Everyone loves to find great pieces for our home décor and create spaces we feel good about, but in today’s economy our purchases have to balance that desire with wisdom and thrift. Finding those great shops that allow us to do all of that is something to celebrate and share.
Cameron’s Home Furnishings in downtown Lee’s Summit is that kind of place. It’s got all the makings of an exclusive boutique with none of the intimidating atmosphere or prices.
In researching for this article, I asked a fellow Lee’s Summit resident if she ever shopped at Cameron’s.
“Nope, it’s out of my price range,” she answered.
I thought the same thing. My husband doesn’t yet know that we need a new coffee table, but we do, so when co-owner Amy Robertson invited me to come to Cameron’s for our interview, I was curious to see their selection. When I opened the door, my “new coffee table” greeted me warmly with its deep brown color and appealing lines. I braced myself for the price tag flip. In the Pottery Barn catalogue similar tables sell for about $700 (a price that would prevent my ever having a new coffee table). When I turned over the tag, a pleasant surprise occurred: $359. Now that is a price a husband might be willing to discuss.
As I milled around the store, that experience repeated itself over and over again. I’d be drawn to an unusual item, estimate the amount, turn over the tag and experience the same lower-than-expected-price amazement. Beautiful lamps, one-of-a-kind accents, custom pillows, side tables–all unexpectedly reasonable and affordable.
“We want people like us to be able to shop here,” says Amy. “We’re just regular people. I’m a typical wife and mom with two kids.”
Amy co-owns the store with her parents, Steve and Sue Tominia. They’ve owned the store since 2001 and have overcome the economic downturn as well as two years’ construction traffic by being very creative. They are big supporters of downtown business, Steve serving significant roles with Lee’s Summit Downtown Main Street group that has been integral in the development and beautification of the area.
Unique accent items are also a signature characteristic of Cameron’s.
“I like to buy things that customers can say, ‘I haven’t seen that anywhere,’” says Amy whose own love of shopping serves the store well in her role as buyer for Cameron’s. “Since the economy became more depressed, people want more light-hearted, funky, whimsical items for their homes,” says Amy, as she showed me a duo of vintage-looking bowling pins on a sideboard. Imagine all the laughter at the dinner table those pins might inspire as bad bowling stories flow with the gravy (like my own, “I Tried” Trophy tale from fifth grade).
A handful of ceramic pieces that disappear from their shelves have names like “Fun Little Chickens and Fat Cats” ($18.99 -$29.99) and “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil Owls” ($24.99). These would make great gifts, or serve as interesting conversation starters.
Even the furniture has spunky names. A customer favorite, “Big Brown Betty” (or “Big Beige Betty”) is a distinctive 12-foot sofa, not curved exactly but rather slightly angled in four points so that it arcs slightly. You can actually get Big Betty covered in just about any color or fabric you’d like. Her price tag is less than you’d expect something so unusual to be, too. It’s Amy’s eye and feel for trends that guide the purchasing at market and make the store offerings so special.
“I buy what I would put in my own home,” Amy says. “It’s me in here, everything I like.”
Many stores in this part of the country go to buyers’ market in Dallas, but Cameron’s makes the trip to the larger market in Atlanta to increase the odds that they come home with select pieces. It’s a huge veritable “city of wares.” Amy studies the catalogue and marks out the vendors she wants to meet. “It’s five days of buying-up-a-storm,” she says with a huge smile. “It’s like a treasure hunt!”
She brings those treasures home to share with her delighted customers. Design shows, HGTV and Pinterest keep her apprised of trends.
“Pinterest is changing what people are looking for,” says Amy. “HGTV did that years ago. Now people bring in a photo of a look or room they pinned and ask us to help them put it together.”
Amy may be the force behind the buying, but she is quick to point out there is a strong trio of owners with talents that work together to make their business operate.
Not only is Steve the “M&M” (muscle and money) guy who unloads, moves and pays bills, but he also enjoys serving on several community committees and working with people throughout the city. Sue is an artist, the artsy, visual one known for her phenomenal Christmas tree decorating during the holidays. She also does custom floral design unlike a flower shop.
“She likes to listen and watch the customer’s faces as she selects different things for them,” Amy says. The result is a truly personalized arrangement.
Cameron’s originally started as a clothing store in 1997 but with department stores moving in, the original owner changed direction and started selling home furnishings. The owner mentored Amy and taught her the business. At the mere age of 21, Amy and her family purchased the store. In the beginning, Amy and Sue delivered furniture themselves. Steve soon got bit by the retail bug and quit his lucrative job as vice president of a local business to join his girls. All employees have been there for years and have a special connection to the family.
“I never dreamed I’d be doing this, but I can’t imagine doing anything else,” says Amy. “I love winning over clients, creating the marketing, and buying stuff.”
Customers sense that passion in her and love working with her and her parents and staff. Emily and Brad Klapmeyer built a new home in New Longview two years ago and decided it was a good time to replace old furniture. They furnished their family room, carriage house and bought a kitchen table entirely from Cameron’s.
Emily says she happened upon the store about ten years ago and bought their master bedroom furniture there. They went back recently for a reason.
“We knew Amy would be helpful, do a good job and that the prices are reasonable,” Emily says. “And, we could pick out our own fabrics for a lot less than somewhere else.”
For the Klapmeyers, the whole process took two hours.
“I had taken pictures of our house, and we only had a two-hour window with our babysitter,” Emily says. “Amy helped us pick it all out. We loved it all, and we loved her. She is so down-to-earth, friendly and approachable, not intimidating at all.”
If you love unique things, if you saw something on Pinterest you haven’t had time to create for your home, if you like looking at Pottery Barn, Nell Hills or Ballard Design but don’t have the budget for them, give Cameron’s a try. If anything, you’ll enjoy a pleasant, no-pressure shopping experience and can stop by one of the other great little shops downtown, too.
Cameron’s is located at 26 SE 3rd St, offering custom upholstery and a wide variety of home decor. They also partner with other local businesses like Faulkner’s and Sherwin Williams to offer a variety of classes and home decorating instruction.