Back in 2009, while driving down Hwy 72 W near Dupree Worthey Road, I noticed a sign and some furniture pieces displayed outdoors that caused me to turn straight into the driveway of Nina’s Place Home Furnishings. This is because they had the unmistakable look of the substantive, artfully hand crafted, wood, metal, leather, stoneware and travertine home furnishings and décor that I had come to love so dearly while living and working in the late ‘90s with my husband at an orphanage in Juarez, Mexico. Nina’s has gone on to become one of my favorite stops on my Athens Now delivery route. I am always warmly greeted, the shop is a feast for the eyes and soul, and is a place to rest for a bit. The furniture is solid and the décor whimsical. I think all of it is a reflection of “Nina,” her staff and her family. Nina’s actual name is Melinda Freeman, and the nickname (which stuck), was given to her by her brother when they were kids.
Nina’s Place Home Furnishings just celebrated their 5 year anniversary, which I believe is a tribute to God’s grace, their great staff, friendly customer service, and from Melinda’s perspective, “None of this would have happened without my mother.” Her mom’s name is Betsy Poppell, and I can attest that she is indeed lovely, within and without. “She is a godsend, my best friend, and my biggest cheerleader,” says Nina. She then added, “She is so good with everyone and everything.” Betsy holds down the fort when Melinda is gone on buying trips or is out back working on furniture, and she does a splendid job of it.
Another thing Melinda wanted to emphasize in this season of giving and giving thanks, is her gratitude for their loyal repeat customers. “They really have become like family. They come in all the time just to say hi, and recommend us to other people.” She then added, “We could not do it without them, either. It has been a tough year, for our customers and for us, but things are looking up, and we are all still here.”
Melinda is a big fan of radio talk show host Dave Ramsey, who has helped many families become debt free through common sense, Biblically based financial strategies, and implementing those principles has helped Nina’s Place stay in the black, even in lean times. As a result, she has an uncommon level of flexibility when it comes to selecting the pieces that fill Nina’s Place. She also is able to steer clear of the usual level of price mark up in which many furniture dealers routinely engage.
“Every piece in here I have picked, and I love,” she told me. She also indicated that one of the many things that makes all the hard work involved in selecting and importing furniture so worth it is the joy she feels when someone finally sees the thing that they had lost hope of ever finding in a chain store or anywhere else. She has helped give several local interior designers their start by employing them in the store, and loves it when they come back “home” with a client who is genuinely delighted in what is available.
One of the new additions at Nina’s Place about which Melinda is pleased is the teak furniture that is being imported from India. Besides being solid, beautiful and trendy, it means she doesn’t need to travel quite as much. “Now we have solid pine from Mexico, and solid teak from India,” she said with a smile.
On a personal note, being able to be at home more means she doesn’t have to be away from her dogs. Kitty, a Chihuahua, and Boo, a rescue pup found on a buying trip to Texas are most definitely part of the Nina’s Place family. However, Melinda’s tender heart is not confined just to her pooches and the people in her life; she has also been involved in supporting international adoptions and fighting lupus.
Nina’s also makes a point of carrying the work of several local artisans, and does cross promoting of their work with other outlets. They carry excellent quality unfinished furniture, and will custom finish pieces to suit the client’s exact needs. They also specialize in painting furniture with the most current and popular interior color trends, and “if you bring in the paint, (and the piece you purchased has an unfinished surface,) there is no charge for painting or distressing it,” said Melinda.
Nina’s Place has a solid reason to hope and a clear vision for their future in the Athens area. The business is doing well, they are passionate about giving back to the community, and the hard work is paying off. Come to Nina’s and enjoy the fruit of their labors, while you explore a homey furniture and interior design store where their motto is, “We don’t carry a brand, we make it by hand.”
30175 US Hwy 72 Madison, AL 35756
Hours: 10-6 Tue-Sat, 12-6 Sun, closed Mondays
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner