Former customer service manager brings expertise to Lebanon’s home decor clients

By Mary Bernard

A fixture on the historic square in Lebanon, Paula McDonnell’s store (appropriately called Square Market) sells some of Middle Tennessee’s most unique pieces for the home. McDonnell offers one-of-a-kind custom upholstered furniture, lighting, gifts and accessories in a variety of styles.

“I sell quality affordable home decor and hand-made pottery. Things that are different from TJ Maxx—things you can’t get at the big box stores. They have to be unique. … Lighting is big in my store because I have things you can’t find at Lowe’s,” McDonnell says.

It’s an eclectic look set against the backdrop of gorgeous original brick, which makes the distinct merchandise pop. Square Market pieces run the gamut of styles; you’ll find industrial, transitional, traditional, rustic, and urban rustic here.

A unifying thread, however, ties every item together at Square Market: they complement one another, thanks to McDonnell’s keen eye for beauty and style.

“I love every piece in my store. … If I love it, it all goes together. When I’m shopping, buying for the store, that’s my common denominator. I have to love every piece. If it love it, I can sell it and I can make it look good with all the other pieces,” McDonnell says.

Paula McDonnell

McDonnell shops markets and vendors from all over the country to stock her store. “I go to the various furniture and gift and accessories markets around the country—Dallas, Atlanta, Las Vegas. … For furniture, High Point, N.C. My bestselling upholstery company is … just north of Tupelo, Miss. Both of my upholstery companies are made in America by Americans, so that’s a big selling point.”

McDonnell has owned Square Market for four years, and she calls her independent home decor business, “Plan B.” She spent almost three decades working for BellSouth (for “29.7258 years,” she says). She attributes her previous professional background in customer service for her current success as a business owner.

“Bellsouth taught me customer service, and that is my winning edge. I was taught to sell; I was taught to serve sellers. We learned to at all costs take care of the customer, and that’s what I do today.”

McDonnell sees Square Market taking customer service in a slightly different direction in the future, though. She’s branched her services beyond the store’s four walls and works with local real estate agents to stage empty homes for sale with store merchandise: “That’s become a big part of my business.”

She’s also doing more custom design work with individual clients, which involves more one-on-one attention in a consultative capacity. “The walk-in traffic in the store is the least part of the business. … So I may even next year reduce my days open and have other days to sit with people to pick out their fabric for their sofas and their chairs. … Next year, that will be a focus of mine.”