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Traveling Decorator Opens Banana Bay Imports, Exotic Furnishings Store

Penny Warner Plans to Fill Five Stories With Goods From Around the World

June 18, 2004       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Penny Warner enjoys showing off one of her most interesting pieces of furniture, this hand-crafted "opium bed" from Singapore, priced at $5,900.
Banana Bay has begun to fill an old furniture store, brightening and busying the intersection of Midland and Henry streets.

      Penny Warner once wore a hard hat and drove a bulldozer in the alabaster quarry near AuGres.

      She also has helped set up events for Bay City's most noted sports empresario, Art Dore.

      A decorator for more than a decade, she's realizing a longtime dream by opening her own exotic furniture and furnishings store. She loved one of her first imports, Indonesian furniture adorned with banana leaves, so she picked "Banana Bay" as the name for her sparkling new store at Midland and Henry streets in bustling west side Bay City.

      Penny grew up on a cattle ranch in Tawas where her father was a manager of the National Gypsum Co., which operates the extensive alabaster quarry along the shore of Lake Huron. After high school she gravitated toward the production end of the quarry and got valuable hands-on field experience. She soon shucked her work boots for the seven league boots of an inveterate traveler.

      After 10 years in Florida, Penny returned to this area for a job with JoAnn Etc. as decorating manager. She also was a producer of the Toughman shows for several years, teaming up with Mr. Dore in the process.

      In her travels around the world, Penny has come across exotic furnishings todelight any decorator or homeowner looking for something different.

      When Mr. Dore acquired the former furniture store last year, the light bulbs popped on and alarm bells went off, leading to the idea of a decorating store like a world marketplace.

      She has crammed the basement at the former Bishop-Young Furniture Co. with fabulous pottery from Guadalajara, Mexico.

      The first floor is fully stocked with the most interesting furniture pieces in this area, including an exotic "opium bed" from Singapore, obviously a vestige of the long ago days when China was a haven for opium smokers.

Penny Warner beams about the opening of
Banana Bay export store at Midland and Henry streets in Bay City

      Other exotics from Thailand, India, Africa and even more remote points on the globe are tastefully displayed about the sales floor. Leather animals from India are one example. Penny plans to fill the top three floors with similar goods.

      "I've got four container loads floating right now," she says with breathless anticipation, referring to shipments on the way from distant overseas ports. "They come by ship to the west coast, California or Seattle, and then by train to Detroit and by truck to Bay City."

      Manufacturers from abroad whom she met during her decorating management days invite her to their factories and homes, so the business involves a good deal of travel to acquire the right mix of goods, and socializing, too.

      European goods are slated to come in soon, including glass and stainless decorative vessels in really unique shapes, she says.

      How's business? "So far, so good; we've had really good response from everyone," Penny exclaims. "We sell a lot of pottery and bamboo chimes." She is proud of the fact that prices are reasonable, pointing to a fabulous framed needlework of a wolf meticulously done with multi-colored silk threads by teenage girls in India, priced at $55.

      She plans to add lots of thatched items, reed fencing and bamboo trellises. A load enroute from Vietnam includes rattan furniture and unique gifts.

      Will thisstore lead to other business ventures? Penny is alreadly looking into warehousing the items from her overseas manufacturers and distribution on the Internet. Perhaps Banana Bays will be franchised in other locations. The possibilities are expansive and unlimited, Penny believes.###


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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
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