Sundra McCoy and Lee Hairston credit their customers with naming the downtown craft shop they own.
"Our customers would say, 'You have such wonderful things,' so we changed the name from Window Crafts to Wonderful Things," McCoy said.
The tiny store at 616 E St. NW is chock full of items such as clothing of colorful fabrics, handbags, greeting cards with the works of popular artists and Raggedy Ann dolls in black and white. The shop has a collection of paintings by artist Varnette Honeywood and jewelry by Laurel Burch. The works of local artists and crafts people are also for sale.
Hairston decided to go into business after being laid off from her teaching job in the D.C. schools in 1981. She had gotten a taste of business because she and a friend had set up shops during the Christmas season to sell what she called "Christmas goodies": pottery, ornaments and other handmade items.
The shop was open for three months and was such a success that in November 1982, Hairston rented a display window and then store space in the Lansburgh Building to show off the items she had for sale.
Unable to secure a bank loan to get the business started, Hairston turned to friends, borrowing $500 each from three friends and promising them 20 percent interest over six months. She paid them off within three months.
"For the first couple of years, it was rough going," she said. "There were good days and bad days. But fortunately, there were enough good days to pay bills even though some days I only made $5 for the whole day. But by the third year, I began to see I could make a living."
McCoy, meanwhile, had been operating a similar shop in Georgetown, but closed it after about a year. Seeking a shop that would sell her handmade jewelry on consignment, McCoy met Hairston at the Window Craft Shop in 1982. Soon afterward, they became partners.
One of their goals at Wonderful Things, Hairston and McCoy said, is to expose customers to different cultures by selling items that are expressions of black heritage and art from Africa, India, South America and elsewhere.
The partners say they try to address a complaint from black people that they cannot find items that depict themselves. The shop offers black greeting cards, dolls and books, most produced by black artists.
One of the challenges Hairston and McCoy face is that of adapting to changes in Washington's downtown. Their shop originally was in the Lansburgh Building on Seventh Street NW, but a plan to redevelop the building forced them to move.
Hairston said she has mixed feelings about downtown's revitalization, but she wants to be a part of the growth: "It's good to see downtown come alive again. However, for small-business people, it's unfortunate.
"If we can manage with all the changes that are going on downtown, in regard to a lot of old buildings being torn down or renovated and new ones coming up, which means they are more expensive . . . we see ourselves in the next five years growing, growing, growing," Hairston said.
"I think the revitalization of downtown will increase business," McCoy said. "Of course it will becomes more expensive to maintain the business, but if you make up your mind to do it, it can be done."