Many 4th's of my childhood were spent at my grandparent's house in Arlington, VA, near Washington D.C. The cousins would all gather in the side yard for a game of badminton or wiffle ball while the "grownups" prepared a 4th of July feast. Of course the night ended with a fabulous mini fireworks display hosted by the Uncles and Grandpa. We never made it down to the Washington Monument to watch the big fire works but many times we watched from favorite spots in town with a great view.
I love the 4th of July. I love decorating the shop with flags and buntings. I love the color red, I love sparklers, and I love cook-outs and all of the traditional southern dishes that are served at them! I love the sense of pride that surrounds this special day, filled with concerts, parades, family gatherings, and fireworks.
My grandpa was a WWII vet and a history/government teacher so he never missed an opportunity to educate us on historical happenings and he did his best to instill in us a love of our country. He was a patriot through and through.
Though my 4th of July celebrations have become a bit more simple and quiet as an adult, it is still fun to get together and reflect on the blessings of living in an independent nation. Whether we get invited to a barbeque at a friend's house or just hang out with whoever is home on Alder St., we always eat well! The meal always includes something off the grill, and of course potato salad. We southerners love our potato salad. There are so many delicious versions of this classic dish. I will confess to you that I have never been a fan of traditional, southern potato salad with pickle relish. I much prefer the more interesting versions full of extra veggies, unusual dressings, and maybe even a little blue cheese. Bacon ranch potato salad has quickly become one of my favorites, second only to my dad's famous potato salad.
We have tweaked this recipe over the years and it has become one of the most popular versions of potato salad that we serve in our café. Filled with boiled egg, celery, bacon, and ranch dressing, how can you go wrong? If you are looking for something new to try this 4th of July, head on over to our recipe archive and give this extra special potato salad a try.
You will also find many other delicious recipes, perfect for your summer gatherings. Happy cooking and Happy 4th of July!
You will find a great selection of cookbooks full of delicious southern recipes in our online store. Be sure to check them out while you are here!
It isn't any secret that I LOVE to set a pretty table. I love table linens, dishes, glasses, silverware... if it involves entertaining, I am in. I thought it would be fun to give you guys some examples of ways you can set a beautiful summer table. These tips will come in handy whether you are having a couple of friends over for dinner or hosting a large party or shower. I had a great time using some things from my own collection as well as things we offer in the store.
My first tip for achieving an interesting and beautiful table is to mix old and new. I love mixing my vintage finds in with new decor items. For this table I used a beautiful vintage table cloth, vintage brass candlesticks and my vintage silverplate.
The white and green color pallet is so warm and inviting and was perfect for showing off gardenias and Queen Anne's lace from the garden.
My next tip is to not be afraid to mix different shades of white and off white. For this table I mixed old and new plates. The off white vintage floral plates sit atop the large white chargers and each place setting got a fresh gardenia to make things extra special.
Mom and I have had a great time collecting mix and match vintage brass candlesticks. We enjoyed them on the Christmas mantel last year and many of you gave them good homes during the holiday season! If you are trying to think of other ways to use these beauties, I think it is a cute idea to re purpose these candlesticks as flower vases. All candlesticks won't work for this but some have hollow centers that allow the flower stems to slide down. While there is no way to keep the flowers in water, they will stay pretty for a few hours, long enough for you and your guests to enjoy during dinner.
The next table is much lighter and casual. I still used my vintage silverplate for fun but mixed with more casual everyday dishes. The zinnias and pittosporum were cut from my dad's yard and look so good in these textured white vases.
When your table is as pretty as this one, sometimes it is nice to use a runner rather than a full tablecloth. This grey woven runner was just the right amount of texture and color to add a little life to this table.
If you are decorating your table for fun or for a special occasion, think of fun details you can add like these sweet little birds nests. A little surprise on every plate!
