Husband and wife team, Wendell and Suzie Patterson, own the Whimsey Shoppe located at 2923 North Henderson Avenue.
Today Henderson Avenue is home to some of the finest boutiques and restaurants in Dallas. The Whimsey Shoppe holds distinction as a pioneer along the sophisticated strip, having been at the location for nearly a quarter of a century. During that time, it has grown to be one of the most respected country French stores in the United States.
Before opening the store, Suzie was an interior designer by profession. Having shopped the antique market both domestically and in Europe for her clients, becoming the owner and buyer of a shop seemed a natural evolution for Suzie. Although Wendell’s profession was commercial real estate, he shared Suzie’s appreciation for good design.
“I have always been interested in collecting antiques and interesting things, even as a kid. When Suzie first started the shop I always helped out on Saturday, the largest day for retail sales at that time,” Wendell said.
Because they live in Dallas, I questioned what made the Pattersons choose a French country style for their store. Susie’s grandparents are from France. After Susie and Wendell married, they extensively travelled the country, studied its culture and fell in love with everything French. So France-inspired style was a natural choice for design.
They are confident that they made a great choice. They both pointed out that French interior fashions and furniture have lead and strongly influenced most European furniture styles in significant ways.
They believe that antiques have always been popular, and people who had parents or grandparents who appreciated antiques often have a preference for them. Also, antiques complement historic and pre -World War II homes like thosefound throughout East Dallas, Lakewood and the ParkCities.
“I think you have ‘old house people’ and ‘new house people.’ Our market offers opportunities for both to exist happily,” Wendell said.
It was Suzie who came up with the store’s name, The Whimsey Shoppe. And what could be more appropriate for a shop that, in addition to fine antique furnishings, is filled with whimsical items that carry tales and traditions from the French countryside?
The antique Santons, or little saints, were first created in the south of France during the French Revolution, when churches were forcibly closed and their nativity scenes prohibited. The clay figurines replaced those in the nativity and represent various characters from village life such as the scissors grinder, the fishwife, the blind man and the garlic seller.
Another charming Christmas tradition found in the south of France is “les treize desserts.” Thirteen different desserts representing the 12 disciples and Jesus are served following Midnight Mass. The Whimsey Shoppe’s antique dessert buffet displays and serves 13 desserts.
A panetiere resembling an ornate bird cage is actually an open air bread box for storing bread. At the time the panetiere was made bread was shaped into a round loaf, "boule" and was very hard-crusted, yet soft inside. The bread was baked once or twice a year in communal outdoor bread ovens in the small villages and towns. The hard-crusted boules would last for up to a year, but they had to be kept in a place that allowed them fresh air.
The confiturier is from Normandy and Brittany (the west side of France) and was originally a jam cabinet. They are still popular in that region of France today.
The tall, ornately carved piece of furniture known as an armoire is actually very similar to America’s hope-chest. Filled with linens monogrammed by the bride-to-be with her future in-laws’ initials, the armoire was given to her by her father on her wedding day to take to her new home.
A new area to the shop is the gallery, Le Granier. A short walk across a foot bridge takes you to this exciting new area where you can explore “quirky France.”
Through the years, The Whimsey Shoppe owners have given back to the country they love by sharing their knowledge with the French interior design culture.
“We worked with the largest furniture wax manufacturer in France to develop a color for America which had less ‘red’ tint and more ‘yellow brown,’ a personal preference of Americans,” Wendell said.
“The shade is now the favorite of Americans using French colored furniture. Suzie taught color at Dallas’ El Centro Community College for over 20 years. She is an expert in color,” Wendell added.
The Pattersons love sharing their knowledge of French antiques. Stop by the Whimsey Shoppe and see the beautiful furniture, hear the stories and meet Suzie and Wendell. You will also get to meet Benny, the Patterson’s Havanese who is a regular at the store.The Whimsey Shoppe is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5.p.m.