BY LEE ANN SANDWEISS
Stepping into the Silas Andrews store, located at 405 S. Walnut next to The Chocolate Moose, is like entering a tiny shop in le Marais, the historic district of Paris.
It is exactly that Old World ambience that owners Sally Livingston and her brother and business partner R. Silas Heath were hoping to create.
“We love French culture and style, as well as things that appear handcrafted with an heirloom quality,” says Livingston—who looks every bit the Gibson Girl with her upswept chignon, prim lace blouse, and brocade shawl. The store is tightly packed with a wide range of gift items, many with French motifs like the Eiffel Tower or fleur-de-lis.
Silas Andrews carries jewelry, scarves, perfume bottles, and seasonal items, as well as home décor objects like pillows, kitchen linens, candles, mirrors, and even multicolored and fuchsia chandeliers. Most of the greeting cards and journals are made by Heath, who is a retired art teacher.
While the front of the shop is a Francophile’s dream, the back room has a distinctly American folk vibe, which Livingston describes as “cabinish.” Here there are goods that have a rustic, hand-hewn feel, such as burlap table runners, antique dinnerware and serving pieces, spicy- and woodsy-scented candles, and primitive decorative objects.
Bloomington-born Livingston and Heath are experienced local retailers who are undoubtedly known to many longtime Bloomingtonians. For several years in the 1980s, they owned Bessie Rose, an emporium on North Walnut, near the downtown Square. Then in the early 2000s, they opened the original Silas Andrews store in Nashville, Indiana. They closed that shop in late 2011 when they decided to move their business to Bloomington. Silas Andrews opened at its current location in March 2012, one week before the road construction began on South Walnut.
“We believed that the construction was just going to be sidewalks,” says Heath, with a wry smile. “But we weathered the worst of the disruption. I have fallen in love with this space. I see a lot of growth potential on this part of Walnut. It’s getting more pedestrian friendly, and it’s so close to downtown.”