The next table has a much more modern feel. The simple white dishes, succulents and black and white linens are begging for a fabulous lunch in the garden or supper served fresh off of the grill. If you want to mix things up with your linens, try using double runners across the table rather than one runner down the middle. If you have a very long dining table, you might need 3 to achieve this look. Mixing in the wood, terracotta and blown glass makes it feel very fresh with a nod to the west. I imagine myself sitting on a fabulous patio in Arizona, surrounded by cactus and a gorgeous orange sun set. Ok, I am getting carried away. Can you tell I am really in love with this table?
I cut some of my biggest succulents for this table. They happened to be blooming which was perfect to add a little length and drama to my arrangement. Don't worry, they weren't wasted! They were given to a friend to be potted where I am sure they will be very happy and make lots of succulent babies.
Just one more shot of this because I think it is perfection!
The last table is a little more refined and traditional, set with woven place-mats, simple white dishes and plain stainless silverware. A ginger jar shaped vase full of hydrangeas and gardenias adds a classic, southern feel.
A place-mat is a great option when you are setting places at your counter or if you have a beautiful table you want to show off.
I hope you will have a little fun this summer dressing up your table, even if it is only for your family! As always, we love to see how you are decorating at home, so tag us on Facebook or Instagram!
To shop these beautiful tablescapes, visit our store HERE.
We had such a pretty spring this year here in South Georgia and Matt and I found ourselves out on the patio almost every evening. The patio is always more fun with a cocktail so I decided to share a couple of my favorites with you. These two cocktails require simple ingredients that are easy to keep on hand and are quick to mix up for unexpected guests or impromptu porch parties. I purchased everything I needed at my local package store and my local Piggly Wiggly, definitely no fancy ingredients here!
I love champagne, therefore, I love champagne cocktails. They are so light and refreshing and bubbly. A champagne cocktail in a fancy glass will make you feel like you're at a party, even if you are home by yourself!
Let's start with the French 75. This cocktail contains: gin, champagne, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, and a lemon slices for garnishing. This is my favorite cocktail for summer. The bubbles and the citrus fruit are a perfect combination on a warm, summer evening. You can check out my video below for the measurements and tools needed, or click HERE to find the recipe in our recipe archive.
Another delicious champagne cocktail is the Champagne Julep. It is a crisp and bubbly alternative to the classic mint julep and is every bit as good! For this drink you will need: simple syrup, champagne, sugar cubes, and fresh mint. I grew this mint in my little garden which makes it taste extra special to me!
Pictured here in a vintage champagne glass, this drink is traditionally served in a silver julep cup. See the video below for measurements and instructions.
If you love champagne, I hope you will take the time to try one of these delightful concoctions and let me know what you think. From my porch to yours, cheers to the start of a happy and healthy summer!
If you get excited about fun and unusual cocktails, these two bar books are full of good ideas, and they are available on our website! The French 75 recipe is from "Southern Cocktails" and I found the Champagne Julep, along with many other tempting libations in "A Spot at the Bar".
To get all of the details on the tools and ingredients you'll need to make these two cocktails, along with measurements, check out my video below!
I have done a lot of traveling over the last few years and at all of my shows the number one question I get is "what can I put in this dough bowl I just bought?" The second most asked question is "what do people put under these bell jars?" I thought I would take a minute today to show you a few of my favorite ideas for accessorizing your favorite home decor items. Lanterns, bell jars, and dough bowls are easy to jaz up and even change out with the seasons. This is a great way to breathe some new life into your home without having to make big changes and spend a lot of money. Toss a new pillow on the couch and you will feel like you have a new room!
I like to decorate in layers. Whether it is a lantern, a bookcase, or a Christmas tree, layers help you to create a full design that is so much more pleasing to the eye. You can see in the pictures below that I started with the plain lantern, then added my bells. I had to knot the twine on one of the bells to make it shorter so that I would have different lengths.
After the bells I tied a piece of cute ribbon on the top, and then attached some fresh eucalyptus with that ribbon.
It just took a few easy steps to really spice this lantern up.
If you choose to use something fresh like eucalyptus, just let it dry naturally and continue to enjoy it. It will change colors but will still be beautiful!
