“People come in and they leave happy.”
That’s the motto of Sew Knot Serious, a quirky store on U.S. 41 in Cartersville filled with color and creativity.
Owners April and Steve Johnson have used their shared love of art, expression and repurposing everyday objects to create a place where shoppers can find everything from sofas to clothing.
The store, at 1165 Joe Frank Harris Parkway, boasts a large sign made of mixed materials, including tin, road signs and paint. The day they put it up was a memorable one.
“We were inside and heard people pulling into our parking lot at what sounded like 50 miles an hour,” Steve Johnson said. “The sign’s like our Big Chicken. It catches the eye.”
The couple started out doing arts and crafts shows together, adding more and more items to their initial line of crocheted pocketbooks.
“It evolved and grew and we got tired of doing the shows,” April Johnson said. “This opportunity to start the store just kind of fell into our lap and we’ve been here about three years now.”
They spend their days painting, sanding, decoupaging and re-assembling their wares, most of which they find at flea markets and estate sales.
“People also bring us all kinds of things,” said April Johnson. “We’ll come in after a day off and have things piled up in front. We always find a use for it.”
Her talent for repurposing and bringing new life to items started when she was a young wife with a husband in law school.
“My first husband was in school and we were having a baby and we couldn’t afford a new baby bed,” she said. “I started painting furniture then. I found out I was able to take something ugly and make it look great.”
After her divorce she met Steve Johnson, who encouraged her to continue with her love of making and remaking things with her own style.
“Our biggest goal is to inspire people,” April Johnson said. “To have cool stuff, you don’t have to have a lot of money. Recycle it. Make it your own. Paint it turquoise.”
Steve Johnson spent years running his own tile business, he said, but had “lost the joy.”
“Now I am not the boss, I get bossed,” he said, laughing. “But there’s joy.”
The business is a family affair, with April Johnson’s mother and daughter helping out inside the store and her father serving as the store’s “picker.”
“He’s our furniture scout,” explained Steve Johnson.
The store specializes in what April Johnson calls “stuff you can totally live without” — but that stuff can make people happy, she added.
The wide range of items includes sofas, tables, paintings revived with popular or inspirational sayings, clothing, quilts, jewelry, vintage and decorative household goods and even custom work.
“People bring us old chairs or something and ask us to make it different,” April Johnson said.
That’s what the Johnsons call “fusicating.” They made up the word to describe what April Johnson does when she uses hot glue, paint and at-hand materials to bring life to an old piece that others might not see as usable.
“I rework everything,” she said. “For instance, a sofa I just finished has all new padding. I rework the trim and repaint it. I take materials and mix them together and make it look new.”
She also places some of her favorite words inside her pieces. A sofa or chair may have the word “love” or “imagine” glued onto the frame under a cushion.
“Everything is one-of-a-kind,” she said.
Her inspiration and passions change occasionally, but right now she is focused on her sofas and chairs.
“It is not easy work, but it is satisfying,” she said. “The finished product is fantastic, it’s killer. I love it because I can make it luxurious and it is affordable.”
Money is not what drives her, she added.
“There’s been a lot going on in this head for many years,” she said. “Sometimes I make things because I just want to. I wanted to make a pink sofa, so I did it. I thought someone will want it, but it doesn’t bother me if it doesn’t sell.”
She said her customers, many repeat ones, from as far away as Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, are huge inspirations.
And getting to work with her husband and family is maybe the biggest motivation behind the business, she added.
“I want to see what we can do together,” April Johnson said.