A city market home store, owned by Stephen Rhodes and Nate Davis, delivers an edit of local wares.
Written by Shelbi Polk
Photography by Eamon Queeney
Stepping through the front doors of Bella Vita Home + Lifestyle feels like walking into a stylish friend’s dining room: A table with impeccable settings dominates the front half of the shop, and the walls are covered in the things decor dreams are made of, from crystal decanters to locally sourced candles.
Today’s Bella Vita, nestled in City Market, almost didn’t exist. In August 2019, the previous owners were in the process of closing the store for good when Stephen Rhodes and Nate Davis happened to walked in. “Honestly, it was fate,” Davis says.
Davis and Rhodes weren’t looking to take on a project. Davis, a doctor, and Rhodes, the first openly gay NASCAR driver, already had quite a bit going on. They were actually looking to open a med spa, but they just fell in love with the store, then called Bella Vita Downtown Market. (Don’t worry, the relentless duo is moving forward with a med spa later this year.)
“After only a few days of discussion, we suddenly found ourselves the new owners of Bella Vita,” Davis says. But taking over the store wasn’t exactly a seamless transition.
“Day one as the new owners of Bella Vita certainly left us staring at each other thinking, ‘what have we done?’” Davis says. “We had agreed to take over a store that was neither well-known nor a reflection of our style, and yet we were determined to make it successful.”
They did some quick rebranding, changing the name to Bella Vita Home + Lifestyle to better reflect the variety of products they carried. But they didn’t want to just come in and dictate the entire character of the new Bella Vita. “It’s such a departure to go from buying furniture and home accessories in our style, for our own projects, to curating a store where we can share items we’ve discovered that will improve your home and everyday lifestyle,” Rhodes says.
And they listened to the customer. Sure, they had to figure out the books, but they also took time to learn the style of the store and understand customer expectations. “We were fortunate to have an amazing customer base that felt comfortable telling us what they were looking for,” Rhodes says. “Combining their wants with our aesthetic has led to what you see today.”
Davis and Rhodes stock items they love and would want in their own home. Employee Andy Logan says customers get excited about the selections. “The owners have really good taste, especially in such a limited space,” Logan says. “Customers always compliment the store and how great it looks.”
Davis and Rhodes know helping someone decorate their space can be a very personal experience. “Everyone gets intimidated about furnishing their home,” Rhodes says. “We all want our homes to be a reflection of both who we are and who we hope to be. We want our homes to provide the comfort we need, and yet be able to accommodate and even impress guests of all ages and backgrounds.”
Davis says furnishing a home is like writing a novel: To keep a space balanced, you have to build it up in layers, keeping in mind what you already have and incorporating things you want or need. At the same time, you have to think about style, scale and durability.
“You must weave past, present and future together to form your story and to create the backdrop of your life,” Davis says. “Weaving these elements together takes time and patience. A generic room can be furnished in an hour, but it will never feel like a home.”
Davis and Rhodes agree that the best part of the process is seeing the final product, particularly when the pair actually get to show up to a customer’s home and help elevate the style.
“We love to personally deliver furniture to a customer’s home and watch it transform the space,” Rhodes says. “We love any chance to make the world a more beautiful place.”