Elegant home open for business

jwhitfield@newsobserver.comMarch 19, 2013 

— When Kelli Norman bought the stately Wagner House, she figured she wanted to get as many people in the door as she could.

A marketing manager for Best Buy, Norman started networking. She stopped by to see the Mayor. She visited the Downtown Development director.

They liked what they heard.

“I told them I wanted to make the home available for town events as much as possible,” Norman said. “I want the house to be an asset to the entire town, not just to us.”

Norman and her husband Peter, chose not to live in the home, treating the building as a business more than their own personal getaway.

They been busy making some changes to the interior decor, which was decorated in the Victorian fashion of the home’s exterior.

The large rooms are being redecorated one-by-one.

But perhaps the biggest change in the home is Norman’s decision to open the house on Sundays. She’s started serving Sunday brunch and the home-cooked meals have proven popular with the Sunday morning crowd, drawing hungry visitors from Clayton and beyond.

Some visitors have come to Clayton from Wendell and Raleigh for the Sunday brunch. On average, about 50 people come for brunch each Sunday.

“And everyone who has come once, so far, has come back a second time,” Norman said.

The large sunroom in the back of the home has been turned into a dining room where visitors can peer out into the backyard. Overflow dining is located in an adjoining room. Upstairs are the rooms where brides and grooms prepare for their big moment.

Norman has also turned the business into something of an collaboration of other businesses.

She met a jeweler who provided jewelry for a bride in a Wagner House wedding.

Norman decided to let the jeweler display her goods at the home in the office where Norman works with prospective bridal couples to plan their nuptials.

The desk Norman works on is made by a local craftsman. Like all the furniture in the house, Norman has it up for sale.

If a visitor to the home sees something the like, they can buy it.

“We want to be a one-stop shop for brides and grooms,” Norman said.

And, she hopes to make the Wagner House a destination not only for wedding couples and the Sunday brunchers.

Community events downtown often draw large crowds and she’s working with town leaders to avoid scheduling conflicts between weddings and those community events.

Instead, she hopes to open the home to the public on those days, inviting them in, maybe for hot cider during the Christmas parade, or a cool lemonade during the Harvest Festival.

However that arrangement works, Norman’s goal is to make Clayton’s most recognizable house - The Wagner House - one of the town’s most welcoming.

Whitfield: 919-553-7234

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