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"Peonistas" can take heart at Valentine's Day event

Published 02/13/2012 12:00 AM

Julia Henderson was not content being just a customer of Peonies fine consignments, at 90 Main St. in Centerbrook.

Well, let's be clear. She was very content to be a customer. But she was dismayed when she learned that owner Laurel Peters was thinking about calling it quits last spring.

"She had it for sale and had two buyers that backed out. They were going to close," Henderson said.

At that point, she felt compelled to act.

"It had ended up being my favorite store," she said. "I was coming in here at least once a week. I was telling everyone about it."

Henderson's professional background was in nutrition, but she was determined to keep Peonies going, and took ownership of the business in May. Peters stayed on as her mentor, and now works in the store one day per week.

"It's been a nice transition," Peters said.

Peonies offers clothing, shoes and accessories in the $20 to $100 range. Customers can also keep wish lists of items they want first dibs on, and Henderson lets them know when, for example, a pair of plaid Burberry earmuffs makes an appearance.

Henderson and Peters hand-pick the items that go onto the racks. And although Henderson doesn't like saying no to consignors, she says it's vital to maintaining the quality and diversity of her selection.

One part of the job she loves is socializing with her customers, whom she affectionately refers to as "Peonistas." Henderson hosts regular social shopping events, serving wine and cheese and encouraging customers to browse at their leisure. She also said it is a way of showing her gratitude to the community.

"A lot of women support the store," she said.

To celebrate Valentine's Day, Peonies is among the businesses taking part in the "Shop Centerbrook — the Heart of Essex" event, which features refreshments and specials at village shops.

Potential Peonistas can check out the store on Facebook, or visit www.peoniescouture.com.