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In my own life, once I realized this concept, I could see how God had brought me through and into different seasons. In the same way that summer relieves into fall, I have had times of intense pressure finally break into peace and calm. Like the way winter turns into spring, I know God has given me something new to look forward to when I feel my life has become dull or tired.
Recently, I have felt stuck or even misplaced at times as my life has become a conglomeration of multiple seasons. When Chris and I got married, our idea was to have our children when we were young so that we could enjoy life together even after they were grown, and so that we could be young enough to enjoy our future grandchildren. As I’ve said before, God must have laughed at us and our plan for the 12 years between our two oldest boys (Seth & Caleb) and Perry!
Perry has certainly been a blessing we never even knew we needed, but I have suddenly been thrust into raising two teenagers and a toddler, which can be a bit overwhelming at times! Since I was a stay-at-home mom when the older two were toddlers, I have also had to learn how to navigate being a working mom, even if it’s just part-time at The Shoppes. Fortunately, my mother has been a lifesaver, keeping Perry three days a week for me, so I haven’t had to worry about childcare. For the last year and a half, I have also spent my Thursdays at Paulk Vineyards with Perry in tow, working on blogs and newsletters, planning events, and helping out with the winery as much as possible with a nursing baby or into-everything toddler! For those of you don’t know, Paulk Vineyards is my family’s muscadine vineyard and winery. You can read more about how I became a part of the Paulk family by reading my blog Muscadines, Grandma, & a Husband.
I have been pulled in so many different directions that I really haven’t felt like I was doing a very good job at any of my roles. There has been a feeling of discontent in my heart for a while that I know from past experience is God’s sign that I’m ready for a new season. Not discontent with anyone or anything in my life, but more of an unsettledness with my circumstances. That, coupled with some changes out at Paulk Vineyards, has led me to a difficult decision I honestly wasn’t sure I’d ever make.
With a heart full of mixed emotions, I will be leaving The Southern Mercantile and The Shoppes at Fourth and Cherry to work full-time at Paulk Vineyards. I’m excited (and a little nervous!) about my new role and working with my husband, but I’m sad that I won’t be spending my days with my co-workers friends here. I’ll miss seeing regular customers who have become friends, as well as meeting new people and introducing them to the best chicken salads and pimiento cheese you could ever taste! Perhaps I’ll cook more at home now that I won’t be cooking at work; but, I still won’t want to wash dishes!
Thank you all for the many wonderful memories of working at the best job I have ever had! Thank you for encouraging me throughout so many seasons of my life! Thank you for reading my blog posts, for praying for me and my family, and for supporting our online community!
Shameless self-plug: if you don’t already, please follow Paulk Vineyards on Facebook or Instagram, or you can even sign up for our monthly newsletter on our website, www.paulkvineyards.com.
As Tara and I sat down at the beginning of this fresh, new year to work our blog schedule and 2020 goals for The Southern Merc, we quickly realized that a common theme was coming together in our thoughts, outlines, and plans. It is nothing new or mind-blowing, or even surprising. We love our small town, and we want to do everything in our power to help it grow and prosper. This idea is something we have talked about many times before, but in 2020 we will be sharing with you so much more about the place we call home and the importance of community involvement.
The world seems so smitten these days with television shows and magazine articles that revolve around very talented folks fixing up older homes and opening hip new restaurants in “small” towns or bad neighborhoods. It is very “on-trend” to renovate an older home, start your own small business, or make an investment in a small, struggling town. My husband and I must have been a little ahead of the game 16 years ago when we began our downtown mission here in Ocilla, Georgia, population 3,400. On t.v. things seem so simple. Crews swoop in like very creative super heroes, armed with paint samples, a hammer, and some sort of delicious new recipe that involves sriracha or random animal parts, and somehow manage to save the neighborhood and more than likely, the entire town! While I am extremely thankful for all of the extra marketing regarding shopping small and saving a neighborhood, for most of us on the front lines in the battles of small town saving, life isn’t so glamorous and rarely leads to a prime-time television show, furniture line, cookware and a book deal.
Before this starts to sound terribly “Debbie Downer”, let me get down to my point. There is a world of people out there that are fighting for their communities who receive little, if any, recognition or fame. These folks are a determined group of people that sacrifice heavily to keep the doors of their small businesses open. Folks that invest in revitalizing homes in their neighborhoods in an effort to keep their towns clean and safe. Sweet people that volunteer to help with community clean-up days, mentor kids after school or have decided to become foster parents. People that are brave enough to put their names on the ballot and run for a city council or commissioner seat. Folks that make an intentional effort to shop small and support their local businesses. I am one of those people, and know lots more of these noble warriors that truly believe in the idea of safe, nurturing, loving, supportive, and successful small towns.
I have written many times about our small little town here in South Georgia. I have written of its highlights and its short-comings. I have told of all that I love about it. I am passionate about preserving its history, while working hard to help it grow and change in a positive and healthy direction. Over the years I have been involved in the revitalization of a very large old building in our downtown. I have renovated a small, old home and been a catalyst for change in my neighborhood. I have served on our chamber board, various committees for downtown events, and chaired our merchants association. I currently serve on our Family Connections board and our Downtown Development Authority, and am proud to serve alongside my husband who has taken on the role of our mayor, which I can tell you is not an easy or glamorous job! I am not telling you all of this to toot my own horn or convince you that I am good person. I am flawed in so many ways and thankful for the grace and guidance of my almighty God! The picture I am trying to paint for you is the picture of a person who cares. I have become a bit battle-weary over the years, but I must tell you, just when I am ready to give up the fight, the Lord sends fresh, young troops to re-ignite the cause!
I am sharing all of this with you today, to ask that you make a conscious effort to make some day-to-day changes in your life that will make a great impact on your community. As you are reading your favorite magazine or watching your favorite HGTV show, remember that there are so many communities and neighborhoods in this country that are struggling to hang on to their rich history, while working hard to fight against poverty and move towards a goal of sustainability and opportunity for the people who live there. Let the “trend” that is taking over the country become a “movement” that inspires you to get involved in your own community. There are many simple ways you can start this mind-set change. Shopping local is the easiest thing you can do to make a great impact. I know you are probably tired of the "shop local” band wagon, but as a local shop owner I am telling you, this is so important! Before you make the snap judgment that things are more expensive in the smaller shops or at your local grocery chain; do some research, you might be pleasantly surprised! If some things are a little more expensive, look for coupons or catch the sale. Or heck, buy them anyway! Consider the few bucks more you spend on screws at your mom-and-pop hardware store a donation to the cause of saving your community. Make an effort to always buy gas in your county and get your prescriptions from a local pharmacy (if you are lucky enough to still have one). Not only are you aiding in the success of your local businesses but you are helping to provide jobs and keeping very important tax dollars at home.
If you are the owner of a small business, don’t expect your community to shop with you just because they are “supposed” to. Make sure you are keeping current with what people need and want, offer excellent customer service and get involved in community activities so people know who you are and what you stand for. It is your responsibility to give your customers a reason to shop local.
Now, ready to really get down to it and take on some harder tasks? If you are looking to buy your first home, give the fixer upper in the heart of downtown a chance and turn that run down property into a beacon of hope for the whole neighborhood. If you are constantly discouraged by what seem to be the “lost” youth in your community, get involved in a mentoring program or boys and girls club. If you don’t have a program like that going already, be open to starting one. If you have a heart for suffering children, become a foster parent. If you are not happy with decisions being made by the leaders of your community and think you have something to offer, run for office. Tired of looking at trash in your park or on your streets? Organize a community clean-up day, or, just go pick it up! If you have been bitten by the entrepreneurship bug, start a small business or cottage industry. Find the people in your community that you think are “less fortunate” than you and go meet them. Walk and talk with the people that are struggling with addiction, pain, homelessness, hunger and poverty. It will surprise you what comes out of those relationships. Don’t sit around and get too comfortable and begin to expect that “someone else” will take care of all of those things. None of these things are “easy” and most of them will require you to give up a Saturday, learn how to use a power tool, or force you to operate out of your comfort zone.
More than likely, none of these things will land you a TV show or a book deal. There will be no fame or glory. There will be, however, a wonderful sense of fulfillment in knowing that you are doing everything you can to make your community a more vibrant, thriving, safer place! So, if you find yourself making a pilgrimage to Waco, Texas or Laurel, Mississippi, or off to the PW Mercantile in Oklahoma, be aware that you are passing through a dozen or more other small places that are working just as hard to save their communities. Pay attention to the world around you, not just the world that is on t.v.
My goal in this life is not to be famous or on TV. My goal is for my little business to be successful, for my community to prosper and for God to be glorified in all that I do. My hope in sharing these thoughts with you is that you will feel encouraged and empowered to set out and get your hands a little dirty in the work of loving your community! If all of this sounds overwhelming to you and you are just not sure where to get started, just remember you can always start with one. Andy Stanley says it over and over and I remind myself of this daily “do for one what you wish you could do for everyone”.
Over the next few months, we will be sharing stories about the joys and challenges of running small businesses in small places, more about the importance of shopping local and shopping small, and about the importance of getting involved in community programs. Don’t worry, we still have lots of delicious recipes headed your way and tips on being a good host or hostess. Southern hospitality plays a huge role in not only how we live our personal lives, but how we interact with people and the way we run our business. We have also curated a selection of spring goods that make us so happy and they will be available in the online shop soon!
To those that have visited our shop, ordered online, read and shared blog posts, interacted on social media, and to those that I know pray for us; thank you from the bottom of my heart for your continued love, support and kindness. Supporting The Southern Mercantile allows us to continue to work hard in our community, to keep our business open to be a place of hope and encouragement to those who enter, and to continue to fight for the success of our small town. Every purchase you make in our store, at a show, or online is not just a simple purchase of goods. It is an investment in our local community that helps keep our mission moving in the right direction!
With love and a grateful heart, Roxie
Our most favorite time of the year has rolled around again as we welcomed in the Holiday season at our store with our 17th annual Christmas Open House! November was extra busy for us this year with three out-of-town shows, plus getting ready for our open house, our biggest event of the year! After a week in Birmingham, it was quite a feat to get everything ready in just one week! The shop feels so magical at Christmas time, full of glitter and twinkle lights. There is something about decking the halls that brings a sense of peace, hope and excitement. This year's them was "O Holy Night," which set the tone for such a beautiful afternoon!
The front window display has quickly become one of my favorites that we've done. The vintage stained glass windows make it feel so reverent and peaceful, and it is absolutely gorgeous at night! Katelyn did a beautiful job hand-lettering the lyrics of "O Holy Night" to set the stage before guests even walked through the doors!
Our "front porch" was stocked with perfect holiday selections that speak to our simple, southern style.
Our vintage mule deer, Burl, received his annual Christmas spruce-up.
Our Southern Merc kitchen was looking super festive, and those of you that see us on the road will recognize our fun mantel, full of stockings and garlands!
The dining table was set with sparkling eucalyptus, brass vases and our favorite ornaments from this year.
The children's room was stocked with happy Christmas Jelly Cats and fun Christmas books. If you guys aren't familiar with one of our favorite makers, Melissa of Greener Grass Handmade, check out her website here. She makes the sweetest tepees, play costumes and holiday decorations.
Tara made a beautiful and delicious tiered coconut cake for the occasion. Side note, this is my most favorite cake!
We kept the food simple this year with a beautiful grazing table full of meats, cheeses, nuts and dried fruit.
Jorjanne did a beautiful job setting up our spread!
Open house week is always a whirlwind, especially when I am just running in between trips! I couldn't do all that I do without this group of gals! They are so talented and amazing at what they do. The Shoppes and The Southern Merc wouldn't happen without them.
Now on to this year's Holiday travels! Life on the road can be weary at times, and I won't lie, I am still tired from our trips! Loading and unloading the trailer, set-up and take-down, squeezing in laundry in the two-day window you are home; it is a lot to take on. I will say that getting to visit with all of you makes it totally worth it! From Birmingham to Ocilla, and Atlanta to Perry, we loved every minute of being with you this holiday season! Your smiling faces, compliments, and excitement over your finds keep us motivated to keep it up. Thanks for supporting us, either in person or online; we couldn't do it without you! Here are some highlights from our trips.
Christmas Village Festival - Birmingham, AL
Vintage Market Days of Greater Atlanta - Lawrenceville, GA
Mistletoe Market - Perry, GA
We'll be back on the road this spring so be sure to keep a watch on our schedule to see if we'll be in a town near you. If you haven't already joined our email list, head on over and do that now. It's the easiest way to keep up with where we are headed, what specials are going on, and you'll be able to take advantage of discounts that we only offer through email! We promise you won't regret it! We hope all of you have a very happy holiday season! We are already looking forward to seeing you in 2020!
I LOVE to wrap presents! After 12 Christmas seasons in retail, you would think that I would be tired of gift wrapping by now! Lovingly wrapping gifts is one of my favorite activities that comes around with the Holidays. Every year and I am scouring the after Christmas sales for cute gift wrap, cards, tags, etc. I was too embarrassed to take a picture of my entire gift wrap collection so I just picked a few of my favorites to show you! I think it is so much fun to dress up my packages and put extra thought into the presentation of the gift. Here, I am sharing with you a few of my tips on creating beautiful and special gifts!
All Southern Mercantile Handmade Gift Tag Kits
We also attended the Georgia Sweet Potato Festival here in Ocilla! My big boys marched with the band in the parade while we watched and caught candy with Perry. He loved watching the motorcycles, old tractors, fire trucks, floats, horses, and of course, the band, all of which brought back memories of marching myself and watching the parade with my older boys when they were Perry's age.
Coach Nobles’s wife, Tammy, is also a teacher, and the number of students she's influenced herself is countless! My oldest son had the privilege of being in her class for three years in a row, and I don’t know if he could ever replicate such a bond with any other academic teacher. As a mother, I nothing means more to me than knowing she's there for him and encourages his sense of humor and silliness when other teachers don’t appreciate it. She just “gets” him, and allows him to be himself.
But, speaking of "Diehard," Bruce Willis has been filming near our small town, and even he took the time to show his support!
Please pray for our Coach, his wife and kids, our kids, and our entire community. And, let’s all encourage each other, whether there’s a crisis or not. I’m not sure who should be given credit for this quote, as the Internet names many different authors, but it’s been repeated often enough, I’m sure you’ve heard it before.
Alder Street Renovation
Beech St. Bungalow
Meet Our Makers
Words From Fellow Southerners