This is just a little reminder of what the side of the house looked like. I never get tired of looking at these "before" pictures! They make the "after" pictures look so much more beautiful! They also remind me of how hard we have worked to create something so lovely. I think we enjoy it so much more, having had to put in so much "sweat equity" as they say.
Hey friends! Welcome to my garden tour! If you have been following my Alder Street Rennovation story, you may remember that the yards were in almost as bad a shape as the house! There was no grass in the front yard, and after we finished our construction the back yard wasn't in great shape either. The sweet lady that lived in the home before us had a very green thumb but the existing plants and bushes were in very weird spots so, unfortunately, there wasn't a lot I could keep! This is a reminder of the front of the house after we had started a little of the demo.
It has been a long process and lot of hard work but things are finally starting to shape up!
The camelia and hydrangea came with the house and I was so happy to be reminded of how they are flourishing after looking back at the "before" picture. You can see that I added a little brick pathway that curves around to the side porch. I did this myself over a period of time so if you see any spots that look a little uneven, please forgive!
Defining the front flower bed with a border and creating this little path across the front of the house helped to create a more welcoming and intentional space. The flower beds are filled with plants that I don't really have to do much tending to, rosemary, Texas sage, the camilia and hydrangea bushes. Other than keeping them trimmed and watered, they don't need much care. My pots and urns are my favorite way to garden! It is so fun to keep them upadated for the changing seasons, and it is easy to take care of them and keep them watered.
The brick path curves around to meet the little side porch we added and the hexagon stones that create the path to our patio.
This pretty little pathway leads to our favorite spot, our patio!
Matt and I started the pathway a couple of years ago and just never got past the end of the porch! Last year, when life slowed down during quarantine, we took the opportunity to get it done. Well, almost got it done. The process of the pathway and patio took a while beacause those stones are so heavy and getting them as level as possible is such a pain! It could also be because we would lay four or five, and then call it quits for the evening and have a cocktail. Hahahaha.
Life got busy again and I didn't quite get the patio rounded out, but we will keep chipping away at it. This is our favorite spot to sit and have coffee on cool mornings or to have a cocktail on fall evenings under the twinkle lights. Even though we are sandwiched pretty closely between our neighbors, the fence and the bamboo give us a nice bit of privacy.
I have more pretty containers of flowers on the patio. I love to keep little things I can clip to bring inside to enjoy. I also have a pot of herbs that I love to snip on when cooking dinner.
Well y'all, I think this garden tour might have been more fun for me than anybody! It is always good for me to take a step back and remember how far my little home has come. Sometimes I have tunnel vision and can only see all the things that I still need to work on! Now that the front yard and patio are looking good, I have got to move on to the back yard. I have been working hard to clear out and tame the jungle but there is still a lot to do to get it looking good. I hope this has inspired you to spend a little time outdoors and create a space that you truly enjoy! Don't worry if it takes you a few years like me, life is always a work in progress!
While you are here, take a look around the shop. We have some great little pots, perfect for starting succulents, herbs or small house plants!
I already know what you are thinking. It is almost February, the season of love, so here comes the obligatory, sappy love post about how sweet Valentine’s Day is and the shameless promotion of something I would like you to buy from me for your Valentine. Don’t worry! That is not the purpose of this post. Well, not exactly. I am going to ask you to buy something, but don’t worry, it’s for a good cause! I hope I can put a different spin on this season for you, and I hope that by the end of this post you are feeling all the feels in a way that surprises you a bit.
Lately, at least to me, it seems the world around us is lacking in the love department. We all know that 2020 was a rough year for most. We are all still reeling from the effects of an ongoing global pandemic: illness and death, financial distress, failing small businesses, depression and anxiety, unemployment, food shortages… the list could go on forever. On top of that, racial and partisan divisions seem to be at a boiling point as riots continue and we have even seen our very own Capitol temporarily taken hostage and our democracy threatened. I saw a very funny meme a few days ago that pointed out the pronunciation of our new year is “2020 won” Unfortunately it does seem like we have all let 2020 get the best of us.
