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 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.
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
Last week, we lost my sweet, 91-year-old grandmother. Many of you have heard me mention my grandmother as she and my grandfather had an enormous impact on my life.
I am so blessed to have had a childhood full of so many wonderful memories, especially of time spent with my Grandparents. Though we lived 12 hours away from them, Wayne and Helen Bloomingburg had an unbelievable way of being involved in our lives and making sure we (both me and my younger brother Troy) knew how much we were loved.
Grandma and Grandpa were hard-working folks that always put God and family first, and they raised their children to do the same. It is hard to talk about my grandmother without also talking about my grandfather. They were the most faithful and selfless people I have ever known. Even though we lived so far away, there was never a doubt that grandma and grandpa were in our corner.
The summer before my senior year in high school, I decided to live with my grandparents and get a summer job. My grandmother landed me a great job with a friend who was a real estate attorney. I spent five summers with my grandparents, working in the attorney’s office and exploring the city. (As much as I was allowed to - Grandpa liked to keep me close!) Oh, how I have cherished the time that I was able to spend with them in the summers. Grandma would tell marvelous stories of growing up in Selma, Alabama, what it was like to lose her mother at a young age, and how much she loved her “daddy”. I didn’t fully appreciate these experiences at the time, but I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for the summers that I spent with my grandparents.
After her move to Florida, I was so happy to have her close and to be able to spend more time with her. She loved telling everyone in her assisted living village that I was her granddaughter, and she was so proud to have me every time I came. I never got tired of her calling me “sweetie” or telling me what a “doll” I was. Even after her stroke she would love to visit and talk about her childhood and memories of her youth. She never stopped being concerned about me, never stopped being my comforter, and never stopped being my grandma. When the words wouldn’t come, her pretty blue eyes and sweet smile still told me all I needed to know.
And now, as I have lost my last grandparent, it is such a bittersweet feeling of growing older. In a way, I feel like not only have I lost Grandma, but I feel like I have lost Grandpa all over again. I know that Grandma is so much happier now, to be with Jesus and Grandpa and her “mama” and “daddy”. I count myself so lucky to have been so loved by those two special people. I have so many friends that didn’t have that same experience. They don’t have parents and grandparents that will drop anything to do anything for their family. Just last week Grandma's care giver in the nursing home told me she had never known a family like ours, so full of love for each other and so many of us concerned about grandma. I told her that it was all because of “her” as I pointed to my grandmother with tears in my eyes. My family is truly lucky to have been led and loved by Helen and Wayne Bloomingburg, and I am forever grateful for their presence in my life and the legacy they have left behind in their family.
In honor and in memory of my Grandmother, I am reposting two blog posts I wrote about my grandparents in years past. When cleaning out my grandmothers' apartment, we found that she had a folder for each grandchild in her filing cabinet, each one filled with mementos and cards from over the years. My folder, amongst other things, held a copy of each blog post that I had sent her in the mail. On the outside of the papers she had written, “keep forever”. I am so glad that I took the time to share with her how I felt about her while she was living. I already miss her so much it hurts, but am rejoicing that she is at peace and with her Heavenly Father.
I am so blessed to have had a childhood full of so many wonderful memories, especially of time spent with my Grandparents. Though we lived 12 hours away from them, Wayne and Helen Bloomingburg had an unbelievable way of being involved in our lives and making sure we (both me and my younger brother Troy) knew how much we were loved. We were able to make the trip to Arlington, Virginia every summer and every other Christmas to pay them a visit.
My Grandparent's House
I am flooded today with memories of my grandparents’ house. As a kid it was a magical place that we were only lucky enough to visit on summer vacations and every other Christmas. It was not a huge house, a modest Sears and Roebuck home built in 1938, just on the outskirts of Washington D.C. My grandfather and his family moved in to the house when he was 14. In turn, my grandfather later bought the house from his father, and my mother moved into the house when she was 14. The house was a happy home to the same family for its entire life. It saw many a Thanksgiving Dinner, Christmas Morning and visiting relative. Some of the happiest moments of my childhood were spent there.
We are fresh off of a trip to Atlanta for Vintage Market Days of Greater Atlanta and boy, did we have fun! We got to stay with a good friend from home, visit with show friends that we only see once or twice a year, and we got to chat with so many of you! It was three days of excitement, creative inspiration and a touch of exhaustion! This has become a great show for us and a must-stop on the travel schedule for spring!
