The Look of Confidence


July 2017—

Cynthia Heathcoe’s store is a hit with her customers, which begs the question: Why is she so nervous?

Just look at her. Hands on hips, flashing that smile of hers. Just look at those eyes looking straight into yours and not letting go. Cynthia Heathcoe has that look. The one that exudes confidence, and lets everyone know that nothing’s going to get in her way today. It’s a look that’s served the Home Furnishings Association’s inaugural Emerging Star Award winner well since opening Contemporary Living in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla, three years ago.

But here’s a little secret: Heathcoe is just as nervous, just as uncertain, just as filled with doubt as the rest of her fellow home furnishings retailers.

It wasn’t always this way. “I used to be fearless,” she admits. “In the beginning, nothing scared me. Now I think about things a lot more, I stay up at night more, thinking, worrying about everything.”

Maybe that’s because these days Heathcoe has more to lose.

By now Heathcoe’s story has been well chronicled in home furnishings circles. A single mother of six who endured abuse and homelessness. These days she’s the poster child for her industry with Contemporary Living continuing to grow in sales and customer support.

That sudden rise has Heathcoe starting to look down, however. “Now I’ve got more to lose and more people counting on me to succeed,” she says. “I guess the price of success is that people expect more from you if you’ve done well. That’s more pressure on me so I need to learn how to deal with it.”

One way she deals with it is with Robert, her new husband. “I lean on him a lot,” she says. “I’m not always good about giving things up. I micromanage things too much, but he helps me get through a lot of that. Not just with things at the store but with moral support. He’s there for me when I’m down and picks me up.”

Almost from the start Heathcoe’s small store was a hit in and around Palm Beach Gardens, an area like most of South Florida attracted to contemporary furniture. Indeed, the store has been so successful that, with her lease set to expire in 2019, Heathcoe now has an envious decision to make: Renew the lease on her 3,500-square foot store in an outdoor mall, or search for a bigger location to accommodate her success. She’s even toyed with a third option: keeping her current store and opening a second in the area.

“If I get things perfect (in the first store) that’s something we’ve talked about,” she says. Then she catches what just came out of her mouth and laughs. “Great, another thing for me to worry about!”

Heathcoe knows the questions will be answered in time. In truth, as much as she worries these days, she likes the pressure that comes with success. “It beats the alternative of not doing well and just plodding through life,” she says.

Which brings us to something not so secret about Heathcoe: Given where she’s been, she has no intention of plodding through life. “What I’ve done so far with my life and this business? There’s more to be written. This isn’t my finish line. This is just the start.”

Cynthia Heathcoe is the recipient of the Home Furnishings Association’s 2017 Emerging Star award.