If you look back in our more recent history, tough times are usually something that unites us. Even if only for a short time, we have been able to put our differences aside and see each other as human, instead of as a color, or as a republican or a democrat. It has been so disheartening to watch as the struggles of our current times have turned us against each other. That we have allowed something as simple as a face mask, to cause division and incite hatred. I am not making light of racial and political struggles, because I know they are very real. I am just saying that there seems to be something major missing in our country, and I think it is love. We are all too busy thinking we have been wronged in some way, or that our struggle is worse than someone else's, or that no one understands us, or that “our” particular interests are not being represented. We have lost sight of our most important and most basic job, to love one another as Christ loved us. You may come back at me and say that the people causing the most trouble, are not believers, and you may be right, but I am willing to bet that most of the loudest mouths, and the biggest troublemakers in our society right now, would claim to at least believe in God, and would probably even claim to be following his will. I know you will also say that there is plenty of good still happening in the world and we just see the bad. I know that too, but just to be clear, there are a lot of serious, bad things happening. Things that are important, and need to be addressed, but if we as a whole, can’t figure out how to approach those situations first with love, and respect for our fellow man, we will never be able to overcome our differences.
Don’t worry, I am not about to take a political stance, or force my personal beliefs on you. I am getting to the “love” part I promise! The truth is, I have been feeling a little overwhelmed. 2021 is off to a rocky start. We are facing many unknowns and uncertainties. It is easy to get swept up in the craziness of the world, and forget that we can all move mountains, if we start with ourselves, with our own families, churches, businesses and communities. I was reminded recently, in my daily devotional, the importance of focusing on the unfailing and incomparable love of the Lord. Psalm 118 was the scripture that went with the devotion on the particular day I was reading, and it happened on a day that I truly needed to hear it. The Lord reminds us over and over that His love endures forever.
Psalm 118 basically lays out all the hardships of this world, and reminds us that the Lord is mighty, He is our refuge and strength, and His love endures forever. It was a good reminder to me, that no matter how crazy the world around me gets, I can rest in the fact that I am fully loved by a mighty God. The world may fail me, and men may hate me, (whether it be over disagreements on mask wearing, political party, race, or religion), but His love endures forever. If we, who believe, are comforted by this unfailing love, we must also feel empowered by it. Empowered to show a glimpse of it to others.
As Tara and I were brainstorming about the Spring schedule and our themes for the year, we just kept coming back to “share the love”. We are all given opportunities, everyday, to share the love. Whether it be kindness to a neighbor, patience with a trying customer, food to shut ins, a prayer for those who are hurting or struggling…. this list could also go on forever! It is easy to get wrapped up in joy and happiness at holiday time, but we are hoping that we can encourage and ignite you to make a conscious effort to show some love in your community. Reach out to families that are suffering the loss of a family member, send a card to a family member you haven’t been able to visit.
Here’s another challenge for you. Yep, you know I have to bring it around to loving your community and your small businesses! Send your community leaders an encouraging note to tell them that you appreciate the work they are doing. Get involved in a community project. I can promise you that now, more than ever, volunteers are needed! Don’t forget to shop small this Spring. It is easy to remember at holiday time, but your small businesses need you all year. Be mindful of where you are choosing to spend your money. Think of the businesses that are the lifeblood of your community. I promise you that 2020 wasn’t kind to them. Think of the businesses that you would miss if they weren’t there any more, and make it a point to support them when you can. Even if it is just once a month.
We have come up with a fun little way you can choose to “share the love” with one of your favorite small businesses. We are selling these cute little stickers, created by 1 Canoe 2, as a fundraiser for our local Downtown Development Association.
We would love to send one of these to your favorite small business. Just include a message in the comments box at check out and include the mailing address for your favorite business as the shipping information. We will send the sticker of your choice and your message (free shipping) in a sweet card to the small business you choose. Click HERE to purchase one!
What a sweet way to “share the love” and build up a business that has probably had a hard year. You can order several and hand them out in person if you would rather make it a point to stop in at your favorite places.
