Shopping trips often turn into favorite anecdotes for Patrick and Merry Dougherty, owners of Merridian Home Furnishings, as they search for furniture and accessories around the world.
“We were on a buying trip in Indonesia years ago when a large group of kids gathered outside the business we were visiting. They were intrigued with Merry’s blonde hair,” Patrick said. “We smiled and then, out of the blue, Merry screamed, started waving her hands above her head and running towards them – just teasing. They screamed and ran as though their lives depended on it. As soon as they realized that she was only playing, they laughed and laughed.”
Bringing back everything from carved Indian bridal chests to teardrop-shaped Mexican lanterns has given the Doughertys more reasons to smile: After the Louisville store they opened 15 years ago became successful, they opened a Nashville location two years later, and one in Cincinnati last summer.
“We opened our first store because we couldn’t find what we liked in the market here. We wanted unique things that showed character and age, and were affordable,” Patrick said. “So we started traveling to Europe and Asia and found things we loved. When we brought them home, our customers loved them, too. As a result, things have always gone very well for us.”
Patrick, a Louisville native, and Merry, who is from Mississippi, deal directly with the artisans whenever possible.
“We don’t buy from anyone we haven’t seen, because we need to know their level of quality. Every week, we hear from vendors all around the world; we tell them what we’re looking for, and they send us photos,” he said. “Over time, we’ve gotten a good handle on what our customers prefer in everything that makes a piece great, including scale and function. The Internet reaches everywhere now, so it’s easy for us to get pictures of intriguing furniture and accessories.”
In addition to finding already-made items, the Doughertys are now “tweaking existing designs or sending new ones” to their suppliers. Merridian has in-house designers, but Patrick and Merry – who paints and majored in art history at the University of Virginia – contribute ideas as well.
Their creativity has led to the development of upholstery in three price points: good, better and best.
“The market has seen so many vendors and retailers go out of business,” Patrick said. “We’re working hard to become more of a source for people to think of when they want to do a whole house or several rooms, rather than one or two pieces. We believe that we have the resources for better variety, and can fill more than one segment of the market.”
“That’s to be expected sometimes,” he said. “Just don’t call us J. Peterman. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard that.”
Merridian Home Furnishings, at 4660 Shelbyville Road, is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 6 p.m. For information, visit www.merridian.com or call 502.895.3151.
Category: Business Profile