Anyone who’s lived in Asheville long enough has seen TV and print advertisements for Yesterday’s Tree. The distinctive campaign has, for over three decades, featured owner Peggy Yarborough’s children and canines frolicking on the store’s elegant but sturdy sofas, chairs, and upholstered pieces.
Later ads chronicled the shift from Yarborough’s children — now grown — to her grandchildren, and a new generation of pooches. “After 36 years in business, many people still remember Truffles, the Chocolate Lab who put us on the map,” says Yarborough.
The ongoing mission is to offer “eclectic, excellently crafted, and fun items” for a broad range of customers. “That said,” continues Yarborough, “building great relationships with our customers is just as important as stocking extraordinary pieces.”
The store’s name stems from a time, decades ago, when unfinished wood furniture was in vogue. “You bought a bookshelf or table at a reasonable price, brought it home and stained or painted it yourself. ‘Yesterday’s Tree’ meant that your piece of furniture had been just that,” explains Yarborough. “Eventually, we moved into fabrics, upholstered furniture, and quality custom finishing. … As the unfinished-furniture market shrunk, we kept growing.”
Besides high-quality upholstered pieces, the store began to sell what Yarborough calls “striking lighting,” unique wall and window treatments, rugs, gifts, and accessories.” Yesterday’s Tree also offers in-house design services, which have become a key part of the business.
But Yarborough’s goal has always been to make customers feel they’re not beholden to purchase an entire room or home’s worth of furniture. “We’re just as happy selling one chair as a whole house of furniture,” she says. “We put a twist on things, too — there’s a sense of casual comfort and fun when you walk in. We have traditional pieces, some contemporary items, and others that bridge different styles. We keep things interesting by, say, updating a traditional piece of furniture with the fabric we choose for it.”
It’s important to Yarborough to attend multiple annual markets that go beyond the High Point’s regional confines. “For instance,” she notes, “we go to a relatively small show in Denver [Colorado], but it’s important to see new trends. If one or two lines catch our eye that we can carry and introduce something different to our collection, it’s worth it.” She adds that while she stays true to classic forms and patterns, she also prioritizes staying vital by evolving and keeping up with what’s going on in furniture design.
In one way, though, she is staunchly “old school.” The hands-on showroom experience is so central to Yesterday’s Tree that Yarborough has yet to venture into online sales — and has no plans to do so. “That’s not our customer,” says Yarborough. “We want folks to be intrigued enough to come visit us.”
Her passion has never waned — not even when Yesterday’s Tree suffered a devastating fire that swept through the store on July 14, 2004. “Even after all that loss,” she shares, “our community stepped up in unforgettable ways. The day after the fire, we stood with the chief fire investigator assessing the damage. I’ll always remember, our phones rang off the hook all day with people wanting to know if the dogs were alright.”
Sometimes they remembered to ask about the human members of the family, too. “Sure, they cared about us,” she jokes, “but the community adored those dogs.”
Other home-furnishing stores even helped Yesterday’s Tree with deliveries and many other needs. “We had no time to grieve. We hit the ground running. But I kept every card community well wishers sent.”
Yesterday’s Tree’s latest iteration is a small satellite shop, Curated by Yesterday’s Tree, in downtown Asheville, overseen by Yarborough’s daughter-in-law Cortney Wilkinson. “The space opens up into the back of Tops for Shoes and the merchandise is a bit more urban in feeling, more transitional,” says Yarborough.
The pandemic presented another challenge for the business. But after their doors reopened, sales only grew. “People tired of looking at and sitting on the same old pieces; they want to spice things up, and also needed to use their spaces in new ways,” says Yarborough. She describes a new wave of customers who are younger, more mobile, and arriving from big cities.
“Fortunately, our staff loves each other. It’s really a family business” — including Yarborough’s daughter Jayme Ray — “even though everyone isn’t related by blood. … It’s not just about selling furniture; most of our customers become our friends.”
Yesterday’s Tree Furniture, 780 Hendersonville Road, Asheville; open Monday through Friday, 10am-5pm, and Saturday, 10am-4pm. 828-274-4296. Curated by Yesterday’s Tree, 58 College St, Asheville; open Monday through Saturday, 10am-5pm. 828-333-4304. www.yesterdaystreefurniture.com.