“If you’d have told me I’d be a cult leader when I was a kid, I would’ve actually been OK with that,” Stephanie Rhodes deadpans. Rhodes is the owner of The Coleman Collection furniture consignment store in Mount Pleasant, and the cult in question is her dedicated clientele, an enormous group of style and design omnivores who can’t wait to see what will show up in the store next. A bright red mid-century sofa? A wabi-sabi hand-loomed rug? A slightly ominous, yet endearing, oil painting of someone’s aristocratic ancestor? You never know what you’ll see when you visit the store, but you can bet it will be interesting. As one client famously said, “Not all of it is my taste, but it’s all in good taste.” Yes, Rhodes has an expert eye for choosing what will work in the store, but my hypothesis is the fanatical following has more to do with Rhodes herself.
With the slight build of the chronically energetic and the wicked, lightning-fast humor that comes from living in big cities (D.C., Philadelphia and Atlanta), Rhodes is immediately likable. She has the organic, unfussy style of a Parisian, but her devil-may-care attitude means that she isn’t afraid to stand any style on its head and hang the rules early and often. “Life is supposed to be fun,” she says. “I have to remind people that it’s not their job to make their neighbors happy, the point is to make themselves happy in their own home.” It’s these joyful and liberating “Steph-isms” combined with the sheltering sincerity of a good confidant that make you want to let your freak flag fly and invite Rhodes over to drink wine and watch it flap in the breeze with you. Four thousand lively and devoted Facebook followers can’t be wrong.
Rhodes curates the store entirely on her own and is famous for her imaginative vignettes that are more art than décor. However, she is quick to credit her success to her family. “The seeds for the success of The Coleman Collection were planted before I was born,” Rhodes says. “I come from generations of small business owners who knew it was worth the extra effort not to have to answer to a boss. I’ve learned for myself what they already knew: Creating and nurturing your own path and having your fingers in every detail is immeasurably rewarding. You have to be audacious and a little nuts to own your own business.”
Rhodes traces her sense of style to her mother and her aunts, affectionately known as “The Quinn Girls.” “They are, and were, six of the fiercest women on the planet,” Rhodes says. “Artistic, funny, smart, fashionable, accomplished mothers … I doubt I will ever master the quiet sophistication they all share, but I’ve got the fierce part covered. We’ve lost half of them in recent years, but there’s no question their legacy lives on. There is a confidence in knowing you come from good stock.”
That legacy does live on in The Coleman Collection, as evidenced by the fact that her clientele are more like extended family than customers. “At the end of the day, stuff is just stuff,” Rhodes says, “but I am part of people’s lives. I care about the people who shop here, and they know it.” As a result, The Coleman Collection has garnered a tidal wave of fans in the community. Most visit the store or check out the constantly updated Facebook page first before shopping anywhere else. “Most of my clients are sassy, stylish and just a little bit nuts too, and I love them,” she says. “Some of my long-term clients could be my aunties.”
The Coleman Collection carries furniture and accessories of every style and design period. Rhodes has a way of mixing it together in a way that is so inspiring that just a stroll through the store may help you see your entire home with fresh eyes.
Robin Howard is a full-time freelance writer in Charleston. See her work at robinhowardwrites.com.