By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
After decades of diligent service to its community, one local furniture store is achieving a milestone in 2021. The Cottage celebrates its 40th year in business this spring, continuing to provide customers with quality service and a comforting atmosphere that prompts their return time and time again.
Owner Keith Parnell’s brother and his wife opened The Cottage in 1981 at The Gadsden Mall, a new and exciting attraction at the time. Parnell partnered with his brother and sister-in-law in 1984, learning from his sibling’s background on furniture and home décor. For 20 years, The Cottage served residents from its location on Rainbow Drive, upholding its mantra and mission to “make houses homes.”
After two decades, The Cottage bolstered a move across town to 400 Walnut Street, where it now resides. As the years pass and the trends change, Parnell witnessed the transformation of home décor, maintaining an updated knowledge on colors, fabrics and furniture styles that cycle throughout the eras.
The Cottage specializes in living room, bedroom and dining room furniture, while also offering a large selection of mattresses. Though the store is small, Parnell shared that The Cottage does a lot of special ordered pieces with custom fabrics and colors. The Cottage also offers free delivery in Etowah County – a service almost extinct.
“Our customer service is second to none,” said Parnell. “It’s all about the customer for us and making the customer happy.”
As a family-owned and operated business, The Cottage exemplifies personal and reliable values that large chains do not always have the luxury to offer. Parnell’s understanding and appreciation for family transcends into his business, which welcomes customers into a relaxed environment where they can explore possibilities without pressure. Parnell noted that a prime rule he follows is that everyone who comes into the store must be acknowledged and spoken to, but never pressured to make a purchase.
“A big percentage of our business is regular customers who continue to come back year after year,” said Parnell. “They continue to come back and tell us it’s because of our services and prices that they wouldn’t shop anywhere else. I think in our 40 years that’s what sets us apart – being from a close-knit family and having a close-knit relationship with our customers.”
Parnell joked that the years taught him that every person should work retail once in their lifetime, learning how to communicate effectively with the public. He noted that owning one’s own business, with all the intricacies and responsibilities it brings, differs significantly from working underneath someone else, but the freedom rests in discovering the balance.
Collaborating with the public remains one of Parnell’s favorite aspects of the job, from reuniting with beloved loyal customers to meeting new faces who just moved into town, something that intrigues him. He wondered if residents realize how many individuals and families settle in Etowah County just for its natural beauty and incredible resources, stories he hears often as shoppers drift through his store.
Though the people who enter his doors might change from year to year, his main goal remains resolute.
“As long as we’re in business, even though we’re small, we’ll continue to be the best store we can be,” said Parnell. “We come in each day trying to make it better than it was yesterday.”
Parnell commended his two fellow coworkers, who have remained diligent partners for 37 years. He applauded their commitment, sharing that he could never run the store alone. Together, the same three familiar and smiling faces greet individuals each day, exemplifying dependability and trustworthiness with every kind gesture and welcoming word. Parnell thanked them for treating the store as if it were their own, representing the small-town family values, honesty and loyalty upon which The Cottage’s foundation remains stalwart.
Parnell shared a message to the community.
“We thank all of our customers in Gadsden and the surrounding areas for their continued support of our business for all these years,” said Parnell. “We hope that with hard work, we will continue to earn their business.”