I was so pleased with this booth set up; it may have been my most favorite so far! I hope some of you caught my Instagram stories on set up day as I tried to give you the process from start to finish. It is always so amazing to me that we start with such a mess and end up with something so inviting! If you don't already follow us on Instagram, you can find us at @thesouthernmerc. The beautiful garden arbor that dad helped me build got to make another appearance and served as a lovely welcome to our space. The shelves were stocked with cute kitchen items, garden decor, and plenty of fun vintage finds!
My mom and I have such a good time junkin' and finding unique and fun vintage items. I love the personality and sense of nostalgia that vintage items give to your home and work space. Mixing old with new is such a great way to make a space feel warm and inviting. These vintage shows are so much fun for me, and also too tempting on my wallet! I have a hard time resisting the cool and unusual things the other vendors bring.
It is always a good day at work when you get to be with a good friend! My friend, Melissa, from Greener Grass Handmade and I love it when we can make our paths cross. We don't meet up for every show, but when we do, it is so much more fun!
As always, Matt and I had a great time meeting new people and getting to spread the Southern love of The Southern Mercantile! Thanks to all who signed up to receive our emails - we promise you will be happy you did! We are giving away one $50 gift certificate to one of our new subscribers, and that lucky winner is Jaime Watson! Be checking your inbox Jaime for your happy shopping coupon!
If you saw some things you liked in the pictures above, be sure to check out our online store. It is stocked with fun finds for your home and garden!
While we truly do enjoy our time on the road, it can be exhausting. Not only is the physical work so tiring, but the mental strain can be taxing. There is so much to think of and plan for when you are running a brick and mortar store, while traveling to promote your online business. The list of things to remember is endless, and you must always be friendly and helpful, even when you are tired! There is the constant mental battle of: Did I pack enough? Did I pack too much? Did I pack the right things? Am I making enough money? Is this worth it? It can all become very overwhelming! By the end of a travel season, I am usually feeling pretty exhausted and overwhelmed. On the last day of this show, I was feeling pretty defeated and worn out. I stepped outside, just to take a little break and regroup. I have been to this facility several times before, but never noticed the inscription on this bench that is placed at the front entrance.
I was moved to tears and had to take an extra minute to compose myself before going back in. It was a beautiful reminder to me that the Lord is with me every step of the way, ready and willing to give me all the strength I need if I will only ask. The prayer reads:
O GREAT SPIRIT Whose voice I hear in the winds, and whose breath gives life to all the world, hear me! I am small and weak, I need your strength and wisdom.
LET ME WALK IN BEAUTY, and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset.
MAKE MY HANDS respect the things you have made & my ears sharp to hear your voice.
MAKE ME WISE so that I may understand the things you have taught my people.
LET ME LEARN the lessons You have hidden in every leaf and rock.
I SEEK STRENGTH, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy - myself.
MAKE ME ALWAYS READY to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes.
SO WHEN LIFE FADES, as the fading sunset, my spirit may come to you without shame.
I had never heard of Paul Eddy, but he must have been truly loved and respected to have received such a beautiful memorial. He founded the American Indian Festival, which was hosted at The Gwinnett County Fair Grounds and you can read a little more about him here.
This little moment outside the facility gave me just the boost I needed to pack up and make my way home with a renewed spirit. Now, I am busy unpacking and getting the shop put back together as we roll into the ease of summer in the south.
If you find yourself on the road this summer, we'd love for you to stop in for a visit! Visit our flagship store in Ocilla, have lunch in our Cafe, and ramble around our sweet little town. If you can't make it in person you can always keep up with us on the website! Join our email list to stay connected and keep up with new products and our travel schedule. We can't wait to get to know you!
We had such a good time hitting the road in April and visiting with friends, old and new, in both Perry, and Macon, Georgia. Our first stop was at the Georgia National Fair Grounds in Perry for Vintage Market Days of Central Georgia. Y'all know we love junkin so vintage shows are so fun for us! It is always too tempting to bring back more than we took!
Just to give you a reminder of the chaos of setup day, here is a little picture I snapped of our pile as we were beginning to set up. You can see my faithful helpers, Mr. Crain (Dad) and Aunt Janet busy stringing lights.
Just like that I just snap my fingers and poof! We end up with this! Just kidding. Many hours later we end up with this, but the time is totally worth it and I am always proud at the end!
