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A dream in store

By CARRIE WEIMAR, Times Staff Writer
Published October 7, 2007


Kathy Ross Johnson always dreamed of owning her own furniture store.

"I grew up in little villages and towns where there were always cute stores and boutiques to visit," said Johnson, 45, a California native. "My mom used to take me with her."

Johnson turned her appreciation of fine things into a home decorating business. After moving to the Largo area, she opened her own furniture booth on West Bay Drive two years ago. That's where she met Gael Webster-McFarland, a transplanted Michigan resident who had been selling antiques for more than two decades.

Johnson originally wanted to wait until her children - 9-year-old boy-girl twins and an 11-year-old son - were older before opening her own shop. But when the building at 560 Indian Rocks Road became vacant, she leapt at the opportunity.

"I said, 'You know what? Let's do it,' " Johnson said.

Now she is the owner of Magnolia Marketplace, which offers an eclectic mix of wares, including wrought-iron garden furniture, rare antiques and interesting knickknacks.

Webster-McFarland is one of the store's vendors, specializing in antiques. Lisa Mercer, who sells shabby chic and cottage chic furniture, is the other vendor.

The store opened June 4 and business has been growing ever since, Johnson said. She talked to the Largo Times about furniture, style and her favorite thing to do when she's not working.

What's the most surprising thing about starting your own business?

Everything that comes with it. Obviously, we started at a very bad time of year because it's a little slow. But surprisingly, business has been pretty good.

What makes your store different from other local antique shops?

I would say we have more of a Northern feel - the colors are a little bit brighter, a little bit deeper.

What would you say is the difference between Northern and Southern style?

Northern style is a little bit brighter. There's more of a collection of things vs. one look. You pick something up and you remember where you bought it and how you got it.

Can you give tips for people like me who may not have a lot of style but want their home to look nice?

As a decorator, I always try to find pieces that fit your personality. If you see something and you absolutely love it, you need to buy it, even if your friends say it's hideous.

What do you do when you're not working?

I have a black Jeep. That's my sanity. I jump in there and take my kids for a ride to the beach. We just go.

Know a business that should be featured in Largo Works? Contact Carrie Weimar at 727 445-4151 or

If you go

Magnolia Marketplace is at 560 Indian Rocks Road in Belleair Bluffs. Open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

[Last modified October 6, 2007, 20:02:53]

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