Don and Susan Charlet have big plans for their wildly successful family business, The Corbel—and it involves transforming a vacant property in downtown St. Francisville into a vibrant community space. Turns out, there's no place like home.
Don and Susan Charlet's long-held dream of creating a space in their hometown that doubles as a family-friendly cultural event venue and a hub for other small businesses—anchored by their pride and joy, The Corbel—is finally on the verge of coming to fruition.
The popular interior design and home décor hub opened its doors on Highway 61 in 2014, revealing a warehouse filled wall-to-wall with antique and repurposed woods from all over the world. Today, The Corbel is still your one-stop shop for sourcing all things reclaimed wood, but it has evolved to include much more than that.
The store’s 10,000-square-foot space encompasses all things architectural salvage and home interiors, including gifts and décor, antique doors, handcrafted furniture, custom swings, lighting, finishes, and more, ensuring each and every element of the home is carefully and thoughtfully curated.
Making What’s Old, New Again
Don and Susan travel to markets overseas a few times a year to hand-pick interesting goods and materials to bring back to The Corbel, in addition to scouting historic homes in Louisiana to salvage everything from wood flooring and light fixtures to home furnishings fashioned from antique woods. The result is a one-of-a-kind collection that incorporates timeless and classic styles with modern touches. Drawing on Don’s carpentry background, The Corbel also specializes in building custom furniture pieces like tables, cabinets, beds, benches, mantels, and porch swings, all from salvaged materials.
The Corbel regularly works hand-in-hand with Charlet Brothers Construction, the contracting business Don started with his brother, Brent, in 2001. That side of the business specializes in new residential construction and remodeling that incorporates salvaged architectural materials The businesses often collaborate to feature antique design elements into new homes built from the ground up.
Between the two of them, Don and Susan wear many hats. Susan is co-owner of Barlow, a mobile fashion boutique housed in a vintage travel trailer that does pop-ups, e-commerce, etc. within the shoppette that Don custom built during the coronavirus pandemic. Around 2015, Don began collaborating with former St. Francisville resident, Daniel Kelly, to fashion handcrafted furniture using salvaged lumber from old homes and barns, exhibiting under the brand "Sugarbone Goods."
A Homecoming on the Horizon
Now, the Charlets are in the midst of moving their entrepreneurial empire from its current headquarters on Highway 61 in Jackson, into the heart of downtown St. Francisville; and bringing their two sons, John Luke and Cage, into the business, too. The family recently acquired the lot and building on the corners of Commerce and Ferdinand streets, located behind the old Bennett Ford dealership and directly opposite the St. Francisville Inn.
They envision the Commerce Street location as a mixed-use concept known as North Commerce, which will serve as home base for all of the Charlet family's businesses, including The Corbel, Charlet Bros. Construction, and Charlet Properties, as well as Charlet Brothers Custom Furniture and Barlow. They're also planning to incorporate retail spaces that they will lease out to creative endeavors and small business owners; North Commerce will feature a microbrewery, a wood-fired pizza restaurant, an event venue, a men's clothing shop, an outdoor furnishings store, 10 boutique hotel rooms, and a few more surprises.
Don and Susan intend for the site's outdoor space to host live music, pop-ups, and other events. “We want to build an experience that highlights the incredible small businesses in our town, somewhere you can go that has a market feel, where you can shop local, meet a friend for coffee, picnic for an open mic night," Don explained.
A project of this magnitude doesn’t come together overnight, and since being stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic and hurricanes, the Charlets are ready to hit the ground running with the goal of opening in 2022.
“St. Francisville is our home, and this space has always been a dream of ours. It's where we belong, and we couldn’t be more thrilled or thankful for the opportunity to create something that brings our community together.”
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