This cute wheelbarrow and most of our wash tubs went to happy homes and I must say, I will miss them! This was such a happy little display.
The very next weekend we found ourselves headed back to the historic Hay House in Macon, Georgia. What a treat it is to spend the weekend under the ancient ginkgo trees on these beautiful grounds, and we always enjoy any time we can spend above the gnat line!
This was our set up for the garden market. Plenty of bright florals, flower pots, and other garden themed decor.
I had a good time showing off my new collection of hand painted bird nests and wood block prints. I am busy working on more so if you can't catch us on the road, you'll soon be able to snag one online.
I know all of you that entered to win a gift certificate have been anxiously awaiting to find out if you've won! We chose one from each show and the lucky winners are: Judy Etheridge and Janet Williams! Congrats ladies! Be checking your inbox for your special prize!
See anything you like in one of this week's photos? Be sure to check out our shop while you are here. We are stocked with great finds for home and garden!
You have one more chance to catch us on the road this spring! We'll be at Vintage Market Days of Greater Atlanta May 31 - June 2. After that, we are off the road until August, and remember, you can keep up with our travel schedule on our website. Feel free to visit us anytime at our flagship store in Ocilla, GA, we just love company!
Easter is right around the corner and many of you will be entertaining family and guests in your home. I thought it would be fun to share my tips with you on creating a beautiful centerpiece for your Easter table using things you can cut from your yard. First you will need to gather some beauties from your yard.
Growing up in the Crain house, we pretty much loved and thoroughly celebrated all Holidays. My parents were really great at taking advantage of every season to decorate and celebrate! There was sparkly green clover garland at St. Patrick's Day, hearts and vintage Valentine cards adorned the mantle at Valentine's Day, and I won't even try to explain Halloween as it was a month long extravaganza of sorts. Of course, there were little prizes wrapped and ready for us at the breakfast table to go along with the holiday theme.
As a kid, I just loved Easter time! As soon as St. Patrick's Day was past, the Easter decorations would come down from our little attic space. The mantles and buffets would be properly covered with "Snowbabies" bunnies and all of the various rabbits that my brother and I had received the previous years from the Easter Bunny. Dad always turned one of the trees in the front yard into the "Easter" tree by loading it with colorful, plastic eggs.
Even Ike and Tina (the two plastic flamingos that lived in one of the front flower beds) had bunny ears to wear for the occasion.
We would head outside, usually still in our pajamas, to begin hunting the eggs that the Easter Bunny had already hidden. After finding all of the eggs, (they were carefully counted the day before so we would know how many to look for) we would have to head inside to get ready for church. After Sunday lunch, the name of the game was to re-hide the eggs and find them all over again! We would do this all afternoon, and when Dad got tired of hiding them for us, we would take turns doing it for each other. (I will go ahead and confess that Troy probably had to hide them for me more than I hid them for him.) This was our Easter fun, all afternoon.
What is it about hiding and finding eggs all day that is so entertaining? We didn't even have prize eggs, it was simply the thrill of the hunt. The Southern Merc girls have deciced that this year, the kids shouldn't get to have all of the fun! We've carfully hidden Easter eggs all over our website, and we want you to find them! The person that finds all of the eggs first will be a lucky winner!
Here's how you play:
1. Click on the SHOP tab at the top of this page.
2. Search through each category by clicking on each product and looking for the hidden Easter eggs in the product images!
3. When you find an Easter egg image, write down the product name in which you found it under.
4. Once you have found all 8 Easter egg images, email us a list of the product names where you found them! (email@example.com)
5. The first person to correctly submit the location of all 8 Easter egg images will receive the grand prize - $50.00 off your next purchase at The Southern Mercantile! The runner up will receive $25.00 off their next purchase!
All other players who submit the location of the Easter eggs by April 15th will be entered to win a $25.00 off coupon as well! Ready, set, go!
While you are on the hunt, be sure to check out the cute Easter selections in our shop!
These are the tools we've gathered for today's lesson. you will need a good spade, empty pots, scissors, and potting mix. Dad likes to use a mix of Black Kow, potting soil, and garden humus (compost).
When starting plants from seeds, Dad likes to use peat pellets to fill his seed trays. These pellets come full of nutrients, are easy to use, and cut down on the mess of using loose soil. They hold their moisture a little better than the soil and makes it easier to for you to keep your seeds damp. If you don't have peat pellets, it is fine to use your potting soil mix to fill the trays.
