400 Edition Article
If you have driven down Hwy 129 through Clermont any time during the past year you may have been wondering what the large concrete building on the corner of Oxford and Hwy 129 was going to be. Day after day I drove past the seemingly never ending construction with hundreds of ideas swimming through my head. Was it industrial or commercial, like so many other buildings I passed on that drive? This idea was slowly disproved as I watched the large arched windows & oversized wrought iron scrolled door be installed. Or could we be getting a restaurant? Oh how I hoped it was a restaurant! As time passed I watched the once dull concrete building take shape into a beautiful, tuscan inspired work of art. It was a cool day in October 2007 that I realized the building I was passing every day would not in fact be a restaurant, or a commercial building, or an industrial building. Sitting on that 4 acre track of land that once housed a pasture, was a retail store, but one like I had never seen before. My dreams of homemade lasagna in Clermont were fading away, but left in their place was the kind of shopping experience I never in a million years would have imagined I'd see here in my little town, population 420.
The stores name is Iron Accents, and it is a cross between all of my favorite retail magazines, with a touch of - how do you saw - wonderful, unique items I have always wanted, and never been able to find! The ironic part is, I waited a year for this amazing store to come to be, and I could have been shopping at it the whole time. You see, that brick detailed building, accented in hand forged wrought iron lights, and intricate scrolled iron and glass doors is just a new home for an internet company that has been in business for 9 years - www.IronAccents.com. So, how did this interior decorators dream find its way to Clermont? For the owners, Valerie & Mark Kirves, it wa s a convenient location. For the rest of North Georgia , it was luck!
Valerie & Mark moved to north Georgia , with their 2 daughters, 10 years ago for the lake, the mountains, and to get away from the city. They spent 14 months building their small lake home from the ground up - picking every fixture, every faucet, every door, window, & piece of hardware with care. They soon found, that as hard as it was to build their personalized home, it was even harder to decorate it. They spent so much time constructing their home that they couldn't stand the idea of just putting anything on the walls. Every piece needed to be special. So, they hung photos of their family, and bought painting from local artists, but what they really wanted were some good iron pieces for their screened porch, maybe a plaque for that large space above the fireplace, and something a little different for a towel holder. They looked and looked for those special pieces, but every store they went in seemed to carry the same things, and none of it really stood out. On top of that, both Mark & Valerie worked full time jobs and long hours, so extra time to spend for their search was hard to come by. Frustrated with their lack of success, Valerie finally decided it would be easier just to make her own planters.
Mark worked with industrial suppliers, so he looked for a while and found some raw iron pieces. He drilled holes in them and welded at night after work. Valerie woke up early before her job, and went out side to "Water the iron" so it would rust. They finished the pieces together on the weekend, and finally got the planters for their back porch that they had been looking for. Well, they had their planters, but they still didn't have their plaque or their towel holders - and the search began again. It was at this time that Valerie had an idea. Wouldn't it be easier if you could find a store that carried 1,000 iron pieces instead of just 10? Or 100 towel holders instead of just 2? The logistics of a stand alone store carrying so many items just wasn't possible. But Valerie has been in the computer industry for over 20 years, doing everything from programming to sales. And the internet made that dream a reality. Alas, Iron Accents was born!
It started as a small after work project. Valerie built a web site and posted photos of her and her husband's creations and started to sell them. The extra money helped with the mounting bills their 2 daughters were racking up in college, and it wasn't long before it made more sense for her to spend her time and energy working on the website and finding unique iron pieces, than it did for her to keep her job in computer sales. So, Valerie took a leap of faith, left her job, and started her own company. The goal - to create a store that left the selection up to the buyers, and not just up to the store execs - and to keep her 2 girls in college of course!
Over the years, www.IronAccents.com grew from the home office, to the basement, to a newly constructed detached garage. After 5 years it was time to look for new space. Lucky for us, the Kirves's found that space on a 4 acre track of land in Clermont. Now here's where the story changes a little. If you ask Mark, he explains the 4 year delay between land purchase and grand opening as a series of intricate problems and details that took time to sort out. If you ask Valerie, she says the delay was Mark. As it turns out, he's a bit of a perfectionist. The good news is that extra time building the store led Valerie to another great idea www.AccentArchitecturals.com but that's another story!
Skip forward to today, Iron Accents is open online & at 6415 Cleveland Hwy in Clermont. They sell wrought iron furniture, home décor, gift items, garden accessories, and of course - towel holders, plaques & planters! The website, www.ironaccents.com is open 24 hrs a day 365 days a year, and carries over 4800 items. The store doesn't carry quite the same hours, or as many products, but they do carry floral arrangements, and antiques which can't be found online, so be sure to visit both! It may not be the restaurant I was expecting, but Iron Accents brings more to the table than a plate of lasagna. It's a family run company that considers every customer as an extension of that family. And they helped this family member find the perfect piece for that big empty wall in my living room…and that space over my fireplace…and that shelf in the kitchen…and that empty spot on my porch… well you get the idea.