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Ritchie & Ritchie Home Emporium, a new China Grove business, peddles local art

By Andie Foley

Salisbury Post

CHINA GROVE — Rusty Ritchie was no stranger to the pressures of business ownership, yet he could never shake a dream of owning his own home decor store.

Today, he’s living that dream: Ritchie & Ritchie Home Emporium opened in China Grove on April 1.

The store is on Main Street. Owners Rusty Ritchie and Tyler Ritchie will host a grand opening Saturday. The celebration follows a monthlong soft opening and will offer chances to meet the shop’s vendors and have refreshments and giveaways.

The store carries Rusty Ritchie’s custom furniture, as well as handmade creations from local vendors and craftsmen.

Rusty said he was very particular about the artists he brought to the emporium.

“I had a vision, because I had thought for a while that I would love to do this,” Rusty said. “But also I’m a perfectionist, so I had a picture in my head of what style, the kind of things I wanted, and how I wanted things to be.”

Vendors who met that vision include Stylefish Decor, with hand-painted watercolors and stationary; Lodema Design, offering custom wreaths; and The Simple Design Shop, soft T-shirts. The shop carries products from more than 20 vendors. Candles, custom throw pillows and handmade jewelry are among the wares.

Though Rusty’s vision for a home decor store has been lifelong, the process of becoming a business owner moved relatively quickly. Tyler Ritchie is his husband and business partner. Tyler said Rusty first talked about the idea in November. They were on their way back from a holiday market in Kannapolis, where they were selling Rusty’s furniture.

“I said, ‘You know, I think within a couple years, we should really think about doing this,'” Rusty said. “Within a month, we had the building, so it sped along.”

The duo started work customizing their retail space in January, and local interest was immediate.

“Not long after we put up the sign, one of my co-workers asked, ‘Are you opening a business in China Grove?'” said Tyler. “I told her it’s a home emporium, and she said, ‘I’d gladly come in there on a Saturday instead of driving to Wal-Mart … I’d much rather support y’all than somebody else.'”

For Rusty’s mother, Karen Freeze, the prospect of having another business owner in the family means a lot — for her as well as for the community.

“It’s exciting to see him go into business by himself like we did. It’s a big responsibility,” Freeze said. “But China Grove is up and coming back. I think a lot of people are getting tired of the chain stores and saying, ‘Hey, let’s go back to supporting small business.’ It’s a breath of fresh air to be able to come uptown and say, ‘We’re not a dead town anymore.’ That’s what you need to keep a small town alive.”

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