$500 for feather boas

Design a new knock-'em-dead showroom window on Sierra Street every month. For four years. For no pay.

What's the payoff?

Name recognition for Jessica Schneider, owner of Decorating With Style, LLC. "The window has helped me so much," she says. "Not that many direct leads, but people know me from the window."

"The mayor called me to say how much he and his wife look forward to the new display each month," she adds. "However, it's very labor intensive. And, sadly, it's a dying art. In New York and San Francisco, merchants believe in it. But not us."

With a $200 budget, Schneider turns the 5-foot deep by 25-foot long display window at the antiques store known as 100 N. Sierra Street into a traffic stopper. And a traffic builder for the store.

Owner Lena Black, who is Schneider's grandmother, told the decorator that the window display is the reason her store was voted best antique mall in a recent survey of Reno consumers.

The business rents space to dozens of dealers who lease mini-shops within the cavernous interior of the former JC Penney department store.

At first, Schneider recalls, the antique dealers didn't want merchandise taken from their booths to become moribund as window decor. But window shoppers came in constantly, wanting to buy items directly out of the display. Soon, the dealers were begging her to use their items in the next vignette.

Schneider did not formally train in interior design. She owned The Jitterbug, a funky furniture and clothing store in Gardnerville, where she realized her knack for retail display. She then worked a stint as assistant for a local designer. When her grandmother opened the antique mall, Schneider begged to do the window.

"It snowballed from there," she says.

While store windows downtown and elsewhere are Schneider's passion, she makes much of her living by selling home decor.

After several years working from a tiny room, she opened a storefront at the Moana West Annex on the corner of Lakeside and Moana Lane.

The cozy shop, Decorating With Style, is an exuberant collection of beaded lamps and roof top tins salvaged from old buildings in New York City; velvet purses and ceiling moldings made into shelves; mirrors and murals and impossibly long Christmas stockings decorated in improbable fashion.

Display of merchandise can move inventory, she says. "Purses don't sell. But hang them on a tree, and they do."

She chose the location after hearing from a merchant friend about the center's strong foot traffic. She names the specialty shops that drive business to her shop: Joseph's Bakery and PDQ Alterations. Plus Blue Bounty fish market, set inside Ben's Liquor, "where everyone goes to buy their fish."

While she charges a flat rate of $85 an hour for interior decoration, she drops the price for storefront display because she wants to develop that market and she's passionate about it.

So far, she's done The Attic, Creative Critters, and Out of Bounds board shop. That one took 10 hours, for which she charged $580.

And then there's the parties such as the Halloween pirate party with a treasure chests theme. Out of a total party budget of $8,000 the hostess paid Schneider $1,200 for the decor. "It sounds like a lot," she says, "but I had most of the props." With her crew one employee, Megan Hellier, plus a high school intern she added about 40 man-hours of labor.

Schneider maintains a storage unit packed with props. "I'm a pack rat," she says, but claims the knack for design is genetic. "I come from a family of hippies and artists."


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