Vintage furniture, paint store moves into old Clarke Hardware space

By Rhonda Simmons

© Culpeper Star Exponent

Image courtesy Culpeper Star Exponent Rhonda Simmons

Image courtesy Culpeper Star Exponent
Rhonda Simmons

A vintage/antique furniture and specialty chalk paint shop is relocating from its South East Street spot to a prime storefront location on East Davis Street: The old Clarke Hardware store.

Poppy + Chalk co-owners Linda and Steve Dohl plan to open their store at 201 E. Davis Street in early November with much more space and just a few steps away from their existing, smaller location.

“Lots of people wander up and down Davis Street and in our current location, we do OK but you just don’t get the foot traffic like you do on Davis Street. And we needed more space , too,” said Steve Dohl. “To pull people off of Davis Street is like an act of God.”

The couple’s current S. East Street spot is about 500-square-feet and the E. Davis Street location spans about 1,500-square-feet, according to Fairfax Masons past Worshipful Master and Junior Warden Will Adams. Poppy + Chalk will occupy half of the 3,000-square-foot space closest to the intersection of South East and Davis streets.

Built in 1900, the building is owned by the Culpeper Masons, Fairfax Lodge No. 43, which is headquartered on the top floor.

Adams hopes to rent the other half of the space in the near future.

After 35 years at the 201 E. Davis Street location, Clarke Hardware owner Claude Minnich closed his doors and retired at the end of June. Clarke Hardware occupied the entire 3,000-square-feet on the main level since 1980.

Located downstairs for 29 years, Hudson’s Heating and Cooling also had to relocate so that the masons could start their long-anticipated renovation.

The masons hired Graystone Homes to renovate the main and lower levels. Graystone Homes owner Anthony Clatterbuck put superintendent E.S. Gillespie and foreman Chuck Boyles in charge of this project.

“It’s gratifying to be part of the continuing growth of the downtown area and it’s very nice to work on these old buildings, bringing them back to their original glory,” said Clatterbuck. “And it’s nice to see more and more businesses coming into the downtown market. It’s good for the community.”

For Boyles, renovating a historic structure comes with its challenges.

“For me, I think the hardest thing is knowing what needs to stay and what can we recreate,” said Boyles.

Adams said construction started on the 115-year-old building in July and hoped to have it complete by Oct. 1, but with construction sometimes comes setbacks and the new deadline was pushed back to early November.

“Everything in this building is original except for a few pieces of wood and the bathrooms,” said Adams. “The ceilings and all the exterior walls are original. We didn’t take out anything we didn’t absolutely have to.”

Adams said the lower level could also be divided into two separate spaces or the next tenant could rent the entire basement. Before that, he’d like to clean it up and install new concrete flooring throughout the basement level.

Newly installed drywall separates Poppy + Chalk and the future tenant. Steve Dohl said he purchases his antique furniture from storage units and antique shops. The couple will paint the furniture for you, or you can purchase their paint and do it yourself.

“The paint is all natural and there’s no smell so if you want to paint you don’t have to take it out to the garage,” explained Steve Dohl. “You don’t have to sand it down or nothing.”

Linda Dohl opened Poppy + Chalk in December 2014. She also offers a painting workshop for customers.

Culpeper Masons’ Worshipful Master Bob Stohlman said Culpeper Renaissance, Inc. will plan a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Poppy + Chalk in the near future.   

While not revealing the cost of this three-month renovation, Stohlman did say that the Main Street program via CRI is supporting this project monetarily with its Facade, Sign & Awning Improvement Grant program. The matching grant program allows up to $2,500 for facades and $500 for signage or awnings.

“This is a major renovation for us,” said Stohlman, who also wanted to mention and thank trustees David Dunwody, Leon Fincher, Bill Holman and John Aylor for their help pulling this project together. “We are part of the community and involved in supporting businesses, tourism and being respectful of Davis Street. So that’s one of the reasons why we wanted to spend as much money as we did, we want to be good neighbors to all the other people here in town.”

Before moving from Fairfax to Culpeper about two years ago, Steve Dohl served as a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Navy while Linda Dohl worked at Accenture based in Arlington.

“I fell in love with giving old pieces of furniture a new, brighter life,” Linda Dohl said during her first ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier this year. “And I fell in love with Culpeper and its vibrant and eclectic downtown.”

Chartered in 1794, the Fairfax Lodge No. 43 of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons is one of the town's oldest institutions.

Freemasonry, or Masonry as it’s also known, is a fraternal organization that traces its origins to the middle ages. Many Mason organizations today trace their roots to England in the early 1700s.

The Culpeper Masons have about 100 members, according to Adams.