Step into Cotton Row Uniques, and you will find yourself in a carefully curated store filled with antique furniture, intriguing decor, cool gifts, vintage jewelry and a fun touch in every corner! Located in the heart of East Memphis, this charming little boutique has had a significant impact on the city. Only one year after opening, Cotton Row Uniques was voted Best Antiques Store, Best Gift Shop and Best Home Furnishings in Memphis Flyer’s Best of Memphis 2019. The store was also selected as a favorite in the Best Gift Boutique category by readers of the Commercial Appeal in the 2019 Memphis Most promotion. After just a few minutes of conversation with the owners, Shane Waldroup and Scott Barnes, it’s easy to see why!
Shane and Scott owned multiple booths at La Maison Antiques for over a year before deciding to take the plunge by opening a store of their own, in September 2018. Shane ended a more than 25-year career in the medical industry to run Cotton Row Uniques; Scott continues to work full time in information technology for a local third-party administrator. He’s in the store in the evenings and on weekends, keeps the software up to date and keeps track of the inventory. “It makes a nice outlet for me,” he says. “Plus, he is the store’s antiques guru,” adds Shane. “He’s always had a passion for antiques and can tell almost immediately where and when a piece is from. And he has an eye for rare pieces.”
Rarity is what the store owners strive to offer their customers. They don’t want all of their clients to have the same look, so they steer clear of big volume purchases. Instead, they search for unique items that tell a story.
The inventory is continually evolving. Scott and Shane go to market every six months in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Dallas. To cast an even wider net, they source goods from across the nation. They bring back the vintage, antique, industrial, shabby chic and collectible items other stores may not carry. They enjoy the hunt for new products so much that they often find themselves searching even when they are on vacation. “We’ve been known to pull a U-Haul around,” says Shane. “It’s a lot of work, but it is a lot of fun. And the work pays off in seeing our customers happy.”
A pleased customer is the goal. “I love seeing people happy in their homes,” Shane says. “It was such a joy to decorate my own home, and I want that for our customers.”
The duo loves to offer advice on selecting classic staple pieces and mixing styles, but say they want people who walk through the door to feel comfortable — so you won’t find them hovering. Shane says they’ll ask a few questions, but they let customers walk through, touch, look and enjoy the space. Clients are welcome to take a piece home on approval to make sure it fits in with their style.
The store is not huge, but there are plenty of options from which to choose. Smaller decorative pieces and gift items can be found downstairs. China is displayed in beautifully lit cabinets in the back,while gourmet food items line one side; jewelry and handbags are along another. Upstairs, you can find comfy couches, vintage chairs, classic tables and fabulous light fixtures.
Cotton Row Uniques customers are an eclectic, diverse bunch, coming from Midtown and East Memphis, Germantown and Collierville, Arkansas and Mississippi. “We get cotton farmers from the Mississippi delta coming through quite often,” says Shane. “Maybe they were first attracted by the name, but they are very loyal customers.”
The name pays homage to Shane’s father, who was in the textile industry in North Carolina, and Scott’s family, who were in the cotton business in Mississippi. Both relish their Southern roots and have called Memphis home since the mid-1990s. Although they initially had no intention of being a gift shop, the store has evolved into a specialty boutique. “Customers from the tri-state area came in for the few gift items we did offer, and we’d hear the comment that no one else had anything like our pieces,” said Shayne. The store has expanded, and their candles, jewelry and gourmet food items are among the best sellers.
Now that there is finally a hint of coolness in the air, the shop is getting ready for fall. What treats are in store for the spookiest of holidays?
“The retro look is huge this year,” says Scott. “The look reflects childhood for a certain age group, and it is a fun theme to play with.” There are cool witches, not-so-scary jack-o-lanterns and ghosts, and paper-mâché Halloween figurines haunting the store.
Looking ahead, the vintage look will be in demand for Christmas. “We’re seeing classic and traditional elements with red and green, or a rustic French country theme,” Scott says. Incorporating paper-mâché figurines — this time of Jolly Old St. Nick — will be a big seller for the festive season.
For now, Cotton Row Uniques is decking the halls for autumn and basking in the pride of capturing the hearts of Memphis!
Cotton Row Uniques is located at 4615 Poplar Avenue, Suite 3, Memphis, TN 38117. Their hours are Tuesday and Wednesday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Learn more at cottonrowuniques.com or by calling (901)590-3647.
Want your best “me moment” of the day? Subscribe to StyleBlueprint! Click HERE.