Small Business

After nearly 40 years, Accent Interiors goes back to basics

Gary Fry, left, and Bill Little have run Accent Interiors, which specializes in window treatments and interior design, for nearly 40 years.
Gary Fry, left, and Bill Little have run Accent Interiors, which specializes in window treatments and interior design, for nearly 40 years. Eagle correspondent

A meeting of minds and division of labor have been the story of Accent Interiors.

Gary Fry “said, ‘I want to open a wallpaper store on the east side of Wichita,’ ” said Bill Little, Fry’s partner in Accent. “I said, ‘That’s where I want to do it.’ There wasn’t one.”

“He was always the business guy, and I was always the designer guy,” added Little, who said he trained at the Chicago School of Interior Design.

They’re still at it nearly 40 years later, thanks to a willingness to change with the times. But as Little notes, it hasn’t always been easy for a business specializing in discretionary items for home beautification.

“We’ve made it through 9/11, the stock market crash and housing bubble, and we’re still going.”

For a while, Accent expanded into selling furniture and accessories, with 3,500 square feet of space and big window displays at the southeast corner of Kellogg and Woodlawn. About a year and a half ago, Little and Fry decided that was too much work to expend on merchandise on which they were just breaking even.

“We decided to shrink back to the size we were when we started” – and to the original three areas of focus, Little said.

“If it has to do with window treatments, walls or interior design, we do it.”

The retrenchment to 1,200 square feet had one unintended consequence, he added.

“A lot of people thought we had gone out of business, but we haven’t,” Little said. “As a matter of fact, we’re doing really well.”

That’s partly because wallpaper “is making a huge comeback, which I’m happy to see.” Accent has almost 600 books of wallpaper for customers to peruse.

A big reason for its resurgence is the development of “dry stripping” wallpaper.

“When you get tired of it, you just pull it off,” Little said.

Another is the improvement in wallpaper printing, which has allowed it to become “more elaborate and at the same time more subtle.” These days, wallpaper can look like brick, stone or shiplap.

Window treatments are currently the largest source of Accent’s sales. The store is a dealer for the Hunter Douglas line of shades, shutters, blinds and other products. Motorization of those products is a huge trend, Little said. As homeowners replace windows, often with more efficient models, they find their existing treatments “don’t work 90 percent of the time.”

Yet another change in the industry is the fact that many customers do their research on the internet. But they still want an in-home visit by an expert – which Accent offers at no charge – before making a final decision.

Little says he didn’t know whether Accent would last this long, but “I knew it was something I really like to do. To me, that’s the important thing.”

Accent Interiors

Address: 511 S. Woodlawn

Phone: 316- 681-3361

Owners: Gary Fry and Bill Little