Paul Michael Company Expands Home Decor Experience
Paul Michael Company recently opened new doors to a two-story, 60,000 square foot building next to their existing store on Highway 19 near Interstate 20 in Canton. The facility is filled with antiques, furniture, and hand-made recycled home decor.
The store is in a long line of successes for entrepreneurs Paul and Debbie Michael who have kept ahead of merchandise trends for more than 40 years.
As a young man Paul Michael began working in his grandfather’s department store in the rural, Mississippi Delta town of Lake Village, Arkansas, and discovered his natural talent in the art of buying, selling, and trading.
In 1972 while he was in school in Memphis he began making the rounds at flea markets.
“I got to where I was doing the flea markets almost every weekend,” he said. “Memphis on the third, Nashville on the fourth and then come to Texas. There were things you could by in Nashville that people wanted in Texas and vice versus.”
Soon he left his accountant studies which never suited him, and began “buying here and selling there” at flea markets full time.
He really enjoyed First Monday Trade Days in Canton, selling Indian jewelry and gold at the time, and this was really the start of his business.
Three years later he met Debbie in a popular antique clothing shop in Nashville. She too had a background in merchandising having grown up traveling around the country in the five-and-dime merchant’s tradition.
Their interests and personalities fit very well — he the visionary and developer and she with the business and sales savvy — and thus began their journey.
Together they developed a line of jewelry that ended up in department stores all over the country.
“Paul doesn’t know how to do anything little,” Debbie said.
They sold their interest in the department store jewelry in 1990.
“I had a residue of merchandise left over and took it to Canton,” Paul said. I came in February and sold out of the trunk of my car. I did so well I came back the next month and got a booth and I’ve been coming every since.”
Over the years the couple dabbled in a variety of products they knew shoppers wanted like tooled leather bags from Paraguay and copper pots and pans which is how they entered the world of home decor.
On the First Monday grounds they eventually rented 15 booths in the first Arbors building.
“That’s when we really started selling a lot down here,” Paul said. “We finally gave up that space in 2000 and built our own building down on the grounds.”
Although they still have their building and offerings on the grounds, in addition, they bought land and built their own store in its present location to be open every day.
They had already launched a store in his hometown of Lake Village, Arkansas, and another in Monroe, Louisiana, in 2003. They opened the Canton store in 2006 and a fourth location in Lafayette in 2009.
The recent Canton expansion comes after researching the market and finding they have even more to offer people looking for home decor in the region.
“We feel this part of the country is a really special place in that it’s so growable,” Paul said. “I predict that East Texas in general is going to be a very fast-growing part of the country. There’s a workforce here, no state income tax in Texas, and it’s just a very favorable place to do business. At some point you’ll see exponential growth and it’s going to multiply at a pretty high rate. We’ve got a lot of our future and our fortune invested in this town and in East Texas.”
In Texas or elsewhere, Paul and Debbie remain committed to their partnership and the strengths that each brings to the table.
“We count on Paul to lead the way,” Debbie says, “because he’s quite the visionary. Often our business has grown in ways it never would because he takes a big leap of faith and get’s in to a product that we just don’t understand and it ends up being a huge hit. He’s got guts.”
Paul agrees to a point. “Sometimes it does not end up being a bit hit —- sometimes it winds up being a dismal failure. If you are going to create you have to be willing to fail, you can’t be afraid to fail.”
One of Paul’s leaps of faith involved a bunch of European snow skis he found at a show in Ohio. He bought 5,000 of them to Debbie’s dismay.
“What! Are you crazy?” she said. “Why?”
To which he replies, “I don’t know. They needed to be bought.”
Before long he sees something that triggers his creativity and he and his head carpenter have designed them into chairs which are now a very popular item in the store.
Recycling and repurposing items like the skis is at the top of their list these days in the items they provide their shoppers. They are manufacturing American-made furniture in a factory in Dermott, Arkansas, were Paul really gets to put his creative mind to work.
“One art form influences another,” he said. “Our creativity is about a team of people. We feel everybody has that within them.”
While Paul is the visionary he said he never achieved much until he married Debbie.
“She’s a perfect partner for me,” he said. “Where I fall short she pulls up the slack.”
While Paul’s purchases sometimes still rattle her until she sees the finished product, Debbie appreciates his talents which allow her to do what she loves.
“I love the selling part,” she said. “I’m thrilled to see the joy on our customers faces when they are going to receive it into their home. It feels good to be surrounded by beautiful things.”
They both feel fortunate to do work they love while bringing fun and useful home decor to their customers and because of that plan to continue this journey for a long time to come.