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Living a passion – again

Chellie Peterson already lived her passion. What makes her lucky is getting to live it again.

It was all so unexpected. Both times. But the passion that took Peterson through 35 years of building up the Hedman Furniture business – an institution in downtown Grass Valley – now is bringing her out of a brief retirement to start Ashley Furniture in the same historic building.

“I was miserable,” Peterson said. “I missed the business terribly. You can only golf so much. I tried getting involved with the grandkids.”



She paused for just a moment, perhaps thinking of their cribs in the old Hedman office.

“I’ve been in the business for 35 years,” she said, her eyes welling up beneath golden shocks of hair. “I can’t stop.”




When she and her husband, Bill, bought Hedman Furniture in downtown Grass Valley from the founder in 1972, Chellie Peterson had been studying to be a teacher and raising the couple’s son Matt. They already had been married seven years, having met in a church choir while still at Nevada Union High School.

Bill Peterson had studied ornamental horticulture at Sierra College. But the community was much different then.

“At the time, Alta Sierra was just starting to build. Nobody was doing landscaping, and we were starving,” Chellie Peterson recalled. “Mr. Hedman offered him a ‘real’ job.”

Mr. Peterson had longtime experience in the business. As for Mrs. Peterson – well, her background was more along the lines of the plans she’d sketch out for arranging furniture at home.

“We didn’t open on Sundays then,” Chellie Peterson recalled. “I went around changing all the furniture in the rooms. The passion was immediate. It came so naturally.”

The Petersons raised their children in the store, brought them into the business and started raising the grandchildren in the store, too.

But times change. People get older – Chellie is 61, Bill 62 – and ambitions shift. Last October, the Petersons were sure it was time to call it quits. By March, everything in the store was gone.

“You function on a level when you’re at work. You don’t see the connections, because they’ve been there so many years,” Peterson reflected. “And then that’s cut off.”

Her blues got worse when she watched the Moule and Pardini families open their new stores (Moule Paint and Glass and Hills Flat Lumber), and the generations came out to celebrate.

Her daughter, Lisa West, was missing the business too. She is social and outgoing, like her mother.

Then they found Ashley Furniture, the second-largest furniture retailer after Wal-Mart. But it’s one that works differently, with independently owned stores throughout the United States, Peterson said.

Plus, she saw a need for a furniture store geared toward working families. Peterson wants to give people a reason to keep shopping locally, she said.

The mother-daughter enterprise is expected to open Thanksgiving weekend in 25,000 square feet of the family’s building on Mill Street. Opening Ashley Furniture “gives me vitality,” Peterson said. “The juices are starting to flow.”

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To contact City Editor Trina Kleist, e-mail tkleist@theunion.com or call 477-4230.


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