The modest brick exterior of The Elephantz Trunk might prepare shoppers to expect a utilitarian interior. But those who step inside Nina Monroe’s new shop at 6774 James Madison Hwy. in Fork Union will instead find an eye-catching collection of classy home furnishings, sterling silver and semiprecious-stone jewelry that ranges from simple to bold, and personal-care products made with natural ingredients.
These items might not ordinarily all be found on the same shopping list, but Ms. Monroe uses her design background and unique skill set to make each of her product lines offer “something for everyone.” She loves to “reimagine and repurpose” furniture, make stylish, affordable jewelry that “will last a while,” and create her own bath products. “Anything in here, you won’t find anywhere else,” she says. Indeed, the vibe is distinctly different from that of a big box store, and it’s hard to imagine the space in its former incarnation as a restaurant.
Whether she is engaged in detailed work like beading or large-scale projects like upholstering sofas or building her own home (a goal she accomplished before she reached the age of 25), Ms. Monroe is passionate about always doing her best. The Elephantz Trunk is the culmination of her long-held dream to bring something back to the area she has lived in for all but a few years of her life. Since she opened her doors in mid-May, she has found the community to be “pleasantly surprised” by the mix of merchandise.
One of Ms. Monroe’s goals, as noted on The Elephantz Trunk website, it to help “the fashionable consumer with the desire to look and feel affordably fabulous.” Finding that “people go to natural things,” Ms. Monroe uses ingredients such as Dead Sea salt, Epsom salt, honey from her next-door neighbor’s bees, and essential oils to craft bath salts, body butter and body wash. Because she buys ingredients in bulk, she is able to sell these personal care products at affordable prices.
Ms. Monroe also loves jewelry and wears it “all the time.” She favors sterling silver and “semiprecious things” as they are affordable and suitable for people of all ages. Some of the bold and colorful necklaces, bracelets and earrings she sells are her own designs, as are the strikingly simple strands of amethyst, aventurine and rose quartz beads.
The Elephantz Trunk stocks jewelry for men, gift baskets for men, and even some upholstered furniture that would not be out of place in a stereotypical “man cave.”
Ms. Monroe worked in upholstery and reupholstery for seven years, learning from an expert — her mother, Audrey Hill, who is known for her quality work. Before opening The Elephantz Trunk, Ms. Monroe spent a lot of time scouting estate sales and flea markets, building an inventory of furniture that appealed to her. She uses a project board in the shop to help her select just the right fabric for each piece. In addition to the selection of sofas, chairs, and ottomans on display, Ms. Monroe offers custom design services. “If someone comes in and has a sofa at home that belonged to their great-grandmother and asks, ‘can you reupholster that for me?’ the answer is ‘yes, absolutely’.”
The store is open Saturdays and Sundays for the convenience of those who work full-time.
When asked about the business name, Ms. Monroe reveals that she was given an exceptionally meaningful gift—an elephant carving made in Africa—when she was 21. The proceeds of the sale were donated to a nature preserve. Thus began Ms. Monroe’s collection of African elephants, “none mass-produced, each with a story,” her love of elephants, and the name of her business.
To help get the word out about her new venture, Ms. Monroe will be holding a grand opening celebration on Saturday, June 24, from 11 to 5. There will be a cookout with hamburgers, hot dogs, turkey burgers, wine and beer. There will also be door prizes and opportunities to shop. For more information, call (434) 327-7581 or visit theelephantztrunk.com.
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