, and retired 3 more times since Parker Robinson first opened. Shopping is no longer a full-time job, and instead of finding the exclusive-elusive we look for the deal-of-the-day and ask ourselves, “Can we make this work?”

. . . this question currently referencing the furnishing of our little cabin in the woods.


End table: $15 (priceless after the top is re-finished!), Hickory White end table: $25, a pair of bar stools in red velvet from a High Point showroom: $95/each, and a $79 wrought-iron chandelier from a High Point photo shoot – all found at the Red Collection Consignment store in Greensboro.

With the addition of 36 crystals we found on eBay, this chandelier will be the show-stopper of our little cabin.

A cocktail ottoman was found on Wayfair, but they sent a chair instead. Rather than return the chair, they sent the ottoman and told us to keep the chair.

Using reward points earned for our loyal shopping on Wayfair, we shopped the clearance corner and left with euro shams for $0, and a light fixture for $5.

There’s also a $30 Queen bed, $19 chair, $20 silver lamp, $15 antique tartan blanket, $80 for a pair of velvet drapes from the Maitland-Smith showroom, and our kitchen island is a counter-height, solid wood table we snagged for $257.


Legendary Englishman, Mr. Paul Maitland-Smith, sold his name-sake company and created Theodore Alexander in 1996. Their High Point outlet is a treasure trove of beautiful furniture. . . at deep discounts. A favorite pastime.

High Point showrooms regularly off-load market samples at “Furnishings 411”, which has some of the best showroom pillows for $20 or less. This was also where I found the Maitland-Smith showroom drapes at $80/pair.

The E.J. Victor showroom is a delightful shop with the best prices of the season just before or after market. It was their factory warehouse sale that boasted the very best buys, and where we saw the Kate Spade furnishings before their public debut.


My secret world is now exposed.  Only one question remains, “Can we make this work?”  Stay tuned . . .  


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