If you are using the pellets, just drop one in each slot, water thouroughly, and watch them expand. They will grow to fill the hole. If you are using the potting soil, just go ahead and dampen the soil with water.
When the peat pellets have expanded, just push on them with your finger and spread them out a little.
Be sure to go ahead and label the slots for your seeds or you will have a hard time knowing what is what when they start to sprout!
Take your tiny seeds and lay them on top of each slot in the tray, according to how you labeled them. Push the seeds down a little just so they won't wash to the side when you water. Each type of seed requires a different depth so be sure to read the back of your seed packet for helpful tips. Keep the seeds moist for the next few weeks and watch your little seeds sprout into small plants! When they grow their second set of leaves it will be time to move them to a bigger pot or time to plant them in the ground.
Now we will move on to the opposite stage of plant life, when it has become pot-bound and too big for it's container. Dad's beautiful herb garden has outgrown its pot so it is time to split these plants up and give them a little breathing room.
Go ahead and prep an empty pot (or two) by filling it two thirds of the way with your potting mix.
After removing the pot-bound clump from it's original pot, you can begin to gently pull apart the different kinds of plants. If you are working with one large plant that has become pot-bound, you can go ahead and gently pull at it to create some seperation.
When you have decided where to divide, you need to cut through the roots with a knife or with your garden shears.
You will need to loosen up the soil and the roots before moving to the new pot.
Decide which plants go in which pots and begin the potting process. Set your new, smaller plants on top of the soil you have prepped, and begin filling in around the sides and the top with more soil.
We had enough herbs to turn one pot into three! They will be so much happier now that they have some growing room!
Repotting is inevitable for all pot plants. Don't be afraid to split them up and spread them out. It is a great oppurtunity for you to expand your garden or to bless friends by sharing your bounty. I love to swap plants with friends! Dad's little herbs were so plentiful, he was a sweetie and shared a couple of the new pots he created with me. What a blessing to step out to my side porch when I am cooking and snip some fresh herbs to use in my favorite recipes. Not only are they delicious, but I am reminding of my sweet Dad everytime!
If you're thinking about starting a few seeds of your own this Spring, check out our terracotta starter pots we just added to the store! These small, handmade pots vary in size but are full of character and are perfect for your garden.
We hope these little tips are helpful to you if you are just branching out and starting a garden of your own. If you love caring for plants, be sure to check out this month's curated collection. It has just what you need to care for your favorite house plants!
You'll find many beautiful things for your home and garden so be sure to look around while you are here. Happy gardening y'all!
Setting up a beautiful booth space is half of the fun! Our mini-southern mercantile really came together with a fresh garden theme. The show walls even got a fresh coat of paint for spring! We used one of our all-time favorite colors, sea salt by Sherwin Williams.
Roxie and her dad built this beautiful garden arbor for our spring display. If you missed us at Cottontail's, don't worry, you will get to see this again! It will be traveling with us this spring.
Roxie brought fresh vines and Bridal Veil blooms from her yard to decorate the arbor.
As always, we enjoyed our time in Birmingham and truly enjoyed getting to meet new people and visit with our faithful Southern Merc fans. Every year we recognize more and more of you! Anyone who signed up for our email list while at the show was entered to win a $50 gift certificate to our online store. We are so excited to announce the lucky winner is Penny Ferguson! Happy shopping penny, be on the look out for a happy email in your inbox!
If you missed us at Cottontail's, or if you passed up something you wish you had gotten, don't forget you can shop with us online!
On Wednesday, Roxie had the opportunity to visit our friend and fellow maker, Leigh Ann from Sweet Auburn Studio! Her shop, Burrow Goods, is absolutely adorable and is a must-visit if you are in the Birmingham area. In addition to her jewelry design skills and abilities to perfectly curate the goods in her shop, she is also a talented interior designer!
We have a new selection of Leigh Ann's jewelry in our shop at our Fourth and Cherry location, as well as a large selection of thoughtful pieces by our friend, Sharon, of Wallin and Buerkle. We'll have new pieces listed in the online store soon so be on the look out!
If you missed our first Spring show, don't worry, there are more to come! Check out our Events Page to see if we will be traveling to a town near you!
Happy New Year Southern Merc Fans! We hope you had a wonderful Christmas and are enjoying a fresh start on a new season of life! I am sorry it has been so long since I have put the pen to paper (or rather my fingers to the keyboard!). I wanted to take a minute to share my thoughts with you about how we ended 2018 and where we hope we are headed in the New Year!
