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Maidstone changes hands, name

October 14, 2007|By BETHANY TREMBLAY

Maidstone Interiors had been in the same family for three generations, but after 73 years, the Hagerstown furniture store recently was sold to another family-owned company, Davids Furniture & Interiors.

Elizabeth Starnowsky, whose grandmother co-founded the 117 Summit Ave. store in 1934, said customers have been telling her how sorry they are that the store's ownership is changing.

But Starnowsky said that while she has mixed emotions, owning a small company in competition with larger ones is difficult.

On the other, she said she is "very excited" because Davids, which is based in Harrisburg, Pa., has many of the business values Maidstone has always held high, and it will bring here many of the furniture lines she "would have loved to have."

And, Starnowsky said, she is excited because she is staying with the business "to return to what I really want to do - design."

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Her grandmother, Helen Statton, and architect William Beard founded Maidstone in space they leased on the first floor of what Starnowsky believes was a Ford garage that had burned down and was rebuilt. Statton's husband, Philo, had founded Statton Furniture Manufacturing in Hagerstown in 1926.

From the first, the new furniture store shaped its future by displaying home furnishings down to the smallest details, from paint colors to floral arrangements on tables, according to its Web site.

Maidstone's emphasis on custom work - window treatments, bedding, carpeting and reupholstering - remains its strength into the present, Starnowsky said.

"Up to 75 percent of what we do is custom," she said.

At its peak, the company had about 50 employees. Over the past few years, it has averaged 10 to 12, she said.

Helen Statton passed the company to her daughter, Pamela Hardinge, who in turn passed it down to her daughter, Elizabeth Starnowsky.

Starnowsky said she began working under her mother's direction in the fall of 1980, at the age of 22, learning the business from the ground up. She started out in sales, sold furniture and learned about the products.

After that, Starnowsky worked as what she described as an apprentice with her mother. She said Hardinge taught her the ropes of interior design from room layout to window treatments and accessories.

As a team, Starnowsky and Hardinge would go on interior design jobs.

"I would put schemes together and she would critique me until she liked how I did it," Starnowsky said.

Starnowsky took over as president of the company when Hardinge retired in 1992.

Then, in May, Davids Furniture & Interiors officials approached Starnowsky about buying the company.

Mike Martin, president of Davids, said he had wanted to expand the company to Hagerstown. Davids has stores in Harrisburg and Mechanicsburg, Pa.

He said Maidstone already had a great reputation with its customers and provided a good foundation from which the company could expand.

Martin said Maidstone is a natural fit for Davids because both stores focus on interior design.

"One of the great things about Maidstone is that they share our same beliefs of service to their customers," Martin said. "They pull together the entire room, creating a magazine-quality picture."

Starnowsky and the board of Maidstone Interiors agreed to the deal.

"Davids is also a family business that offers similar products to ours. It has been a good blend," said Starnowsky.

Davids Furniture & Interiors was founded by David and Nancy Martin in 1972, and currently is run by two generations of the Martin family. Martin's involvement with Davids started under the direction of his parents, and he, like Starnowsky, learned the business from the ground up.

"I have been working there my whole life," said Martin, who began mowing lawns at the store at age 9. He worked in the company's warehouse, on the showroom floor and became a full-time employee when he graduated from college. He became company president in January 2006.

In a similar style to Maidstone, Davids offers in-home design consultation, interior design assistance and has design consultants available in the store.

Davids also offers a more traditional style, allowing the company to keep the same focuses created by Starnowsky's grandmother 73 years ago.

Starnowsky said that because Davids is a bigger company, it will be able to offer a broader range of products and services.

Some of the specific expansions will be the Oriental rug market and the addition of the Stickley brand name to the company's line of products, Martin said.

Starnowsky and Martin said the company will continue to uphold the standards and traditions started by both of their families, but with more resources and options for a continually growing market.

Davids is open Mondays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed Sundays.

Staff writer Arnold Platou contributed to this story.

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