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Friday, June 14, 2024

BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: The Bygone ‘Golden Era’ Alive at Regal Town & Country Department Store in Hope

Owner Fernanda Gutierrez stands outside her store in Hope. The renovated carriage house at 3 Millbrook Road is more than 200 years old. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 8/2023

The Regal Town & Country Department Store, located at 3 Millbrook Road in Hope, is open for business. Occupying the old Hope Chest building, and across from the Inn at Millrace Pond, visitors will delight in the wide assortment of unique items the store carries and the infectious enthusiasm of the owner.

“When I first looked at Hope Township, I realized that locals needed a convenient one-stop shop,” said the owner and manager of the store, Fernanda Gutierrez, a Hope resident for 16 years. “A quality department store that carries a large variety of items, and a place to meet neighbors, enjoy themselves, and make friends.”

Gutierrez, who has a passion for interior design, stocks the store with well-made items that are built to last.

The kitchen and dining display area. Photo by C. Tamulonis 8/2023

“The merchandise is carefully selected and hand-picked, a perfect blend of quality new stock and some selective antiques, mostly made in Europe or America,” she said. “A small quantity is good quality from Asia.” 

The store carries everything from kitchen and bath items to furniture, crystal and china, and one-of-a-kind vintage items like clothing and decor. Nothing in the store is cheaply made or a “throw-away” item.

For vintage items, Gutierrez does the refurbishing herself, including re-wiring antique lamps and restoring furniture.

Architectural cornices on display. Photo by C. Tamulonis 8/2023

She admits that doing it all keeps her busy, despite suffering a serious injury at a previous job, which still affects her. “Because of this, everything takes me longer to achieve,” she said. “But I persevere through my belief in the importance of this enterprise and the desire to do something fulfilling for myself, my family, my friends and the community.” 

Originally built as a one-room milk barn, the 200-year-old historic building was later used as a carriage house. Tom Gable, a former owner, made additions in the 1980s turning it into the large barn-like building that houses the Regal Town and Country Department Store today. 

The 200+ year old former carriage house serves well. Photo by C Tamulonis, 8/2023

Initially launching the store in 2019, Gutierrez closed in 2022 for a much-needed appearance renovation. “It took some time,” she said. “I did all the work myself and am still working on it. This year I reopened with the store looking much better.”

Gutierrez recently painted the interior walls white, allowing the beauty of the merchandise to stand out.

Gutierrez is inspired by turn-of-the-century department stores like Selfridges, Harrods of London, and Fortunoff.

“I have been fascinated with the bygone “golden era” department stores all my life,” she said. “When department stores were designed for a day out, shopping and fun with the family. That’s what I want to bring here.” 

Some chairs patiently await their new owners. Photo by C. Tamulonis 8/2023

For Gutierrez, the shopping experience is just as important as the quality of items.

“Nothing beats the in-person, physical merchandise interaction,” she said. “To be able to see, touch, smell and examine the quality, size, color, and fit of the merchandise, is priceless.” 

She has even worked in a few department stores herself. At age 17, Gutierrez worked as an elevator operator for the iconic Soler Department Store in Uruguay.

Soler Department Store in Uruguay where Fernanda worked as a youth. Photo courtesy of Ignacio Olivera, Montevideo, Uruguay.

“I would announce the department floor to customers at each stop,” she said. She also worked in multiple departments and as a clothing model at the Sears store in Rockaway in the ‘90s.

These days, Gutierrez is busy making the best use of every inch of the Regal Town & Country Department Store and wants to offer even more in the future. 

“I have plans to evolve the store, to scale it bigger with more departments and hopefully the addition of a restaurant one day,” she said.

Gutierrez believes that a great company should not only supply good products but be a boon to the community it serves. Eventually, she plans to donate a percentage of each sale to people struggling with housing.

A knight stands guard at the entryway. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 8/ 2023

“The help will be on an individual basis, personalized and one-on-one to get them back on their feet,” she said.

You can stop by to see Fernanda Wednesdays through Sundays from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. She can be reached by phone or text at 908-763-6695 for any business inquiries. You can also check out the store’s social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.

Cybele Tamulonis
Cybele Tamulonis, Contributing Writer

Cybele is a writer and editor with more than 16 years in the publishing industry. An avid reader, you can usually find her with the latest new book release from the local library. She currently resides on a farm in Hardwick with her husband and four children. In her spare time, she writes historical fiction specific to New Jersey.