Ironwork cranes and mechanical tinsmiths greet customers at Columbia’s Bohemian Home furniture and art store, located at 2720 Devine St.
Vintage watches wait behind glass, clocks with animal faces keep time, lamps, rugs and paintings collected over the decades abound. On almost every surface, bright yellow stickers declare “Sale!
Bruce Schultze, 73, has run the store for half a century, and this is the first store-wide sale he has ever held. He and his partner Denise Cellier need everything to leave.
After 48 years, Bohemian Home is closing its doors.
In its first iteration, Bohemian Home sold women’s clothing and pottery. Schultze worked for the original owners, later buying the store from them. It was one of the first high-end retailers to try its luck on Devine Street.
Schultze credits the store and a few others down the street with kicking off the boutique fashion trend that has since taken over the hallway.
“When we moved here 48 years ago, it was all old school business,” he said. There was a Piggly Wiggly down the street and a hardware store across the street, but nothing like what Bohemian Home was trying to do.
Always a collector, Schutlze took the opportunity to have his own store to curate a space full of things he loved. Wood, pottery, jewelry – he gravitated towards anything with personality.
Selling clothes became something to support buying more art. It kept bread on the table but it wasn’t what they really liked. Eventually, they added furniture to the mix, and things evolved from there.
“I started looking for things you wouldn’t see anywhere else,” Schultze said. “I quickly discovered that what was most unique about the furniture and accessories business was more cutting-edge design.”
He looked to New York trade shows for inspiration. Sometimes he would look at 1,000 different versions of a similar article to find the one that really spoke to him.
He admits that it was difficult to find his clients at first, and to some extent it stayed that way.
“For years, a lot of the things we sold weren’t working,” Schultze said. “People weren’t actually that big art collectors, they were more into buying things that would work like something else.”
A lamp, a chair, a sofa. So Schultze started looking for things that could be functional but also had their own unique beauty.
He developed an affinity for ornate lamps and later became known for his expensive high end chairs.
Schultz recognizes that Bohemian Home has not been for the faint of heart.
Among its wares are $300 lamps and $3,500 recliners, as well as original artwork, fine jewelry and vintage decor, all priced accordingly. Some store items have been there for decades, just waiting for the right customer.
Maybe half the people who walk through the front door immediately turn around and walk out, he said with a laugh. But there have always been a few who come in and find an oasis in the quirky and special objects that Schultze has kept.
“It really turned out and ended up being a store on what I would go to and find that I personally liked,” he said.
The store’s quirkiness has become a selling point for many.
“I’m going to really miss Denise and Bruce personally,” said Alice Perritt, owner of House of Frames and Paintings on Devine Street. “You can’t go to Asheville or New York or Paris and find another store like this.”
When she meets visitors, she always encourages them to visit Bohemian Home.
The store had to make some adjustments over the years, but overall they managed to find their niche. It’s been a successful business model for half a century, helping them survive the 2008 recession and the initial turmoil of the pandemic.
But as the area changes and rents go up, they’d have to change drastically to survive, Schultze said. Rather than re-sign a lease, they choose to retire.
When their doors officially close in late August, Schultze will inevitably take some of his favorite pieces home with him. He said he’d be just as happy to continue running the shop forever, but he’s also looking forward to trying something new.
“You always hear this notion, if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. This was my case,” he said.