If you’re looking for Sally Stollmack and she’s not at home, she’s likely at Midtown Market, the shopping center bookended by Lucha Tigre and The Root Cellar. Sally lives less than a mile away from where she occasionally hostesses at Kitchen and once sold books at Flyleaf Books. “In a joking fashion, the people who own the other stores call me the ‘mayor of Midtown,’” Sally says. Her own store, SallyMack Life Furnishings, opened in October and is becoming a go-to stop for gifts and home accessories.
It was an accident that the 1978 UNC grad, who studied speech communications and sociology, got into retail. After two decades in the stereo business, Sally was shopping in a furniture store when a customer approached her. “She assumed I worked at [Ecko International Furnishings in Raleigh] because I knew everybody there. I never bothered to tell her I didn’t work there,” Sally recalls. “I sold her a complete bedroom’s worth of furniture.” Impressed by her sales prowess, the owner offered her a job on the spot that Sally would parlay into a store manager position. Soon, she was a regular attendee of the New York and LA gift shows and traveled to Copenhagen and Milan on modern furniture buying trips.
‘DO YOUR OWN THING’
When Sally left Ecko in 2008, she volunteered, then worked as a national sales manager for a commercial dining furniture company and finally ended up as a bookseller at Flyleaf for four years. It was her success selling jewelry and handbags there – and her huge following – that inspired her to open shop. After finding a location that was practically her backyard, she returned to the gift-show circuit, applying her trained eye for color and design.
She’s filled her warm and inviting store with display cases and shelves featuring bowls, vases, lamps, rugs and other treasures to “help people take a place they really like a lot and turn it into a place they really love.” Although she employs two part-timers, it’s usually Sally behind the solid cherry door-turned-sales counter greeting customers. Husbands tell Sally, “my wife said I should just come in here and get her anything because she loves this store.” More than half of the time, in a few minutes she can figure out who the wife is and point the husband to merchandise she admired a week earlier. (For more direct gift-giving, there’s a chalkboard wish list so shoppers can write down items they want.)
As she nears six months in business, Sally still finds that the most surprising thing about owning her own store is “how hard I’m working — harder than I’ve ever worked before in my life — and how happy I am. … It’s a really great feeling knowing that this is my place, and people are coming in because they like what I’ve created.”