Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
WASHINGTON — Tricia Whisler opened the Mercantile in August of 2021. The home decor store represented a passion carried over from Whisler’s time in business with her late mother.
“My mother, who was my partner at my first business, got cancer … I tried to keep it going without her and it just wasn’t the same,” Whisler said. “While she couldn’t even get out of her chair, she’d say, ‘Let’s open up another store,’ … she passed away, and I’m like, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ I thought, ‘This is my passion, this is what I love to do, this would honor her well.’”
A year after her mother’s death, Whisler caught wind of an available building just south of the square in Washington. By year’s end in 2021, she had opened the Mercantile.
It was scary at first. On top of the emotional stakes, the 2021 opening came amid a new wave of COVID-19 infections and renewed economic woes. Still, Whisler said she remained confident.
“Purchasing a building is always scary, and this (store) has to work to keep the building,” she said. “But every piece fell into place, and it just felt right.”
Much of the Mercantile’s target market is the same clientele that frequented Whisler’s old store years ago. The result was a routine trip down memory lane whenever the door opens to the Mercantile.
“It was very surreal,” she said. “I remember moms and daughters coming into our old store, and the girls were just little … and now they come in, and the girls are teenagers. It’s really weird, it’s like so much time has passed and yet no time has passed at all.”
That feeling has since worn off, replaced by a sense of comfortable normalcy for Whisler.
“It doesn’t feel like work to me, that’s what’s beautiful about it,” she said. “I can spend Saturday through Wednesday, every hour of the day and night here, and it feel like I’m hardly here. Two hours pass, it feels like, and it’s been 12.”
The work pays off. Whisler said she relished the reactions from happy customers.
“When they go shopping at stores like this, it can be inspiring, it’s fun, when I stop at stores like this I feel joyful and happy, and I love seeing that on other peoples’ faces when they walk in,” she said. “I guess it’s just because that’s how I was made … it’s part of who I am, it’s the creative side of me.”
The store has some unusual hours: open three days a week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, except around holiday seasons, when that range expands. Whisler said the choice was designed to keep work-life balance.
“I love to be at home, I love to be a homemaker … so it’s the best of both worlds,” she said. “I get to do that, and I get to do this. Thursday, Friday and Saturday are the busiest shopping days anyways, so it just makes sense to me.”
While it’s one of several interior decor stores around the square, Whisler said keeping the brand distinct was not a challenge.
“I really try not to think about what everybody else is doing,” she said. “I just find what I love, I find what I think is pretty. I would never put something in this store that I would not put in my own home.”