Tucked away in a rambling cottage in the Buckhead Village, Boxwoods Gardens & Gifts is a go-to shop for those who live in Buckhead. It has been named one of the top 50 retailers in the US by Home Accessories Today, included in the American Express Member’s Favorites several years in a row, and in the Hall of Fame for Atlanta Magazine’s Best of Atlanta. But when Dan Belman and Randy Korando set out 20 years ago to open a garden and gift shop, constant warnings of the impossibility of their success echoed from prospective landlords, business advisors and even friends. Belman told Buckhead.com that in those days, “everybody was telling us how crazy we were because we had no prior retail experience. But I knew if we were going to do this, we were going to do it right.”Belman and Korando always found themselves antiquing at estate sales, traveling to Europe (France is their favorite), and buying vintage collectibles. In 1995, Korando was working with high-end clients on their landscaping and exterior design, decorating their homes with items selected from his personal shopping excursions. Meanwhile, Belman was a business consultant using his smarts to revive troubled companies. As Belman puts it, “Randy is all about form and I’m all about function so being in business together works well.”
Korando had the idea to open a quaint garden & gift shop in Buckhead, but the only way Belman would consider retail was if they were in the perfect location. They were repeatedly denied meetings with the owners of their first choice location until one day their friend drove by and saw a going out of business sign at the current garden shop, a charming white house on East Andrews Drive, so Belman pounced.
“It definitely depressed us to hear that without retail experience we were crazy trying to do this. But I’d always had my eye on that white house on the corner, and when the previous tenants went out of business, I met with the owner Jim Cumming (who is now a very close friend) and shortly after, we signed the lease! We opened for business 45 days after closing! Randy and I worked non stop to get everything ready. At night, we painted and decorated; and during the day, we would buy at the Mart and design shows. We put our touch on it, building our checkout counter from old doors and altered the original house significantly.”
Belman offered a valuable piece of truth on acquiring success as a retail tastemaker with a tip from a former business advisor – whom also told them that they would never make it.
“I remember she said, ‘what determines your success isn’t how well you sell, it’s about how well you buy.’ And we are fortunate that Atlanta has an incredible gift market and great selection. Randy and I go to the gift shows as much (and as long) as we can, so we find the things other people miss. We cherry-pick for those pieces that are the right quality and right price. We take buying trips to France – it’s amazing how much France has – the dealer shows in the South of France are amazing! I remember standing in the freezing rain at a street market at 6:30 one morning – it was cold, windy, it started to snow and I was complaining. I said to Randy, ‘I can’t believe we’re doing this. If only the people back home knew what we went through!’ But Randy looked at me and said, ‘You know what, you need to stop complaining because we get paid to shop.'”
From the Garden store’s porch, the Home store comes into view.
You would think that a booming garden shop would be enough, but in 2009, Belman and Korando opened The Boxwoods Home Store across the street because of a need they saw saw for, “a shop in-between a Target and a Neiman’s,” with true quality dishes, glasses, silverware and placemats at better prices. And despite opening during the recession and friends (again) telling them not to, it is doing quite well.
“Honestly, we’re not a discount place,” Belman says, “but we offer a lot of bang for your buck. It’s true quality at a affordable price. We sell everything from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars. We try to do a lot of unique things that you won’t see anywhere else. It’s the kind of place where customer service is #1… Our employees are our best asset and stay here for an average of 12-15 years. And we truly have great customers – we have become great friends with so many clients.”
You’ll find that Boxwoods Gardens & Gifts combines a brilliant mix of old and new decorative accents, with unique vintage hand-selected pieces from Europe and throughout America. Nearly an acre of exterior garden areas host a plethora of birdbaths, planters, and more garden accessories on display to adorn your exterior space.
Boxwoods Gardens & Gifts is located at 100 E Andrews Drive in Buckhead.
Thank you, Dan Belman and Randy Korando, for following your dreams and paying no attention to the “no’s.”
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