Stray Dog Designs' first retail location gives customers the chance to browse products in person that are normally only offered online. A trip downtown to the home accessories store also saves customers the hassle of an international flight to Mexico or Haiti, where crafters make many of the items sold in the store and through the Stray Dog "high-end housewares or home accessories line."
"Almost every day I bring something new in," said Lisa Gruwell, customer service representative and showroom /storeroom designer for the company. "Our items are very trendy but fit in great with antiques also - it really works in both traditional and modern interiors."
Country Living did a segment on owners Billy and Jane Prichards' Lookout Mountain home where the couple has blended modern, traditional and Stray Dog elements to create a comfortable home with character.
"We're known for our color and unique design and materials - paper mache, tin, iron and recycled glass," Billy Prichard said of the Stray Dog line, which predominantly features lamps at the moment.
He opened Stray Flea this spring and said he is hoping to continue slowly growing the retail side of the company. Stray Dog will use the store as a place to test new designs and merchandise. Samples, prototypes and refurbished vintage furniture with a Stray Dog twist round out the store's inventory.
Some of the refurbished furniture includes dressers or wardrobes with decorative flower pulls made out of paper mache. Also popular are Stray Dog's paper mache lamps, chandeliers, birdhouses and busts.
"We make efforts to be green," Prichard said. "We use recycled materials and high-quality paints that don't have toxins. I think it's important that more people go in that direction."
Most of Stray Dog's and Stray Flea's merchandise items are bright and whimsical with a unique touch that Prichard said isn't found anywhere else.
Stray Dog was founded in 1995 after the Prichards spent an extended honeymoon in Mexico. While traveling, they discovered several unique Mexican crafters and decided to purchase goods to bring back and sell in Chattanooga. They quickly began Stray Dog, selling works from their new contacts in Mexico and Haiti. The business was named after a stray dog they found in Mexico and was originally located in Rossville, Ga.
Every year, Stray Dog would host a big warehouse sale to clean out scratch and dent inventory. In 2005 the company moved to a new location on East 11th Street in downtown Chattanooga and decided to host fewer sales because it took too much time to plan.
"It was such a task to try to get ready for that," Prichard said. "We had not done a warehouse sale here in three years, so we decided opening a store would be an easier way to keep product fresh and liquidate it in that manner."
For more information on Stray Dog visit the store's website. Stray Flea is open Tuesday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.