After years as a mail-order store, Plow & Hearth stokes the the enthusiasm of customers looking to find the perfect products to outfit their home—in person.
Plow & Hearth does not sell plows, or hearths. But the store, located at Suncrest Towne Centre in the space formerly occupied by Coldwater Creek, has just about anything for the home, garden, and fireplace that anyone would want. On a tour of the store, general manager Ben Ritz points to the fireplace tools and screens in one section and the gloves, kneeling pads, and popular wind spinners that can help someone plant flowers or vegetables and decorate the space in another.
But Plow & Hearth, which opened in May, stocks so much more, and as the days grow darker and cooler, the store’s seasonal offerings are especially relevant and afford several ways to help keep customers warm and cozy as winter looms. For instance, there is the Silly Cow hot chocolate—cute enough in its milk bottle packaging to give as a small gift and appealing enough to keep handy on a kitchen shelf. And in late September, Ritz was having an employee move the display of the Plow & Hearth brand of hand lotion, cream, and gardener’s hand scrub—in lavender and citrus grove scents—to the front of the store to greet customers who soon might need a balm for chapped skin. Nearby, portable metal fire pits promised the option of an evening of keeping warm by a roasty fire.
Established in 1980, Plow & Hearth actually started as a mail-order company in Madison, Virginia. Today, consumers can use the catalog or, of course, shop online. But they will miss out on the well-stocked shelves of enticing food items—and samples—that beckon only at the stores that have been cropping up on the East Coast. The Suncrest Towne Centre location is the 26th retail store opened.
That includes a large selection of Plow & Hearth-branded Virginia peanuts—a top seller, Ritz says—in several flavors, including sea salt and pepper, dill pickle, butter toasted, and Old Bay, as well as two kinds of campfire mixes, smoky and spicy. Try to order these, or the large variety of Stonewall Kitchen products—Gingerbread Butter or Cinnamon Apple Jelly anyone?— and you will be directed to a retail location instead. And when you get there, Ritz says, there is always a cookie, nut mix, sauce, or salsa out to sample. The late September offerings included a selection of peanuts as well as the Nyakers Swedish Gingersnap Cookies that come in decorative tins, perfect for the holidays. In summer, customers might be able to try some of the Plow & Hearth brand salsas for sale, including lime mango, spicy chipotle pepper and roasted corn, zesty pineapple ginger, and Chesapeake Bay-style blue crab varieties.
Another way that Plow & Hearth personalizes its Suncrest Towne Centre store is with a WVU display, featuring more peanuts—branded with a Flying WV on the can—as well as cocktail napkins; garden gnomes that bring the Plow & Hearth theme full circle; and “Gameday Cookies,” a charming, cloth-covered jar filled with ingredients to make a tailgate treat, complete with blue and gold M&Ms. A Steelers version with black and gold M&Ms can be found in the food section.
In addition to food, Ritz notes, Plow & Hearth also carries what he calls the “kitchen goodies” and “problem solvers”— gadgets and other unique items for the well-stocked cook. The largest might be the rotary composter. “One one side, you put the dry stuff, and on the other you put the food stuff,” Riz explains. “Then you rotate it every few days and you get fresh, new soil.”
Plow & Hearth also offers a wide selection of chimes and mobiles, from the large, loud, and deep Chimes of King David that retail for $599 to solar mobiles that light up and change colors. Those, along with colorful glass birdbaths in different designs, might be more useful in spring and summer. But the selection of bird feeders will come in handy as the weather gets cooler.
The vast selection at Plow & Hearth—ranging from Dansko and Ugg footwear and Life Is Good T-shirts to indoor and outdoor furniture—might pleasantly surprise some customers. “Our best-selling items so far have been the ready-to-wear stuff, and of course, the outdoor furniture is a big seller too.” Ritz says. In contrast to the food items that only can be found in the store, some of the larger furniture pieces have to be ordered. But they can be sent to the store, and usually for free, along with other order-only items such as a selection of bedding, rugs, and other home décor.
In September, Plow & Hearth had moved Halloween-themed merchandise— decorative jack-o-lanterns and the striped socks- and black boot-outfitted legs of the Wicked Witch of the West that can stick out of a planter or from underneath a house—to the front of the store. But the shelves also already carried several items that would work as Christmas gifts, such as crocks that can be personalized with names and dates. One at the Suncrest Plow & Hearth advertises the day the store opened: May 16, 2016. “They take five to six weeks to come in because they are specially made,” Ritz says.
And sometime in October or November, Ritz expects more outdoor items—such as the last of the popular Dream Chair standalone hammocks—to give way to Christmas trees used to hang the ornaments that will be on sale for the holiday season. “We’ve had a few people that are Christmas shopping already,” Ritz says.
1040 Suncrest Towne Centre Drive; 304.241.4440; plowhearth.com
WRITTEN BY MARY WADE BURNSIDE
PHOTOGRAPHED BY CARLA WITT FORD