Early Christians adopted the peacock as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection because it sheds its feathers each year to grow new ones. Not only that, but the many eyes of a peacock’s feathers are said to represent the all-seeing eye of God.
But its propensity for the divine is not the only reason Anita Quesenberry decided to include the flamboyant bird in the name of her store. One of her favorite designers, Robin Brown, grew up on a peacock farm in Texas and trained them to follow her into the house by leaving a trail of breadcrumbs. She loved to watch their feathers spread out along the couch like a quilt. Eventually Brown even painted a peacock perched on one of the doorframes in her house.
“I wanted to try that,” Quesenberry states. “I love painting peacocks.”
Immediately shy to call herself an artist, Quesenberry is first and foremost just that. Self-taught, some of her early work was making jewelry out of paper. Her mom would take a shoebox of the creations with her to work at Kollmorgen and then return with a box full of money. Painting is her first love followed closely by decorating. She paints signs, ornaments and furniture and recently sold a hand-painted mailbox to a sheep farm in Floyd.
While Quesenberry loves the intricacies of running her business and decorating the store with items she treasures, she would ultimately prefer to be at home working behind the scenes, creating in her studio or garage.
“I’m a terrible sales person,” she laughs. “I would rather give stuff away.” Yet over the years, she has managed two previous stores and stocked a handful of antique malls with her work. After a bit of soul-searching, she came to understand that she didn’t really want to be a shopkeeper, she was just passionate about having an outlet for her creations.
Quesenberry grew up locally in a house of creators. Her mother was a seamstress and a decorator, and her father was a woodworker. As a child she loved Barbie dolls. Unable to afford all the bells and whistles that come with Barbie, she made her own. “I turned a bowl upside down and covered it with fabric to make an ottoman. I made couches out of shoeboxes. And, of course, I made Barbie doll clothes.”
Peacocks and Hollyhocks opened in the Dublin Depot in 2016 after Quesenberry drove by and noticed it was vacant. Having successfully sold her work there when it was an antique shop, it was enough to get her wheels turning about the possibilities. She sells handmade creations, gifts, clothing, jewelry, seasonal home décor and antiques. She also rents out a handful of rooms that other people keep stocked with various wares.
Having several friends who help her with the store and one official employee, Gwenn Akers, allows Quesenberry to stay at home to work on new projects and be her mother’s caregiver. She uses the store’s Facebook page to connect to her customers in a personal way, to let them know why she’s not always around when folks visit.
“Everyone tells me I need to sell online or open an Etsy shop. But I don’t want to,” she explains. “I want people to come into the store and experience this wonderful space and the products I’ve hand-picked to be here.”
The original Dublin Depot was built in 1854 by the town’s first two settlers. The union army burned it in 1864, and the subsequent depot building burned in 1912 when a potbelly stove exploded near a freight room full of coal oil. The depot that stands today was built in 1913 and is considerably larger than its predecessors. It is reflection of the prosperous era of rail travel. The original ticket booth is still here, along with the barn doors that allowed cattle to board trains. Quesenberry has updated the space, but kept the historical details intact.
Even though there will always be the challenge of the next Hobby Lobby opening up around the corner, Quesenberry remains steadfast with her mission. It’s not always about the bottom line; it’s about showcasing handmade creations that someone put their heart and soul into. Aside from her own work, she sells products from other artisans that you can’t find in big box stores.
“It takes a group of people who want something different. When I travel, I want to go into a store just like this one to see what other people have crafted,” she says.
And… hollyhocks? “It rhymes!” And not only that, they also happen to be a symbol of ambition due to their strength to flourish in an array of environments. Quesenberry has certainly embodied the spirit of the hollyhock. “Bloom Where You’re Planted” would surely make a lovely hand-painted sign.
Text by Nancy S. Moseley
Photos by Always and Forever Photography
Nancy Moseley is a Blacksburg-based freelance writer. She has big dreams of being artsy and craftsy, but knows that isn’t particularly realistic having two energetic boys.♦ End