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Expressive Business 

Started in the late 1970s as a way for two entrepreneurial travelers to pay for their trips to China, Orient Expressed (3905 Magazine St., 899-3060; www.orientexpressed.com) today is a business that employs more than 30 women and sells in excess of 90,000 pieces of its signature clothing and linens as well as keeping locals stocked in gifts, fashion accessories and decorative home accents.

The 28-year-old company, owned by former art teachers Bee Fitzpatrick and Dabney Jacob, recently expanded its retail space into a building adjoining its store and uses the new showroom to better display its new lamps and accessories as well as antiques and art.

"It started out as a way for Bee and Dabney to travel," says store manager Vicki Moran. They bought a container of antique furniture in China and rented a space to sell the items. The partners were so successful, they repeated the venture again and finally settled into a regular business in 1978. They expanded their offerings into a signature line of smocked children's clothing when both gave birth to daughters and wanted some classic smocked dresses for them. Fitzpatrick set to work designing items and they found someone to make them, then discovered a market for the clothing that continues to expand every year. Orient Expressed now sells the line (which also includes smocked attire for boys) at the store, on the Internet, through private parties and holiday boutiques around the South. The partners also help design linens they sell at the store.

"A lot of the things in the store now are the products they've developed: clothing, linens, small pieces we have an exclusive on ... that we've found artists to make," Moran says. "The new space is an opportunity for us to expand the lines for gifts, home decor, bridal, unique pieces that interior designers want for their clients, and small home furnishings." The original store will carry expanded lines of children's clothing, women's fashion accessories and jewelry. The expansion of space and addition of a couple of new employees also will allow Orient Expressed to upgrade the quality, though not necessarily the prices, of gift items it carries, Moran says, as well as displaying the work of local artists such as Gretchen Howard. Comfort Clothes Buffalo Exchange (3312 Magazine St., 891-7443; www.buffaloexchange.com) is accepting donations of real and faux furs through Earth Day (April 22) to be used by the Humane Society of the United States as cozy beds for orphaned and injured wildlife. Buffalo Exchange normally buys, trades and sells used clothing, but consumers are being asked to donate the furry items. Those who want to claim a tax deduction should mail their fur items directly to the Human Society of the United States.

click to enlarge Orient Expressed began, and remains, a purveyor of fine - Asian antiques, such as these burial figures dating from the - Han dynasty (206 B.C. to 220 A.D.).
  • Orient Expressed began, and remains, a purveyor of fine Asian antiques, such as these burial figures dating from the Han dynasty (206 B.C. to 220 A.D.).
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