Stephanie and Emmanuel Spanomanolis were walking down Maryland Avenue when they spotted a "for rent" sign.
"My heart jumped," Emmanuel said.
The sign was in the window of 65 Maryland Ave. where Kelly Meade was in the process of clearing out her store called Oliver's Buy Sell Trade. She closed her store on Sept. 30 to spend more time with her two young children.
Emmanuel said he instantly fell in love with the tin ceilings, and the store's open floor plan. He quickly rented the space for his new business, Emmanuel and Company—a furniture store that will specialize in distressed, refinished and repurposed pieces.
"I had a construction company for 25 years, but I always had a passion for furniture and decorating," Emmanuel said.
In 2006, Emmanuel was diagnosed with Lyme disease. He said he has good days and bad days, but the unpredictable nature the disease coupled with the economic recession made keeping his business impossible. He became medically disabled at the age of 40.
"With both of us being in real estate, we lost everything," Stephanie said. "It made us stop and say 'What do we really want from life?'"
The couple decided it was now or never to pursue Emmanuel's dream of owning his own furniture design business. His wife plans to help out running the day-to-day operations and even assist in the refinishing when Emmanuel's health issues prevent him from working.
"I have the designs," Emmanuel said. "I enjoy doing these things, but I also have a lot of down days."
The soon-to-be business owner said he searches thrift shops, yard sales and antique stores for pieces.
"If I see a piece, it has to hit me the right way," he said. "Usually a thought pops in my head for what it could be."
Emmanuel also has a passion for old sewing machines, which he said was passed down from his grandmothers who both worked as professional seamstresses. He repairs the machines or uses their parts to create tables and other decorative items.
Stephanie joked that the couple has 16 sewing machines in their living room.
They hope to open Emmanuel and Company by Nov. 15. The furniture and accessories will have a range of price points, which the couple hopes will appeal to a variety of buyers. Emmanuel said people can also bring their old furniture to him and he will refinish or repurpose it.
"When you have multiple things in life against you, you have to find that one thing that will get you out of bed in the morning," Stephanie said.
She believes the store will be that driving force in her husband's life, and she hopes it thrives.
"We're nervous, but we're excited," she said. "We held our breath and took a leap of faith."