Quite often, people take a few moments to collect themselves after walking into the U-niQe store in Independence. The interior of the used furniture and home décor shop on 35th Street just west of Noland Road, across from Cargo Largo, is like a piece of art that demands attention.
The store’s charm spills out the front door of the old print shop, now painted bright blue, that it calls home. Owner Narla Wallace says people often walk in the door and stare.
Wallace explains how her store lives up to its name.
Q. How do you describe what you do?
A. I like to beautify. That’s what my store is all about, taking things that people don’t think they can do anything with and just making it new again.
I take older things, like good quality furniture, and give it a face-lift. I can take something that is supposed to be for one thing and use it for something else. We do other items, not just home décor.
If you want something unique you can come here because everything is going to be uniquely done. I feel like everyone should have a beautiful home without spending their whole life savings.
Q. How do you choose the furniture you are going to work on?
A. I like everything, but I love the French Provencal and midcentury pieces. It does have to have a certain look. I kind of know it when I see it — definitely the better-quality pieces. We try to check how well built it is, how the legs are made.
Q. How do you describe the finishes you put on furniture?
A. I play with paint a lot. I try to lacquer. I do a lot of lacquering afterward because it keeps it. I do poly on some things. It depends on the piece. Some pieces are kind of roughish. I sand them up.
People love my paint. They call it dry brush. They call it shabby chic. I never put a name to it. I’ve been playing around with paint for probably 20 years, and for some reason people love my little paint works and it sells.
Q. How do you arrange the store?
A. My brain is constantly going, so I’m constantly working on pieces, which is fun. As we sell stuff and move it out, I’m already ready to move stuff in.
I love to decorate and I love to arrange. So it works. Can you imagine all of this in my head? If I couldn’t get it out, I’d go crazy.
Q. What do you think about how people react to your store?
A. We get a lot of shock. I hear a lot of, “I didn’t expect it to be like this,”’ or “Oh, my goodness.” I hear, “I’ve got to tell someone.” I’ve had people call people when they come into the store to tell them to come up and see it.
I love that. I feel like people see my love of what I do.
Q. Your store would fit in perfectly in the West Bottoms. Why did you choose this location instead?
A. I have had offers to go to the West Bottoms, and I have people who want to get me in their stores, but I want to do something on my own. I’m not just selling to people and trying to take their money. There’s more to it for me. We live in Kansas City, but Independence is our community. We wanted this for the community.
We’re going to hopefully be expanding the shop and offering different classes in the future. We’re thinking broad; sewing, health, nutritional classes.
I want people to grow, and I want people to know that they have things in them. Some people don’t realize what they can do. I hear people say they can’t do this or that, but yes they can. I want to help bring that out in people, because I think that will help make this world better.
Helping people to grow and enlighten themselves is kind of the point and purpose behind U-niQE.
Q. So, U-niQE is about more than furniture?
A. Yes, I really want people to see how important it is to follow their dreams. Sometimes people feel stuck. They want to give up. I’ve felt that way before.
But it’s a journey. You have to hold on to your vision and hold on to your dream and never let it go. You’ll see there is light. Don’t let it go.
This store is my dream. It is worth it, even if some days we don’t make a dime. If a customer comes in and just looks and says, ‘OK, I got my fix for the day.’ That lifts me up, and it makes me feel good. It’s well worth it. I’m living my dream.