Written by Paul Clark | Photos by Anthony Harden
Peter Bloomfield climbed the pine staircase to his office with a halt in his step. He’s a big hiker and backpacker, and heading out into the woods with his sons is what he does to relax. And so the limp bothered him, in more ways than one.
“It’s my knees,” Bloomfield said. Thirty-seven years of running around the family store, Bloomfield’s of Flat Rock, has started to take its toll. Local residents and tourists coming off Interstate 26 might think running a small kitchen and home furnishings shop is easy. But Bloomfield’s knees tell a different story. Through the years, he has probably walked around the world in that shop.
Bloomfield’s of Flat Rock has been a bright red beacon for all things “home” since Bloomfield’s father Max opened the store in 1976. The barn-shaped building and shed-shaped garage have catered to changing tastes and local preferences for so long that the front desk clerk and long-time employee Brooke Wolfe knows many of the regular visitors by name.
The day’s task for Peter Bloomfield, he said as he climbed toward his office, involved changing out the display in the center of the store. All things grill-related were coming out and all things Christmas were going in. Moving merchandise through narrow aisles between shelves of dishes, soaps and knives seemed daunting. But Bloomfield and his son do it every year in just one night, though it’s a night that quickly turns into early morning.
“Once you get going on it, it’s not bad,” he said, sipping from his ever-present coffee cup as he settled into a chair in his office. “We go big for Christmas.”
So big, in fact, that it takes two levels of scaffolding to decorate the tree, which he does himself. The work is harder than when he was younger, but he takes it in stride—or he would if his knees weren’t bothering him. At the top of the stairs he paused and opened the door to operation central, which is essentially his desk, a hutch with a computer and a long leather couch where he crashes for the night when he’s working late. A blanket and pillow were stacked neatly on one end.
On top of the blanket was a photo album marking key events in the business’ history. Bloomfield pulled out a newspaper clipping written the Wednesday before his parents opened the store in May 1976. The Bloomfields, the article noted, lived in Grimesdale, a little north of Hendersonville. Max Bloomfield knew retail well, having owned the Stuckey’s store in Fletcher in the 1960s. Peter Bloomfield grew up in an apartment behind the store. He was stocking shelves when he was 16.
Then, in 1966, I-26 opened outside of Fletcher, and traffic died in town. His father anticipated the change and had already purchased property beside the interstate. He built Bloomfield’s—coincidentally, his son was working for the construction company that put up the building—and stocked it with good quality dishes. Peter Bloomfield moved from construction to retail, helping his father in the store.
“It settled me down,” Bloomfield said of his years working in and running the family business. He met his wife, Carol, there. Her parents lived in Columbus, having moved from New Jersey when they retired. They started shopping in the store, and lo and behold, one day Carol called him up to ask him out. “A beautiful young lady,” Bloomfield said, recalling their first date at the old McGuffey’s restaurant at Blue Ridge Mall. She works at Bloomfield’s too and would have been in the office with him that day except it was Wednesday, the day off for everyone in the family except him. Bloomfield hasn’t played golf since he and Carol got married. Instead, he works. Or hikes.
Bloomfield smiled as he reminisced. Dressed casually in a blue and white striped Polo shirt, he cradled his coffee cup on rugged blue cargo pants, a sensible choice for someone who spends hours in the warehouse moving cartons around. Despite his silvering hair, Bloomfield looks far younger than his 58 years. His voice is relaxed and his eyes are soft, traits that are no doubt reflections of his being in charge of a business that grew 15 to 20 percent a year until the recession. A downward decline has lately reversed itself, and Bloomfield is much happier than he was a year ago.
(article continues on page 2 and more photographs are at the end)