KENNEDY - Mike and Brenda Bunce want to transport their customers back to a simpler, more comforting time.
The two natives of Kennedy own and operate The Country Lane, located in their hometown on Ericsson Road off of state Route 62, where they sell their hand-crafted furniture, home decorations and gifts. They first opened in 1992, and resumed business in 2012 following a 12-year hiatus.
When asked what brought them back, Brenda responded simply. "We missed the people," she said. This passion for interacting with their customers is readily apparent in the way they do business, focusing on providing a warm and hospitable atmosphere and a highly individualized customer experience borne out of close, one-on-one interaction.
Mike and Brenda Bunce are pictured at The Country Lane on Ericsson Road off state Route 62 outside of Kennedy.
P-J photo by Gavin Mead
The store is littered with the Bunces' handcrafted items, all of which are designed by them from scratch. Such objects include tables and chairs, hutches, cupboards and shelves, each individually made, one at a time, using hand tools. In addition to furniture, they also offer other decorative pieces all done in a country primitive decor style, such as folk art, rugs, tinware, birdhouses and lamps. They are heavily influenced by the simple and rustic furniture of the past, with much of the inspiration for Mike's designs coming from his spending a lot of time looking at items found in Colonial Williamsburg and in museum books. They are not limited to this style, however, as they note that they are currently working on a table influenced by Chinese design.
In addition to the wide selection in the showroom, Mike takes special orders made according to individuals' specifications, which he cuts and shapes, turning the piece over to Brenda for further detail and finishing.
"People are thrilled because they can have a piece of furniture made specifically for them," she said. "Often times people just provide us with basic orders on style and dimension and tell Mike 'go ahead, we trust you with the rest.'"
The beginnings of these orders can start with as little as a basic shape suggested by the customer, or even a magazine clipping.
One of the Bunces' primary goals for customers is simply that they enjoy themselves while at the store, taking in the charming and friendly atmosphere while they shop. There exists a deep relationship between the character of the items and the character of The Country Lane itself, which is located in a century-old barn the Bunces have owned since 1975 and reconstructed in 1991 for the purpose of starting the business. Much of the barn's interior still remains. Customers can often be found enjoying coffee and cookies on the porch, surrounded by the suitably rural fields of Kennedy.
"Life can be so crazy out there but people can come and forget about it here," Brenda said.
The Bunces' path to building and selling their works started with humble beginnings. Brenda began participating in craft shows, eventually asking her husband if he could cut some pieces for her at the wood shop at which he was working at the time. After working together more and more frequently, they eventually decided to make a business out of their newfound skills, ultimately culminating in the opening of the The Country Lane.
"When we started this," Mike recalled, "it was like a canoe turned around in a river. We found what we wanted to do. We did not know it could be like this. Working hard is always a big part of it, but when you find something you love to do, the work takes on a different flavor."
Store hours for The Country Lane are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. on Sundays. It can be reached at 267-7445.