Spend time apart: Hacienda D'Mexico

Working staggered schedules keeps this couple happy with each other and their retail store.

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Anamaria Schelling and Carol Peabody knew from the beginning that they were meant for each other. Since they met in 1987, they've weathered frugal times (Schelling taught elementary school; Peabody did nonprofit work), and they've become part of each other's extended family, winning over relatives who had disapproved of their relationship. But they had no idea how tough things could get until, in 1998, they launched their Tucson-based furniture shop, Hacienda D'Mexico.

They paid what they felt were exorbitant startup costs ("The sign up front alone cost $9,000!" exclaims Schelling), saved like crazy, and worked together nonstop, seven days a week

That's where the biggest challenge emerged.

"Carol's style is very different from mine," says Schelling, 51. "She's very accommodating and will run all over the store to show customers around."

One customer asked to see different shades on a lamp, and Peabody, 59, tried a slew of pairings until she found one that worked. And that, for some reason, irked Schelling.

"I'm hands-off and prefer to let people roam around on their own," she says. "I had to keep telling myself, 'Just let her do it.'"

It wasn't until four years later that they found the perfect solution: They now divide the workweek. Peabody takes Fridays off. Schelling takes Thursdays off, and they alternate mornings and afternoons - so both can be as hands-on (or hands-off) as they like.

The store has profited despite their differences. "When a customer came in the first week we opened and bought $30,000 worth of inventory, we knew we were going to make it," says Schelling.

Revenues reached $553,000 in 2007. They're successful, they say, mainly because they avoid power struggles - the culprit behind many partnership breakups among unrelated co-owners as well as couples.

When it comes to painting the furniture and tweaking the pieces so that they fit the store's mix, Peabody supports Schelling "all the way." And Schelling does the same for Peabody when it comes to the store's inventory and layout. More important, they're vocal about it.

"Anamaria gives me free rein as to where the new furniture should go, and she often tells me how lovely the store looks," Peabody says. "And I like that."

The store reflects both of them. Betty Peterson, a customer, appreciates that synergy.

"Carol has a great eye for choosing the best pieces; Anamaria is a talented artist," Peterson says. "They make a great team."

And as a team, Schelling and Peabody have managed to avoid giving their clients mixed messages.

"Our policy is, whatever the customer says, we do," explains Schelling. "Whatever makes him or her happy, Carol and I will agree on it because that's more important than anything else." - Phaedra Hise, with additional reporting by Ingrid Tharasook.

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