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McAdams’ Ltd. keeps up with tradition

Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 10.52.15 AMChange can present a unique challenge to a business rooted in its love of tradition, but for McAdams’ Ltd. manager Charlie Graznak, her store’s recent move to a new location was an opportunity to keep all of the things that made the business special while reorganizing and innovating with her customers in mind.

McAdams’ Ltd. stood at 32 S. Providence Road for 40 years, its whitewashed red brick exterior and white columns making it a distinctive fixture in downtown Columbia. Now it sits at the intersection of Old Highway 63 and Stadium Boulevard in a building owned by Crawford Construction and once occupied by an auto-repair shop. The location might be new, but, Graznak says, everything that makes it McAdams’ is still there.

A move across town

“I had a lot of people come to me after they learned we were moving and say, ‘I hope the new store feels like this one,’” she says. “So I wanted to make an effort to make some aesthetic choices that would replicate the things we did there. Not all of them are things you would notice right away, but I think they add up to show that we care, that we’re particular and that we’re still the same store.”

These little details include the white columns outside, the china display cabinets — taken apart piece by piece at the old location and reinstalled at the new one — and the green stained-glass door installed by founder Philip McAdams at the Providence location nearly four decades ago.

Not so little was the task of recreating the distinct look of the original building’s whitewashed red brick storefront. To achieve the same visual effect with the black bricks of the new building, Graznak and her staff painted them red and then carefully applied small amounts of diluted white paint to give the impression of whitewashing.

“We tried everything before we figured out what worked,” she says. “But we knew it was important. So many of the things we sell — estate jewelry, antique china, antique furniture — are things with a lot of emotional value. We wanted our store to have that same feeling.”

Graznak, who co-runs the store with her mother, Rebecca Fahrendorf, learned last year that McAdams’ would have to leave its longtime location due to CVS Pharmacy’s desire to buy the building from landlord Mark Stevenson. The process of moving has been long and sometimes stressful, but Graznak says she is optimistic about the future.

“Our customers helped us move,” she says. “They literally packed things into their cars and helped us move them across town. I’m so grateful for that, and I think it shows that our model really does work. When you’re a small business, if you invest in your customers, the community responds.”
Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 10.52.29 AMThe family business

Community connections have long been a guiding principle at McAdams’. Graznak speaks fondly of her longtime customers, some of whom have patronized the store for decades, and mentions the close relationships her employees share with one another.

“I’ve answered calls for jumpstarts, calls for rides, calls for everything,” she says.

Sales associate Laura Hutton, who grew up on the same street as Graznak, says her childhood experiences with McAdams’ fostered in her a lifelong passion for jewelry.

“I remember being 8 years old at some event with Charlie’s family, and I noticed this beautiful ring Rebecca was wearing,” she says. “And I was just fascinated with it. I asked, and she said it came from here, and I can honestly say that is where my love of jewelry began.” (Fahrendorf still wears the ring, a cabochon sapphire, today.)

Coming to work for the store was a “natural progression,” according to Hutton. Her love of the business and her longtime connection with Graznak’s family made her a natural fit in a business focused on community, closeness and tradition.

“Even if we’re not all related here, we’re family,” Graznak says. “And with that comes a sense of commitment and pride that I don’t think you get with larger corporations or chain stores. There’s no, ‘Let’s just get through the day and collect a paycheck.’ We all care about each other, we all care about our customers, and that’s what makes us special.”

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