In an area steeped in beauty, culture, history and art, it’s perhaps fitting that Al & Harry’s Home Fashions – a family-run furniture boutique in the heart of Old Town Bluffton, SC – has blossomed into a burgeoning business.
Opened eight years ago on Calhoun Street, Al & Harry’s sells handmade and custom-built furniture adorned with uniquely hand painted finishes and decorative molding. A demonstration of sophisticated craftsmanship and artistry, each piece is treated as a work of art, a unique creation that tells a story of its own.
Indeed, the story behind Al & Harry’s itself is intricately impressed upon each piece of furniture they build and design. And as artists and crafters, it’s perhaps unsurprising to learn that their story begins where stories so often do: with a vision.
“Fifteen years ago, I had a vision of standing inside a little store filled with beautiful furniture,” says Alison Fargione, owner of Al & Harry’s. “What I remember most about the vision was the joy I felt standing in that room.”
Originally from Long Island, New York, Alison never had ambitions to run her own business. A mother of four, it wasn’t until she and her husband, Joe, moved to Hilton Head Island in 1999 that she started a faux furnishing business doing wall treatments for local decorators and clients, in addition to refinishing furniture on a project basis.
It was an encounter she had with her son in XXXX, however, that made a lasting impact, ultimately inspiring the opening of Al & Harry’s in 2012.
“One day, my son Michael, who was eight years old at the time, came into the garage where I was painting a piece of furniture and commented on how he loved the smell,” Alison recalls. “In that moment, I was reminded of my father, Harry, who regularly built furniture in his workshop, and my mother, who always decorated our home so beautifully.”
Realizing the true meaning of the vision that had stayed with her for all those years, Alison felt called to create a family business that would pass along their gifts and talents.
The name “Al & Harry’s” – “Al” for Alison and “Harry” for her father and mother – came to Alison from this memory of her childhood, and is a tribute to her parents.
“In the Bible, it says to honor your mother and father,” she says. “My faith has always been an integral part of who I am, so the name, and all the furniture we create, really represents the family God has blessed me with.”
When it came time to launch the business, Alison recalls being overwhelmed with fear. Quick to note her timidity as a child, she credits her husband, Joe, with making Al & Harry’s a reality.
“My husband is the one who nearly forced me to utilize my skills and start a business,” she says. “His faith in me has been unwavering and without his support and encouragement, I’m certain Al & Harry’s wouldn’t exist today.”
Indeed, Joe utilizes his love of woodworking to build a significant portion of the furniture that Alison and her daughters turn into artwork.
“When people walk into our store, what they sometimes don’t realize is that this is brand new, handmade furniture,” says Alison. “A lot of our pieces have an old-world type of look, causing the misperception that it’s used furniture.”
But each piece from Al & Harry’s – from dressers and tables to bed frames and nightstands – is diligently and passionately crafted with a keen attention to detail. “We are committed to quality designs and craftsmanship, which makes for durable pieces that can last a lifetime,” says Alison.
It’s the combination of quality and beauty, however, that makes each piece truly unique. Their finishes are hand painted and are layered and blended together with shades of history to give them character and charm.
“I think what people appreciate most about each piece is not only the craftsmanship, but the vision and boldness behind it,” says Alison. “We pour so much thought and passion into each piece, and get such joy from bringing a vision to life.”
While offering myriad styles and designs, Al & Harry’s has recently launched brand new collections – the Miller, Serenity and Mod – all of which convey a unique feel.
The Miller collection features pieces with a rustic feel, a blend of American and European styles that mixes woods and metals with painted finishes. The Serenity collection, a blend of European, French and Swedish styles, features soft, coastal colors, including pale blues, greys, greens, etc. with vibrant reds. And the Mod collection, named for “all things modern”, includes pieces with clean, sleek painted finishes, pops of color, and XXX.
“Much like with paintings and various forms of artwork, all of our pieces elicit strong emotions, conveying a certain feeling and mood,” says Alison. “At the end of the day, what it really comes down to is creating something that makes people happy and inspires them.”
An inspiration herself, Alison has felt called to share her story with others, particularly young women. Noting that she’s never considered herself a particularly smart person and was never very good at school, Alison encourages women to embrace their individuality and pursue their dreams.
“You don’t have to be like everyone else,” she says. “We are all unique and have something of value to offer the world, even if you don’t fall into a particular mold.”
Humbled when she considers the reality of a vision she had 15 years ago continuing to unfold, she adds: “My heart is filled with such joy and gratitude, it’s been a truly remarkable journey.”
As for the future of Al & Harry’s, a lot of exciting things are in the works. “We’re not quite ready to divulge what they are,” Alison says. “But let’s just say it’s all part of a grand vision.”