I love decorating the inside of a bell jar! Historically, bell jars or cloches were used to cover plants to create a greenhouse effect. While I think this is beautiful, you have to be careful to air the plants out or they will get moldy. Bell jars come in all sizes and are such a beautiful way to showcase your favorite treasures. As a rule of thumb, you will need as least 3 things, and I like to incorporate some kind of greenery or "fresh" looking element. Don't be afraid to use old family pictures, or vintage cards at Valentine's Day. Ornaments and bottle brush trees are great at Christmas, but for Spring, you just can't beat a good bird's nest! If you have a little collection of real nests, that's even better.
Think of your jar as a little memory capsule and have fun changing out the pictures and family heirlooms.
Now on to the dough bowls! Whether yours is big or small, have fun changing out what you put in it and don't feel like you have to stick with one "perfect" thing. Before taking these pictures, Tara and I went around the shop and gathered up a few of our favorite things. Tara supplied the fresh and dried eucalyptus from her tree and I have a never ending supply of dried hydrangeas!
This is a collection of two white vases that can remain empty or be a catch all for what's blooming in your garden. I included one of our favorite Park Hill candles that is surrounded by a faux eucalyptus wreath.
One simple change up and you have a completely different look. I traded out the wreath for a collection of faux succulents.
The next idea is a grouping of mossy orbs, classic pillar candles and a bird's nest. I used the flame less candles that are made of real wax so that they look real but won't drip on the bowl.
If you lean towards a more simple style, you could use just the mossy orbs by themselves or with the simple pillar candles.
At home, I love to use my vintage pottery collection around the house. Here I mixed a couple of vintage pottery pieces with dried hydrangeas.
The dried hydrangeas with the bird's next seemed to be the favorite of the day so I will leave you with that. A classic southern take on decorating a dough bowl.
A little dried eucalyptus added a nice touch of a different color and a new shape.
Like I said before, don't be afraid to change it up! Move your favorite things around from room to room and enjoy them. If you liked what you saw in the pictures, a few of the items above are available in our online store. We would love to send a little something your way! Happy decorating!
It is a challenging yet rewarding task, and I'm grateful I've been given this opportunity to love. If you haven't been following our family's journey, you can read We Are The Village and The Best Gift for a glimpse into the past year of this unpredictable ride! Earlier this year, we accepted our second foster placement while fumbling through raising a busy, beautiful baby! We have been so blessed during this time to experience a smooth transition and have the support, once again, of our family and friends.
Raising children, whether they are your own or not, is a honorable task. If you're a teacher, aunt, mentor or friend, you've likely helped raise a child. My hope is that the words I share send encouragement and comfort your way--meeting you where you are, sharing in the daily joys and struggles together.
Last Mother's Day, I found my heart a bit conflicted. Was I a mother? I was carrying a baby in my womb and caring for a teenager in my home. Personally, I felt very much like a mother! The world around me, however, didn't seem to think so. Harmless comments were made to suggest my time has not come yet, while Phillip and the foster child in our home planned to celebrate. What I quickly realized is that it didn't matter. It didn't matter what others think. What mattered was the time I spent "mothering" an independent, rebellious, smart and growing child. The child itself is the celebration.
I've had the privilege of being "mothered" by many women in my life. Teachers, coaches, Bible study leaders, bosses, mentors, friends, aunts, grandmothers, my Mother-in-Law and my own Mom. Each one teaching me something different, shaping me into the woman, and mother, I am today. Each one demonstrating to me how to be compassionate, fun, loving, kind, strong, thoughtful, resourceful, genuine, or selfless. Each one playing their own important role in my story.
I can look at the style in which I mother, and attribute certain traits to particular women. I joke that after watching shows like This is Us and Parenthood, I am better prepared to raise children...but the truth of the matter is that it has been the real-life men and women in my life who have modeled how to love and raise a child, not without making mistakes, but rather making them with grace.
Mother's Day can be a strange time for those women who have not birthed children of their own--I've been there. Many of those women wish(ed) for the opportunity to do so, but haven't known that joy. Some women consciously made a choice to forgo motherhood. Either way, for some, this day can become a time of frustration, sadness, confusion, disappointment or discontentment.
