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Come Together

Customers flock to Debra’s Cottage for more than retail therapy.

When shoppers stop in at Debra’s Cottage they aren’t just faithfully visiting their favorite lunch-break getaway, they are subscribing to a lifestyle. Store owner Debra Vaughan-Unruh and her husband and business partner, Don Unruh, can hardly believe how their shop in Costa Mesa, California, has grown since its whirlwind inception. What began as merely an avenue for Debra to interact with the public and be able to capitalize on one of her favorite hobbies—shopping estate sales and refurbishing her finds—has grown into the kind of place where loyal customers ask her if they can use the store as a gathering place for girlfriend get-togethers and office parties.

“About a year ago, a lady came in and shopped, and before she left she said to me, ‘I want to have a party here.’” Debra says. “I thought, ‘I can handle that,’ and so we did it. She came after work one day with all of her friends after store hours, and they had a private shopping party and enjoyed a little discount.”

With 10,000 square feet of space, Debra’s Cottage is larger than the moniker may imply. Set up like an antiques market, there are on average about 100 vendor booths selling both vintage and new items, arts and crafts. Debra offers her own inventory, too—mostly shabby and chic furnishings she’s found on shopping excursions, and lines from some of her favorite merchandisers, like Lolita hand-painted glassware and Webkins plush toys.

“People tell me all the time that this place is like their sanctuary. They come here and relax, escape from their day, have some fresh coffee and walk around and shop,” she says. “Whether they make a purchase or not, they have a great time and we all chat.”

Debra holds weekly and seasonal contests for best seasonal holiday décor and best new displays to motivate different vendors to keep their booths lively.

By Jickie Torres
Photographed by Jaimee Itagaki

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