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Chat-R-Bug features regionally made shabby chic goods

For years Beth Sulcer has made a name for herself as a designer and boutique owner in the quaint village community of Bell Buckle, Tenn. Now the Hixson High School graduate is bringing her brand of shabby chic, primitive cottage style back home with the opening of her Hixson store Chat-R-Bug.

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From left, Chat-R-Bug owners Beth Sulcer and Kim Hayes show off their store’s eclectic mix of shabby chic furniture, home accessories, clothing, jewelry and art.

Co-owner and Harrison resident Kim Hayes was so fond of the selection at Sulcer’s Bell Buckle store that she was making the two-hour trek to the tourist town near Murfreesboro fairly often and had become a regular.

“She would say how badly Chattanooga needed a store like it,” said Sulcer, who immediately called Hayes when she decided to open a store in her hometown. “There’s not any other shop I’ve found like this, and we hear that a lot from our customers.”

Hayes, a former social worker, jumped at the chance, and the two opened Chat-R-Bug in November.

Sulcer says she feels she found the ideal location for the store, which is slightly off the beaten path in a 100-year-old building she said formerly housed Hixson’s first grocery store. The train tracks in front are reminiscent of her Bell Buckle store, said Sulcer.

Chat-R-Bug specializes in antiques and custom furniture handmade by Murfreesboro-based craftsman Tom Nelson. Options range from new furniture designed to customer specifications, to refinishing, repairing or repurposing well-loved older pieces.

Hayes describes the store’s clothing and jewelry selection as “primitive boutique style,” with scarves and spring dresses among their best-sellers for all ages.

The store also carries home accessories such as mirrors, decorative signs, paintings, repurposed shutters and windows, candle holders and more in a variety of styles from cottage primitive to contemporary.

Many items are locally made, such as Hixson resident Ginger Jordan’s homemade lollipops and specialty chocolates, or the custom cards and scrapbooks made by stay-at-home mom Lori Rains, also of Hixson. Recently added is the Draperies and Accents by Judith line, featuring high-end draperies, table runners, napkins, pillows, custom slipcovers and other items handmade from fabric by Ringgold resident Judith Brymer.

“We’re trying to use as many local people as we can,” said Sulcer. “We’re really trying to spotlight what our community has talent-wise, because it’s a lot.”

Sulcer has also brought in some of the handiwork of Bell Buckle’s local artists, such as custom lamps and chandeliers by Jane Weddington and iron and tin folk art by J. Allen, who plans to demonstrate his craft for Chat-R-Bug customers one day this spring.

Sulcer said she continues to work on design projects with builders and individual clients, and that her capabilities extend beyond just shabby chic to incorporate more modern tastes as well.

Chat-R-Bug is at 5231 Wilbanks Drive and can be reached at 942-0905.

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