After nearly 40 years in Eastover, Circa Interiors & Antiques is moving to SouthPark.
by Cathy Martin
In the four decades since opening Circa Interiors & Antiques just off Providence Road in Eastover, owner and designer Cindy Smith has worked with clients across the U.S. What surprises her is how people outside of North Carolina seem more familiar with the retail and design business than those right here in her own city.
“We’re tucked away,” she says of Circa’s two quaint wooden buildings set back from the road on Crescent Avenue. “We’ve nurtured these old buildings along, but they’re over 100 years old, and they’re really [in] terrible repair,” Smith says.
The off-the-beaten-path location combined with the constant upkeep of the aging property convinced Smith it was time for a change. In October, Circa is moving to The Shops at Morrison, the SouthPark shopping center anchored by Earth Fare and Barnes & Noble that is also home to a growing number of specialty retailers such as B.D. Jeffries, Capitol and Anne Neilson Fine Art.
In addition to improving the shop’s visibility, Smith hopes the new 3,000-square-foot space will allow people to see how much the company has evolved from the antiques business she started out of her home back in 1980. Long known for traditional furnishings and European artifacts, Circa has added more design services and contemporary offerings for a balance of old and new.
“We’ll be able to show our merchandise and the way we’ve changed over the last few years to a more modern approach to the way people want to live today,” Smith says. A 1,200-square-foot mezzanine will house Circa’s design studio, which currently employs four interior designers.
Circa’s hand-selected antiques — Smith travels to Europe several times a year to hunt for new treasures — mix with furnishings by Baker, Verellen, Hickory Chair, Lee Industries and others. In 2015, Circa launched Catbird, its own furniture collection that features the work of five different designers.
Driving Circa’s push to add more contemporary pieces is Heather Smith, Cindy’s daughter-in-law. After earning a design degree at Winthrop University, Heather worked in commercial design before joining the family business in 2002. (Cindy’s daughter, Whitney Smith Johnson, runs a second Circa location in Birmingham, Ala.)
“Heather has an amazing eye for unique lines, for finding treasures that are more contemporary,” says Amy Flurry, head of communications for Circa who is also helping the business launch a new website and boost its digital presence.
“I love the antiques,” Heather Smith says. “Cindy’s the genius at that.” Part of Heather’s job is finding lighting and other accessories that complement the carefully selected antiques. “Everyone is using the same lamps, the same formula of what they put on coffee tables and bookcases,” she says. “I spend a lot of my time looking for something unique and different. I get excited about that.”
The two buyers’ passion for their work is one of the things that sets Circa apart from competitors, Cindy Smith says. Another is the shop’s ability to provide unique products that surprise its customers each time they visit the store. “That’s why we have a lot of traffic,” she says. “Customers want to see what in the world we have next.”
“We really feel like the eclectic mixture and having something old and tangible — whether it’s beautiful wood or a pretty patina — adds a softness to the modern world we live in,” she says. “It gives things a definite personality, a little soul.” SP