Darbi Henley has opened Boxwood Brake, a new store in the West Jackson Workshops at 514 West Jackson, that has a little bit of everything. The door proclaims, “furniture, apothecary, wares.” It’s about as good an attempt as any three words I could think of to describe the range of what is to be found inside. And it’s not only goods, but also services. The vision is large for the little shop that held a grand opening last Saturday and officially opened yesterday. I dropped in to talk to Darbi about just what is going on.
I started by asking about the name. She said it references two places she loves: boxwoods that embody her love for Paris (one of her photographs hangs on the wall of boxwoods at Versailles) and the British “brake,” which can mean a “thicket.” Originally from Crossville, her father was a professional golfer (he turned pro at 17) before she was born and became a professional caddy later, which took them around the world. She was home-schooled before returning to Tennessee to attend college.
She has a background in the kinds of endeavors you’ll find in the store: her mother operated an arts and crafts store in Crossville when they were there and also had a furniture store. Darbi is continuing a version of those efforts. Initially set to study design she, instead, attended UT and attained a double degree in Painting and Art History. She did take design classes through a community college and, while there, designed a couple of homes for Habitat for Humanity.
While at UT she worked at Aveda’s Gay Street location as a director of Guest Services, taking aromaology (yes, it’s a word – Google it) classes while there. Upon graduation from UT in 2012 she decided to remain in Knoxville and was offered a job painting murals, both indoor and out. While working there, she painted a mural for WBIR’s green room. Recently she decided she needed to follow her own rather expansive vision as embodied in the new business. Her last day on her previous job was just four weeks ago and in that time she’s accomplished an incredible amount in order to get the store opened so quickly.
The store is filled with the fruits of her labor – as well as that of her mother, grandmother, father and boyfriend. Darbi selected some new furniture pieces for the store – the couch and chairs you see in the photographs, for example – but most of the furniture pieces are vintage which she refinished. You’ll find jewelry in the store – all handmade by Darbi, though her mother helps her a bit. Aprons and women’s blouses and wraps are sewn by Darbi and her grandmother from re-purposed men’s work shirts. The pillows feature handmade covers sewn by Darbi and she makes pillow cases, as well. One of my favorite pieces is a bench made by her father from a re-purposed headboard and foot-board from a bed. She believes strongly in re-using items and reducing waste. You’ll be hard-pressed to find much in the store that hasn’t had her hand involved in some way.
She’ll use her aromaology experience to help customer’s develop their own scents. She notes that some people are drawn more to certain types of smells and she feels sometimes the body needs certain scents. She spoke of base, middle and top notes and talked about possible benefits, such as the uplifting nature of citrus smells and anti-aging qualities of others, as well as the evocative power of natural scents. Everything she uses is natural and organic.
So, you can purchase her hand-made items or get a personal aroma consultation, but there’s much more in the works. She plans to offer painting “events.” Apparently these are quite popular in other cities. I’m not so much of an artist, but when she mentioned having participants bring a bottle of wine, my hesitance lessened. Not exactly classes, these events are intended to be instructional, but also a fun experience for everyone involved, and can accommodate around eight people. Cost would likely be in the $30 – $35 per person price range.
Other possible classes include jewelry-making, succulent garden and terrarium, make-up and yoga classes. Darbi is incredibly talented in many ways, but she’d have instructional assistance from her friends who have these various skills. She also plans to feature her own art as well as that of her boyfriend, Woods Hippensteal, whose father Verne Hippensteal is a Gatlinburg artist. It’s possible that Verne may teach some classes. She said she’d love to host some whiskey-tasting events when Knox Whiskey Works opens and she plans to host First Friday events.
It’s another of the hybrid-type businesses that seem to be springing up. The model takes the pressure off one part of the business to carry the entire weight of overhead and profit and allows the owner to grow the parts that are doing well while de-emphasizing the parts that might not as readily take off. Drop by and check out the beautiful space and see what Darbi’s up to. It’s interesting, multi-faceted and just around the corner and down the hill to the west of the 100 block.
In the meantime, if you like to contact her to talk about events or classes, you can reach her at email@example.com. A website will follow soon, but she’s on instagram at @boxwoodbrake and on Facebook.