By Tony Kukulich
After managing the Front Porch, a high-end furniture consignment shop, for 23 years, Candice and Jim Thomas have decided it’s time for retirement.
Fans of the business located at 206 Sea Island Parkway on Lady’s Island need not be concerned as the Front Porch will continue to operate much in the way it has for the past two decades. Longtime Beaufort residents Waynette and Will Payne will take over the business in early October after having purchased it from Candice and Jim.
Candice has been the face of the Front Porch for its entire existence up to this point, though she never had any intentions of running a retail business. She and Jim were living in Charlotte where she worked for an international real estate development company, and Jim ran his own printing business.
The couple frequently vacationed at a Beaufort County beach house owned by Jim’s family. Having fallen in love with the area, they moved to Fripp Island in 1999. After the move, they found themselves with more furniture than they could use.
“One day my husband said, ‘Hey, do you want to start a furniture consignment store?’” Candice explained. “I didn’t know anything about retail. He said, ‘Oh, you can do it,’ He started the company because had already started a couple of printing companies of his own. It was easy. It was great.”
Candice took to running the business like a proverbial fish to water, finding joy in the daily interaction with her customers. It didn’t matter if the customers came into the shop, which has been in the same location since opening, to buy, sell or just chat.
“It’s so enjoyable,” she said. “You get to know the customers, the consignors and the buyers. After 23 years, you get to know people pretty well. It’s a great atmosphere all the time.”
While Candice worked with the customers and made decisions about what items she’d accept on consignment, Jim provided the muscle for the business for many years. He used a box truck he owned to handle the pickup and delivery of furniture.
“For years he did that,” Candice said. “But then it got to where he didn’t do that any longer. You get older and you don’t want to do that anymore.”
It’s not difficult to see the parallels between Candice’s and Waynette’s start in the business. Like Candice, Waynette had never considered owning and running a retail business. She had a long career in banking when Will suggested they purchase the Front Porch. Will owns and operates Haulin’ 4 You, and has moved furniture for the Thomases. Having heard they were planning to retire, he made the pitch to Waynette, and she was soon onboard.
After meeting with Candice and Jim, they sealed the deal.
“It wasn’t anything that any of us really planned,” Waynette said. “It just kind of all came together. It was all the people in the right place at the right time.”
One change customers will notice is that the business is moving across the parking lot. Renovations in the new space are nearing completion, and Waynette hopes to be open for business within the next few weeks.
“The whole thing is just amazing,” Waynette said. “It’s exactly what we would have done if we had started from the ground up. Jim and Candice are fabulous people. I keep telling Jim that Candice has to come along as part of a package deal.”
Candice said she’s not sure what the future will hold. She and Jim will spend some time planning their next step, but the couple is looking to buy a home and acreage. They’ll likely be leaving Lady’s Island, but will stay in the state.
“I definitely will miss it,” Candice said. “There’s never been a day that I can remember in 23 years that I said, ‘I wish I didn’t have to go to work today.’ Never. I’ve loved it. It’s been the most enjoyable job I’ve ever had. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be different. It’s because of the people – such nice people come in here all the time.”
Tony Kukulich is a recent transplant to the Lowcountry. A native of Wilmington, Del., he comes to The Island News from the San Francisco Bay Area where he spent seven years as a reporter and photographer for several publications. He and his wife enjoy exploring their new home state. He can also frequently be found playing bass guitar with a couple of local bands. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.