What I'd love to challenge you to do is take this time to truly think about the women who helped shape you, and choose to honor them, too, this Mother's Day. Let your gratitude show by sending them a card, mailing them a package, or even just giving them a call. Let's celebrate all of those that mother, in our lives and the lives of others!
If you'd like our help in celebrating someone you love, take a look around the store. We'd be so happy to send something their way! We have tons of great Mother's Day gift ideas. Shop small and share the love!
I don’t know about you guys, but for me the last few weeks have been a bit of a blur! Navigating the ever changing status of this global pandemic has been stressful and confusing for everyone. Literally, everyone. Just saying the words “global pandemic” makes it feel like we are living in a movie, like this is somehow not even real! I know there are so many people around the world who are suffering and who have lost loved ones. So many that are working in overcrowded and understaffed hospitals. So many who have lost their jobs or had to lay off workers. So many who are battling depression and anxiety who are now feeling more alone than ever. The impact this is having on our world is so overwhelming. I am sure that most of us have experienced moments of fear and uncertainty as we all watch what is happening around us.
I will admit that I temporarily lost my cool and had what I call my “day of panic”. In late February, I was at a show in Birmingham when everything started becoming very real for our country. We had all been watching what was happening in China and in Italy and all hoping that this terrible virus would somehow end before crossing our borders. Unfortunately, that show was very slow and I had too much time to think!
As I sat and scoured the internet for the latest Corona news, I could feel the anxiety and fear creeping in. When I returned home we immediately started to implement precautionary measures at the store. Extra cleaning, hand sanitizer at both computers, spraying all handles with Lysol. We were early adopters of no handshaking and no hugging. The more I watched the news, the more anxious I became. I was having daily headaches from tension in my shoulders as I imagined the effect this could have on my community, my business, my friends and my family. One Friday we got word that our schools were closing for two weeks and that everyone was to stay home and self quarantine. Suddenly it all became very real and very current. What was happening in the world was suddenly happening at home, and I panicked. I spent that Friday wondering how my business was going to survive and if I would be able to keep paying my workers? How was I going to pay all of my bills? Would all of my Spring shows be canceled? Would all of the parties on the calendar be canceled? Would there be any money at all coming in? What if my parents get sick? What if my brother and sister-in-law (both health care workers) get sick? What if this causes our country to plummet into a great depression and we lose everything?! There were even more crazy thoughts that I will spare you from because I think you get the point! I let my mind spin out of control and I lost sight of the most important thing, that God is in Control.
I have had a lot of trouble over the years embracing the Bible verse in James that says, "count it all joy when you fall into various trials". I know that trials build faith and patience but how do I count it as joy? While scrolling through all the “noise” on social media a couple of weeks ago, I found a post by @catalystleader of a quote by Rebekah Lyons that really spoke to my heart and helped me gain a little perspective. “Joy is not the absence of darkness. Joy is the confidence that darkness will lift.”
Somehow, this helped me to realize the true meaning of finding joy in Christ. My “day of panic” was a terrible, dark day. I was not kind, I was not calm, and was not resting in the knowledge that God is in control. I am thankful though, that this extreme panic was short lived and I was able to talk myself down from the ledge so to speak. I panicked, I imagined the worst, and now I am done with that. I won’t lie to you and say that I am completely worry free and life is nothing but rainbows. There is definitely an uneasiness in this journey. The underlying tension of the unknown and the pressure of making decisions that not only affect myself but those that work here is absolutely present, but I am thankful that for now, I am able to rest in the fact that I don’t have to know the future and the outcome in advance. I am finding “joy” in knowing that eventually this darkness will lift. Our world has experienced periods of great tragedy and hardship since the beginning of time, and the darkness always lifts.
