For 20 years throughout the Triad there has been a name synonymous with sterling silver jewelry, stylish fashion and unique, affordable gifts. Simply Sterling & Company is a refreshing spin on the traditional boutique, and even after two decades, owner Lea Church Brendle still manages to surprise and delight her customers with fun finds.
A 20-Year Survival Story
With humble beginnings, Simply Sterling & Company was an in-home, traveling party experience. Long-time customers may remember the pop-up shows hosted by Lea (long before the term “pop-up shop” was coined). A trendsetter and entrepreneur, Lea began her concept in 1997. “My ‘Ah-ha!’ moment came after I’d purchased a pair of sterling silver charms and made my own necklace,” said Lea. “When my friends saw them, they loved them; I realized I could help my friends get their own, and start a business at the same time.” And, thus, the Simply Sterling & Company story began!
Even after opening the first brick and mortar shop in 2006, Lea still offered in-home parties for several years. “I’ve retired from the at-home party network these days,” said Lea. “But I still give my customers reasons to celebrate! We have a 20-year tradition of annual sales and special events for our customers to enjoy!”
“I realize that this has been a journey,” shared Lea. “We’ve weathered all kinds of ups and downs through the years, with the economy forcing many small business owners and retailers out of business. But we’ve survived. I owe so much of my longevity to my loyal customers.”
A Matter of Faith
While Lea credits much of her success to the loyalty of her customers, she gives the ultimate credit to her heavenly Father. “I run a faith-based business. And the principle by which I run my store came to me by accident,” shared Lea.
“One afternoon, a young boy was in here while his mother shopped,” she reminisced. “I noticed him counting. I asked him what he was counting, and he told me he was trying to figure out how many birds were in the shop.”
Lea stopped in her tracks. She’s not necessarily a “bird” person, but a Bible verse leaped to mind – “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” This verse from Matthew 6:26 spoke volumes to her heart. While she had wondered if she had what it would take to make her business work, God used a small boy to remind her that if He watched over the birds of the air, He, too, would watch over her. To that end, there are many bird items in the store, each one a special reminder of the promises of God.
The Support of Family
While Simply Sterling & Company began while Lea was still a recently singled mother, she’s enjoyed the benefit of family support throughout all 20 years of her business. “I was very fortunate,” she said. “When I started out, my parents helped me tremendously. They played chauffeur and helped my kids get to and from activities when I was working.”
Later, after Lea married her husband, Gray, they became a “his, mine, and ours” family. This couple started with Lea’s two children, Gray’s one, and later had two more of their own. “Through it all, my family has been supportive of my vision,” shared Lea. “I’m very blessed to have a supportive husband, supportive children, and supportive parents. And my regulars, of course, know my daughters, Madison and Natalie, who regularly help in the shop, especially during special events!”
A Sterling Selection
“Believe it or not,” said Lea, “there are those who still think we only sell jewelry, though we’ve been selling clothes and accessories for years. But the term ‘sterling’ applies to more than the gorgeous silver jewelry we were originally known for. ‘Sterling’ means ‘excellent,’ and to that end, I’ve worked hard to put together an excellent collection of unique finds, including clothing, handbags, candles, gift items, and more.
“I’m not into trends,” continued Lea. “I sell pretty. Yes, I have name-brands in my store (and really, who doesn’t love Waxing Poetic?) but the first objective for an item to be added to my inventory is based on its aesthetics. When I choose things I like, I’ve found most people like them, too. I rarely find a customer who makes a purchase based on the label; they choose things that they know they (or the recipient) will enjoy.”
Those who visit the store will find a great selection arranged in a fun way that invites a sense of discovery and wonder. “I love to arrange the store,” said Lea. “It’s a creative outlet for me. I’ve always enjoyed being crafty and artistic, and the store is my medium of choice. We have wall-to-wall merchandise that is organized in a way that keeps people discovering new and fun items as they travel through our shelves and racks.”
Retail Therapy Reinvented
“There is so much more to Simply Sterling & Company than a shop full of pretty things,” said Lea. “We are about relationships. And when you have relationships, you get to know people. You hear their stories. We’ve celebrated milestones and even cried with our customers over their losses. All that’s missing in the store is a therapy couch!
“We have heard it over and over again,” she continued. “Simply Sterling & Company takes retail therapy to a personal level. And that is music to my ears. Beyond merchandising the store, my favorite part of my business is the people who come to the store. I love getting to know them.”
“This year,” said Lea, “We are having a celebration 20 years in the making!” Long-time customers already know that Lea knows how to have a party! Ask anyone who is familiar with her quarterly events such as the Breakfast at Simply Sterling & Company; Spring Fling; Beach Blanket Bingo; Sips & Chips; and of course, her regular spot on the Forsyth Woman Tour de Boutique.
But for her 20-year anniversary, Lea is planning a three-day extravaganza – a party the whole community is invited to! Be sure to check her ad for details.
Simply Sterling & Company isn’t your everyday boutique. It’s a haven. A place to go to feel inspired. A place to shop for those special moments and special people in your life. A place to visit a friend – even if you haven’t officially met Lea yet; you will certainly leave feeling that you made a new one.
Simply Sterling & Company is located at 5275 Robinhood Village Drive in Winston-Salem. Call the shop at 336.896.0077 or visit online at SimplySterling.com. Simply Sterling & Company is also on Facebook and Instagram, where they regularly post new inventory and special savings!
“This has become my favorite boutique for finding unique gifts and cards to go with them. Lea is an amazing presence; her eye for color and creativity are in every corner of the shop. She brings in new products all the time, and you can ask her about any vendor and know that she has deep personal relationships with them, too, just as she has with her customers. I love knowing about the person behind the earrings, or gratitude ball, or Mud Love jewelry, or clever wrap, or silly socks, etc. Her events through the year are fun and always have a price break for shopping them. It’s even a delight to linger and explore. I always see something I haven’t seen before.” ~Shirley K.