One person described the June 21 sneak preview of Timothy Oulton as the party of the season. Another grumbled that it was over-the-top . . . as in overcrowded, and overwhelmed valet parking.
But the former Potter Art Metal Studios location just south of Henderson was indeed whimsical for those lucky enough to be invited to the VIP pre-sneak preview party. With a very British feel complete with male models in British Grenadier Guard uniforms, Union Jack napkins and servers in black bowlers, there was plenty of room to see the furnishings and the center-staged yellow submarine floating in an elevated aquarium with fish and blue crabs schmoozing around. Later in the evening, the only place that wasn’t swamped with people was the saltwater aquarium.
One upper-scaled member of the interior design community sniffed, “It’s nice stuff if you’re into middle-tier collecting. Sorta like a British version of Restoration Hardware and Sample House on the east side of the pond (Central Expressway).”
But others found the couches oh-so comfortable and enjoyed eying the British collectibles and the charming café area while the crowd was a measly 200.
Landlord Gigi Potter Salley was delighted with the Oulton look of her family’s former metal shop and the OMG amazing turnout.
Just how many people filled the place? That was the topic du jour. One early partier looking around the confines as the non-stop flow guests arrived claimed organizers were expecting 600. Another party-hearty veteran insisted that the real number was 1,000. Still another harrumphed that the number should have been confined to 200, adding, “If they wanted 600, they should have had three events for 200 each. Otherwise too crowded in the summer is just too much body heat.” With that he raised his eyebrow and ordered another glass of Champagne.
Oh, and the liquor — Champagne and Belgium brew Stella Artois — flowed. With stations and trays being passed, libation was always at hand, as well as the food. In fact the crackers, cheeses and such were so beautifully balanced on extremely narrow buffet tables in the cozy confines that the goodies kept toppling to the floor. One chivalrous gentleman took on the task of trying to protect the edibles as guests backed into the fragile feasts. Like the ducks on Turtle Creek when people toss bread crumbs their way, the fish in the aquarium gathered excitedly as they saw crackers on the floor beneath them.
Barbara Daseke, whose colorful dress with goldfish blended nicely with the columns of stacked books and the aquarium, was making a reappearance on the circuit after her nasty fall a couple of months
ago. . . Skip Hollandsworth swore his sis-in-law, Cyndy Severson, who is the shop’s design guru,
was the real star of the family. So cute and typical of Skip. Others insisted, “Au contraire,” saying that Skip’s “Bernie” was the sleeper hit at the Magnolia. Of course, Skip protested, but what else would a gentleman do? . .
. As David Nichols and Jane Weempe made their way through the crowd, he revealed that his home in Greenway Parks was on the market. . . Since Oulton was a generous sponsor of the September 29th upcoming Cattle Baron’s Ball, the CBB sisterhood was on hand, including CBB Co-chair Kristen Johnson seated on a leather couch between the aquarium and the entrance greeting Lynn McBee and Anne Stodghill with husbands in tow. . . John Bobbitt chuckled over
his invitation being sent to a four-year-old mailing address. He only got the invite because he happens to have the same mailman that he had back then. Still another guest topped John revealing they had received three invitations to the pre-party and four to the party itself.
While some like top-hatted John Reoch fit in nicely with Oulton’s British feel of the evening, western wear designer Pat Dahnke remained true to her Texan-by-choice roots wearing her best cowgirl duds.
And of course, there were the gorgeous people who dress up any event. In fact there were so many of them that it was getting harder and harder to see the merchandise. Luckily, the antique typewriters (yes, actual non-electric ones) were displayed high on metal shelves, the vintage leather briefcases were stacked above the crowd and the chandeliers were suspended high above, but leather couches and chairs were covered with guests.
At one point an Oulton repre- sentative handed an elegant leather flash drive “with photos of the shop” to a member of the media. Oh, boy, no need to photograph interior shots. Alas, upon plugging the most-expensive looking flashdrive into the computer slot, nothing appeared. But that was okay. Things happen. And evidently they did.
Seems that some of the guests picked up that evening more than the goody bag and elegant very British bumbershoot. They found themselves taking home upset tummies. Was it the crab cakes, the deviled eggs or perhaps they all went to an after-party where tainted food was on the menu?
As for the valet parking, imagine a perfect storm of parking — the ever-popular Knox/Henderson area on a Thursday afternoon, drive-home traffic northbound on Central and a ribbon-cutting in front of the store at the frontage road and Willis.
By the time the official party commenced, the valet parking challenges were piling up. Guests found themselves queuing up as if gas was being sold for a quarter a gallon. At one point, as the frontage road was backing up to Fitzhugh, event planner Hamilton Snead in his red-white-and blue bowtie and blue-and-white checked shirt and white sweater and slacks tried his hand at directing traffic on Willis. As the traffic jam on Willis took on a hot parking lot look, someone decided to park a white car with flashers to block the turn.
Ah, but there was light at the end of the tunnel. Or, more accurately, servers in black greeting guests with trays of drinks in flutes, and sweet young things in black dresses with clipboards checking guests’ names off the lists as they emerged from their cars onto a stanchioned off black carpet.
But the crowds just kept on coming, sorta. Kristen received a text from another CBB-er: “We tried to come to your party, but we waited in line for 15 minutes” and finally gave up.
Departing was luck of the draw — immediate receipt of your wheels or wait till you drop. One couple emerged from the party and had no sooner handed their ticket to the head parker than their vehicle was pulled up. Another gent who stripped off his seersucker jacket during his 35-minute-wait for his car wasn’t so lucky.
Not to worry. Everyone recovered nicely from crowded conditions, parking challenges and uneasy stomachs with many returning the following week to get a hassle-free, less-crowded look at Timothy’s place.