This pandemic may have affected all of us in different ways, but there is a strange comfort in knowing that it has literally affected ALL of us. The statement that “we are all in this together” has never been more true. You would be hard pressed to find a human on the planet that hasn’t been affected by this in some way, shape or form. It helps me to remember that I am not alone, that everyone is struggling and everyone is doing the best they can to get by. I also think it is important to focus on the fact that there have been a lot of good things that are coming out of this frustrating time. Think of all the meals that are being eaten around the dinner table because families are finding themselves at home in the evenings. Think of all the opportunities there have been and will be to show kindness towards neighbors and friends that need help with groceries and meals. We are all having to be a bit creative, but this virus is not stopping us from celebrating life! From streaming weddings on Facebook and helping people shop for a special gift via face time, to having drive-by birthday parties while grandma watches from her porch, we are determined to maintain as much normalcy as possible. So many musicians have been sharing their talents on social media and performing from home to offer entertainment and comfort to those that can’t get out of the house. The City of Macon, GA had to cancel their annual Cherry Blossom Festival but found a way to celebrate by hosting a Virtual Cherry Blossom Experience on their Facebook page. Our new friend James Worsham participated and performed from home, while raising money for a favorite local small business.
Now more than ever, folks are praising the name of the Lord from around the world, sharing scripture, worship music and encouraging words to a world that is still and actually taking the time to listen. I know we will look back on this time and remember the hardship and the tragedy, but I hope we can also look back on this time and see that it was an opportunity. A wonderful opportunity to turn our eyes upon Jesus, put our trust in him, slow down and remember the things that are most important. A time we lifted each other up in prayer and encouraged and supported those that were hit the hardest.
If you are blessed to be able to work from home at this time, or stay home with little stress, it is important to remember that there are many people who are furloughed or have lost their jobs, many who work in “essential” businesses that are having to work everyday, praying that they don’t get sick. There are health care workers who are feeling overwhelmed and scared, small business owners that have had to close their businesses and fear they may not be able to re-open them. There are those who have bills piling up, working parents with no daycare options for their kids and so many people who have lost loved ones to this. Let’s make an effort to lift these people up, not only in prayer but in encouragement. Send a card in the mail to a friend that is lonely, join in the efforts to make masks and gowns for healthcare workers, order yourself a treat from your favorite small business or have something sent to a friend. Share Facebook posts from those of us trying to hustle and keep things going during a trying time. There are many, many things you can do to offer encouragement to others. May we all spend as much time as possible thinking about the needs of others rather than the inconveniences in our own lives.
I hope and pray that this trying time in our history will be over soon. In the meantime, I am finding comfort (and joy) in knowing that God is bigger. I will leave you with a quote by Paul David Tripp taken from the daily devotional “New Morning Mercies”. “Get up and face life with courage because, as God’s child, you have not been left to the limits of your own strength and wisdom.” I say Praise the Lord for that! Especially in strange times such as these.
Much love to you all,
After picking more berries than our arms can carry, we develop a game plan to make the most of our haul. We usually dip a good many of them in chocolate, make a few fresh strawberry milkshakes, whip up a cobbler or two, eat some with yogurt or cereal, and did I mention dip some in chocolate?
This year (after the initial chocolate dipping) I decided to recreate a Strawberry Crisp recipe that was shared with me a few years back by my friend Kaitlyn.
This recipe is so simple to make, and uses items that you probably have in your pantry already. It's a quick and delicious dessert that is sure to please a crowd.
The crunchy topping, made up of brown sugar, flour and oats create the perfect contrast to the soft strawberry center.
I've made this dessert twice already this season! The last time I made it, I decided to try baking it in ramekins. I love all desserts, but I especially love anything that is served individually. There is just something so fun about being presented your very own dish!
They baked so beautifully, and I think that they may have even tasted better than usual!
You should know that this Strawberry Crisp, however, should never be served without a scoop of ice cream on top.
If this Strawberry Crisp recipe doesn't get you excited about Strawberry season, I don't know what will! I hope you'll check it out and try it for yourself. If you live in the area, you should definitely visit Paulk Vineyards pick-your-own strawberry fields. If you don't, search your surrounding area and see if you can find one near you! Make a day of it, with your family and friends, and start a tradition of your own!
