Resembling a small town Anthropologie, Dad’s Primitive Workbench always keeps customers coming back for more. The signature scent that blends butter and maple syrup wafts through the store and florals with touches of greenery adorn the walls. Owner Charlie Clay greets customers by name and spends the majority of his time making the store a home away from home for his guests.
Dad’s Primitive WorkBench has been a Marietta staple since its opening six years ago. When it originally opened, Charlie kept the store stocked with antiques, home décor and a small selection of accessories. As with any good store, Dad’s Primitive Work Bench has grown and changed with the times. After Chip and JoAnna Gaines became household names, Charlie started to include more of the farmhouse and industrial styles.
It’s important to Charlie that customers’ needs are being met. Now, this includes their fashion needs as Charlie has expanded into a women’s clothing boutique as well.“Clothing and jewelry are fun and they make you feel good. I use my mom and my sister for inspiration, and the customers too as I’ve grown,” he said.
Charlie truly knows his customers, and that is crucial as he expands his clothing business into a monthly subscription box. Charlie handpicks the perfect items for each customer to help them grow their own personal style. Although wide-legged, high-waisted overalls aren’t for everyone, he knows who they are for and – that they should definitely be wearing them.His customer knowledge base doesn’t end in the clothing department either. Charlie works closely with his customers to create the perfect home aesthetic for them as well. He recently redecorated a client’s home in a style he knew that she would love by hand selecting each item.
“The way I look at it; I have to handpick every item or every vendor. If I don’t like it, I won’t buy it. I’ll pick old houses or old barns and try to decide how the pieces will look in different homes,” he said.
The store’s aesthetic is an important part of business for Charlie as well. He frequently changes how the store looks creating new vignettes to feature different pieces and vendors. Not only does this help the vendors, but it helps the customers see how different pieces work in different settings.Charlie credits part of his ability to stage a store to all the time he and his family spend in Walt Disney World. He admires the company’s ability to really entice all of the senses when they stage a store. Charlie draws from that inspiration when crafting the look in his showrooms.
Charlie’s ability to arrange a store, pick the best items and know a good deal span all the way back into his early teen years. His grandmother was a glassware dealer at Rink’s Flea Market. From her booth, she let Charlie sell baseball cards. She was knowledgeable and helped for some of the very foundations of his business.“When you are offering to buy people’s things, always stay kind. If you don’t want to buy it, you thank them and you never put someone’s stuff down,” Charlie said.
Growing from this advice, Charlie started to exhibit at crafts and antique shows when he was only 13 years old. He remembers that his dad thought he was nuts, but his mom was entirely on board. Regardless of their stances, Charlie said that both parents were supportive and ready to support his passion. They would come to the old Merchants and Artists Walks as a family and they all knew that one day Charlie would own a store on Front Street.The road to owning his own store wasn’t entirely straight though. Charlie still needed to learn a bit more about managing. He accomplished this by quickly rising through the ranks at Blockbuster. By 20, Charlie had his own store. He went on to become a district manager within the company, but as the company began closing stores, Charlie had to choose a different path.
He decided that it was the right time for him to go work at Walt Disney World. He was in Florida and headed to casting when the landlord for the building at Dad’s Primitive Workbench called him to offer the space. Making a decision on the spot, Charlie decided to stay in Marietta and pour his heart into the downtown area by starting his business.Naming the business after his father who had passed away from Leukemia before Charlie opened, he felt that it helped keep him close.
“My dad did everything on his workbench. Naming it after him helped to keep him close. This is a family business and he was always such a big part of it,” Charlie said.
Charlie considers everyone who is part of his business a part of his family – from the vendors to his customers. His familial approach to business expands into his dedication to the downtown area in Marietta as well.Charlie spearheads the Cash Mob effort in Marietta where he encourages people to bring their business to the small businesses in the area.
“Small business is family and that’s what we are,” Charlie said.