Story and photography
by Laurie McCall
“The heartfelt council of a friend is sweet as perfume and incense and McDonald’s tea.”
– Proverbs 27:9 (paraphrased)
Andy Sonfield, Martha Ladermann, and Jan Rose make up the A-Team at Expressions Furniture, an island staple since July 1, 1990. Andy and her husband moved to the island from New Orleans. After arriving in Hilton Head, it wasn’t long before they decided to open a furniture store. The concept was simple—choose the sofa or chair, choose the fabric, and it will be made to order. They even found a spot that felt like home on New Orleans Road.
In 2005, Andy called up her friend Martha, who had been a great customer through the years, and asked if she’d like to come work for her. As Andy says, “She’s been indispensably here ever since.”
Jan, another loyal customer says, “I bought sofas from Andy in 1990, and then I was hooked… on Andy… and the sofas.” Jan and Martha were also friends, and after running into each other in 2013, Martha suggested Jan help out at the store. She came in and talked to Andy and “We fell in love,” Andy laughs. The rest is history.
These three inseparable women are like sisters, only better. “We never fight,” says Jan. “Except that one time Andy yelled at us, and then she apologized for two and a half years.” They all laugh. There’s a love and chemistry among these women that can be felt the moment you walk through the door. If they aren’t with a customer, you’ll see them sitting around one of the tables having their sessions, or high noon tea at three from McDonald’s, a daily ritual.
I had so much fun joining them at the table, listening to them tell stories and finish each other’s sentences.
As Professionals: They are all business. When they come together to help a client, whether consulting, doing a home visit, or helping to pick out fabric, they all share the same philosophy. “We start with the customers’ desires. When they come in, they gravitate towards certain colors or fabrics. We like to start with what they like and facilitate the selection,” Andy says. They ask clients questions about their lifestyles, whether or not they have kids or pets. They even go to people’s homes (upon request) to make sure the furniture will fit the space. Also, to ensure it can make it through doorways and up the steps to its intended destination. They tell stories of renting cranes to have sofas delivered through top story windows and hoisted up the sides of houses. One thing’s for sure, if it’s possible, these ladies will find a way.
As Friends: They talk about how they encourage each other. Andy shares how these two women were a huge support after her husband passed away four years ago. “I had to learn to find the resources within myself to be the leader, which has been a struggle at times, and these ladies helped me succeed at it. It’s a lot different for me not being just one of the girls, and instead, being the one who has to be responsible for the bottom line. I have been through a major life change and have had great support here. It has made my life much happier than it otherwise might be.” The trio talk about how they sit around the table and council each other, and if there’s not time they make time. “We take care of each other first,” Jan says. Martha agrees, “That’s right!” Jan continues, “That’s what makes the store so perfect.” “Because we love each other,” says Martha.
A Day at the Store: “Well, it starts in the morning,” they laugh. Jan is the morning person, so she always opens the store, and right on time. I ask about down time. Andy says she doesn’t have any so don’t ask her. Jan says they always find something to do. Lunch happens when it happens, somedays at noon and other days at 4 pm. Sometimes they have two minutes to eat, and other days an hour. It just depends on what’s going on, but every day at three is tea time.
Decorating Tips: Mix textures to create visual interest. Keep things simple and uncluttered. Your home should be a place where you can relax and get away from the busyness of the world. I ask what they’d recommend for someone with small children. “A maid… and a nanny,” they laugh. Don’t buy a sofa just because it’s supposed to be bullet proof, kid proof and dog proof. This furniture is built to last so purchase something you love. With all the high-performance fabrics available these days, you can have both pretty and practical. Going with a neutral color sofa will increase longevity of your love for it. You can change out the look just by buying new throw pillows.
The one thing I can say after spending time in Expressions, is these three women have managed to create something more than just a business. They have created a sisterhood.
For a fun and relaxing shopping experience, visit Andy, Martha and Jan at Expressions Furniture located at 37 New Orleans Road, HHI. They will help you discover the look that best expresses your personality and help you pick the perfect piece to fit your lifestyle.
Happy Hour: Andy, Martha and Jan host an after-hours Bible study in the store every Tuesday.
A-Team Store Playlist: Their music is as colorful and diverse as their fabric selection.
The Big Three:
• Andy is engaged to be married to Jim! If you have any questions just stop by Expressions and ask.
• Jan is building/rebuilding her home for the third time, having lost her home to both Matthew and Irma.
• One of Martha’s daughters and her family recently relocated to the Lowcountry from Texas.
New Edition: Andy, Martha and Jan just adopted a little sister, and they could not be more excited to welcome Heather Bender to the team.