If you're looking for more fun ways to use fresh berries this year, check out our beautiful cookbook, Berries!
In my recent blog about Small Town Living, I mentioned that Tara and I were going to spend the next couple of months talking about our small town, and the importance of shopping local and supporting small businesses. Living in a small town comes with extra responsibilities that you don’t often feel if you live in a more metropolitan area. I have found that there is so much to be mindful of when choosing where to spend my time and money. It can become very overwhelming to realize you need to think about things like: where you are contributing your sales tax dollars, job creation and stability for the people that work and live in your neighborhood, SPLOST money, T-SPLOST money ….. when you just needed to buy groceries and pick up some light bulbs! Part of my personal awakening of small town responsibilities came after Matt was elected Mayor and I was more deeply exposed to the inner workings of how our little city functions, but most of it has come from owning and operating a small business for the last 16 years. Our little town has struggled to keep businesses open and thriving and, while part of that responsibility falls on the business owner, a large part of it falls on the consumer.
I have watched the business of retail change so much over the years and it has become very hard to keep up with! It has been my responsibility as the business owner to keep up with the trends, to keep up with technology, and to adapt, as much as possible, with the ever changing world around me. Tara and I spend a lot of time thinking about what it is our consumers actually want and balance that with the look and the feel of our brand and what we want to offer.
I have made efforts to hire young people and listen to what they have to say in an effort to keep things fresh, new and relevant. This is a hard balance because I also have to keep things as comfortable as possible for my older customers that absolutely do not want to have their receipt texted to them and they would really prefer to write me a check. (Yes, we still accept checks.) We are proud to accept Apple Pay, even though I have only ever had two people use it! We offer as much customer service as possible, which we see as a draw and a reason for someone to choose to shop with us instead of a big box store. We offer complimentary gift wrap, we help you take your bags to the car, we will fill out your check for you if you forgot your glasses, and have even looked up phone numbers in the phone book for folks who have called and asked us to. I can’t say I am crazy about looking up phone numbers for people when it seems like such a simple thing they could do for themselves but it is a simple way that I can offer an extra service and a way I can set my store apart from a Wal-Mart or T.J. Maxx.
We offer a full service bridal registry with free gift delivery to local showers. (Our customers never actually have to touch their gift, we take care of everything!) One Saturday I received a phone call from our closest Belk store. The Belk employee was trying to help a customer that was choosing a gift for a bride that was registered at my store and the customer couldn’t remember the name of the bride, she could only remember that the bride was registered with me. Though it pained me that someone drove to a neighboring town to shop at another store, located in another county, I still answered all of their questions. I didn’t make the sale and my county received no sales tax benefit but I still did what I could to be nice and helpful with the hope that everyone involved will have good memories of working with us.
It is also my responsibility as a business owner to promote what I have going on and make sure that the information is available to as many people as possible. I understand completely that I can’t just open the doors to my business and expect people to come running. Oh if it were only that simple! It is a constant battle to compete with all the noise on social media and the already flooded email in-boxes. I am blessed to have a lot of good help in this department! Katelyn and Tara do an amazing job taking pictures, planning social media posts and scheduling emails. We have to work very hard every day, not just to win new customers, but to keep our existing customers coming back. The thing that we feel is our biggest responsibility and the thing that is most important to us is that we KNOW our customers. We know who prefers lemon in their tea and who doesn’t, we rejoice when new babies are born or when grandkids are getting married, we mourn with those who have lost loved ones, and we listen to those who just need someone to talk to and some place to be.
Now, on to the responsibility of the consumer. I would say that our biggest challenge in Ocilla, GA is getting our locals to choose to shop local. It seems like such a simple concept, but it is lost on many. I really do not mean to sound scolding, but the absolute truth of the matter is, if YOU like having a local pharmacy, or local hardware store, or local gift shop, or local cafe …. you need to shop there. It is truly that simple. If you, along with your fellow townsfolk, make an effort to frequent those places, even just a couple of times a month, it would make a huge difference.