2018 started out with a bang, full of hope, and a renewed sense of spirit. We hit the road March through May and enjoyed getting to see so many of you, old friends and new!
We also had a busy spring welcoming two new babies to our Southern Mercantile fold! Katelyn blessed us with little Lainey Kate in March and sweet Perry Jacob arrived to Jorjanne in June! These little angels have been such a blessing to all of us, bringing so much joy and fun!
I wish I had a year's worth of bragging, good news, and joyous occasions to share with you, but while reflecting on 2018, I have realized it was a really hard year! Towards the end of the summer my year took a downward spiral and I had a hard time coming back. Growing this online busines and sustaining our brick and mortar store in Ocilla has been quite a tall task! Money is always tight (or non-existant), there never seem to be enough hours in the day, and the stress of my day to day life really got to me last year.
On top of other tensions that were already building in my life, our building took a hard hit during hurricane Michael. The storm was to hit in the night which made me incredibly nervous. We already had a few bad leaks, so we prepared as much as we could by putting out plastic and extra buckets, just in case something bad happened during the storm.
Meanwhile, Matt was checking downstairs and discovering all the water that was pouring into our shop from the upstairs. The night that followed was one of the most aweful and most torturous times of my life. We called for back up just to help try to get things under control. My parents, sweet neighbors, and Tara and Phillip ran to our aid, bringing tarps, kiddie pools and head lamps. They helped hang tarps to try to direct the water into trash cans and kiddie pools. For over an hour they helped empty buckets, mop up water and try to gain some sort of control over the elements before the storm hit its peak. To these people I will be forever grateful, and I know there are many others that would have helped, had it not been too dangerous to leave home.
As the storm worsened Matt and I sent everyone home, except my sweet Dad that insisted on staying with us. He manned the downstairs trying to move buckets and save merchandise. Matt and I manned the upstairs trying bale water as fast as we could. The short version of the story is, we baled water for eight hours. The power went out at 10 so we baled in the dark. We tried so hard but the water was relentless and we quickly started to lose the battle. I have never felt so helpless in all of my life. Around 1:00 or 2:00 a.m., Mom, Tara and Phillip came back to help us and I have never been so relieved and overjoyed to see three people. The six of us worked until 3:00 am, or a little after, just trying to empty buckets enough to be able to leave. Over the next two days we spent countless hours cleaning, dumping, drying, calling repair men and insurance agents. When it was all said and done, we lost a large portion of our roof and two upstairs windows. We were only without power at the building for about 18 hours, and about 24 hours at home.
I didn't want the blog to become so much about the hurricane, but is was such a traumatic experience for me, I have realized that it really affected me more that I thought it did at the time. Even though it was so hard, I do know that we were truly blessed throughout the whole situation. I know that what we had to deal with was nothing compared to the folks that lost entire homes, entire crops, and entire businesses. I know that the Lord was with us through the whole process because I know that my tired body could not have done what we did for so many hours without His strength. We had countless friends and neighbors show up over the coming days to help and check on us. Jorjanne's husband, Chris, brought a freezer truck from their farm to help us save most of our food supply for The Cafe. It really could have been so much worse, and I am truly thankful for the help and support of our community. This is such a perfect example of one of the joys of small town living!
We powered through Christmas with a spectacular Christmas Open House at our shop and two successful Christmas shows. Thanks to all of you that shopped and visited with us during the Christmas season. You don't know how much we needed your love and support this year!
Even in the midst, of trials and uncertainties, I always find comfort in knowing that the Lord is with me and He has written every page of my book already. I know that the trials in my life have only made me stronger and have given me more of the tools that I need to be able to help other people. I know that there will be an end to these trials and that there is always a mountain top after climbing out of a valley, even if you don't get to stay there long!
As we now roll into the end of January, I am determined to get out of my funk and leave 2018 behind me! The girls and I have taken the last few weeks to rest, catch up on some things that we got behind on, and try to get ready for a great new year! We have been working on some beautiful new products for the store and a fun blog schedule of great new tips and recipes. We are finalizing the dates and plans for our Spring travel schedule and we hope you will make plans to come see us while we are on the road! We are determined to make 2019 the best year yet for The Southern Mercantile and we hope you'll come along for the ride!