One Saturday I had a very sweet lady in the store that came to attend a baby shower in our Cafe dining room. She was so complementary and went on and on and about what a nice place we have and how pretty the building is and that she had no idea what was in the store. I asked her where she was from and she said “oh I have lived in Ocilla all my life.” I had a real “check your face” sort of moment. While I was flattered by her compliments, I was left speechless by the fact that in the last 16 years she had not once checked us out to see what we were all about. I truly did not know what to say. She then proceeded to ask me about the buildings on either side of mine that are being renovated and told me that she was so glad someone was doing something with them, that she just hated to see all the empty buildings downtown. Now, I am not trying to throw this woman under the bus here, she was very sweet. She, like many others, is just not connecting the dots. If you do not like that there are empty buildings in your town or in your neighborhood, then you need to support the businesses that are there. Those are not hard dots to connect. You cannot leave the action to someone else and just assume that others are supporting them so you are off the hook. By doing your part and choosing to shop local, you are not only helping those businesses stay afloat, you are helping folks keep their jobs, you are helping contribute to your communities sales tax dollars and you are helping to breathe life into your small community. That may seem a little over the top, but please take a moment to imagine how different your community would look if all of your small businesses weren’t there anymore.
I am not telling you to never go to Wal-Mart or Lowes, I am just urging you to start with your local options. I have to order online or leave our county to shop from time to time, 1. Because I can’t get everything I need here, and 2. Because sometimes it is fun to get out of town and see something new, I get that. I am not trying to convince you to never leave your town. I am just saying, give your local folks the first chance. Don’t automatically assume something is more expensive, and if it is weigh out how much more you are spending in gas to drive somewhere else to get it. You may be surprised how much your community has to offer, and how much it will be able to grow and add if it is full of people who support what is going on there. This goes for services too. Supporting your local hospital, doctors offices, mechanics, accountants and hairdressers is just as important! It may be more convenient to order things online, but supporting your local grocery store may be more important than the convenience of Amazon. Our little town of Ocilla only has one grocery store. In fact, other than 3 Dollar General Stores (yes 3) our one grocery store is the only place to buy groceries in our county. A few years ago, there was a period that lasted a couple of months that our grocery store closed and it was an awful time. Would you like to talk about convenience? The convenience of running to the store to pick up something quick was taken away. We were forced to drive to our neighboring county to buy groceries and we all realized how much we loved having our little grocery store and how much we missed it. Matt and other community leaders worked hard to recruit another store and we are proud to have a very nice Piggly Wiggly. I will be perfectly honest with you, I am worried that we may lose our grocery store again one day because of the lack of support of our local citizens. It goes back to the point of, if you like having a business or service available to you when you need it, you have to make sure to support that business and service in the in between times.
O.k, I will get off my soapbox for today and let you have a break! If you have made it this far and you are still reading, just try to remember that there are small businesses everywhere that are the lifeblood of the small communities where they operate. If you are able to change your mindset set from what is easiest and cheapest to asking yourself what you can source locally or from a small business, not only will you meet some great people and receive really awesome customer service, but you will also be able to feel really good about doing your part to help someone stay in business, help someone keep their job, and help a struggling community to grow and thrive. I know that I am writing this as the owner of an online store and yes, I would love for you to choose to support The Southern Mercantile! Just know that every purchase you make from us helps keep our store open in downtown Ocilla, GA. Not only that, every sweet email we get from you or encouraging comment on a blog post, helps energize us and spurs us on to keep trying to make great things happen for our little home. We would love for you to drop by for a visit sometime! Tour our lovely shop, eat the best fried chicken you have ever tasted at Chicken Delite, and drive out to have a glass of wine at Paulk Vineyards. We love where we live and we can’t wait to show off all the things we are proud of!
I truly believe that there is hope for small towns and that there is opportunity in those places for businesses to grow and thrive, but the hope and opportunity will only come if the people that live there get on board and support and help promote what they have.
If you are interested in learning more about the challenges and the joys of small town living, check out Matt's latest project, Small Town Podcast.
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