Our DDA has taken on the tall task of turning an old, abandoned property in the heart of our downtown, into a lovely pocket park.
We are doing this on a very limited budget and will have to do a lot of fundraising. Buying this little sticker might seem like a small thing to you, but for us it is one more small step in the right direction. Not only will you be sharing the love with the small business that you choose, but you will also be sharing a little love with our hometown of Ocilla, GA.
As you gear up for this season of love, we hope you will be mindful and take the time to think of others, outside your family or friend group and share the love.
Recently, Tara and I hosted a beautiful bridal shower for our dear friend Claire, who will be getting married in November. Y'all know we love an excuse to have a party, so when Claire got engaged, I didn't waste any time starting to put together ideas for her bridal shower. This party was extra special to me as I am blessed beyond measure to be Claire's Fairy Godmother. Claire was in middle school when I moved back to Ocilla after college. I rented my first little house from her family and since that made us backyard and backdoor neighbors, Claire and I became fast friends. She would pop over to my house in the afternoons to chat about school. She begged me for a job at the store and never forgot that I told her she had to be fifteen to start working. She rode her bike to work on her 15th birthday and she has been a part of The Shoppes family ever since. When I bought my little house and moved around the corner, she was thrilled that we would still be backyard neighbors. It is so comforting to live so close to someone who has become so dear to my heart.
Over the years we have cried together, mourned together, worked hard together, laughed together and celebrated together. It is so exciting to now be celebrating her upcoming wedding! I don't think it is possible for me to be more happy for her. She is going to make the most beautiful bride!
The date was set, the menu was planned and we got to work on the decor. Tara and I put our heads together and decided on a color palette of greens, and shades of pink and coral. We used citrus fruit and peaches for an extra pop of color.
I used my collection of vintage milk glass containers as vessels for the beautiful floral arrangements. Some arrangements received whole peaches or small oranges and others were decorated with halved grapefruits. The addition of the fruits to the decor was really beautiful and added an extra special touch.
We enlisted the help of Jorjanne and Claire's special friends, Courtney and Kelsey, to help us host. This talented group of women worked hard to make our vision come to life!
The shower took place in the morning so we decided on a brunch menu. Tara was full of good ideas for this because brunch foods are her favorites!
We knew we needed sweet and savory menu items alike, so of course cake was at the top of our list. How can you have a party without cake?!
Tara took one of her favorite recipes and dressed it up a bit. She started with a vanilla cake and layered it with white chocolate buttercream and peach filling--yum! She piped the outside of the cake to look like petals to give it a fancy flair.
Our other sweet option was a glazed lemon cookie. These treats were tiny and delicious--perfect for a brunch!
We love a beautiful charcuterie board, and we thought this would be a fun opportunity to have one! Full of baked ham, cheese slices, fresh fruit and miscellaneous biscuit toppings, this board was a hit!
We offered homemade plain and blueberry biscuits to go with our board. We thought we needed another savory option, so we decided on a Sausage and Cheddar Quiche, baked as individual servings!
It turned out to be a beautiful display of delicious breakfast favorites.
This shower was so fun and so sweet. As I looked around the room at all of the beautiful women that came to celebrate with Claire, I was overwhelmed by the amount of love contained in one space. Our gathering wasn't just about gifts and cake. (Although it might have been the best cake I have ever eaten.) This group truly came together to shower Claire with love and support as she prepares to enter into a new season of life, which made the day just perfect.
If you are planning a party or shower for someone special to you, check out our blog posts about "parties and get-togethers".
It is no secret that I love a good cocktail! A few weeks ago I shared with you my favorite champagne cocktails. Click HERE to find them if you missed it, they are definitely worth trying! In this post I want to share with you my favorite gin cocktails. In the winter I am more of a bourbon girl, but when the summer heats up, I am in the mood for a lighter, refreshing option. Gin and citrus fruit are my go-to ingredients during summertime.
The drink I have enjoyed the most this summer is a little something I came up with myself, called the Gin Roxie. It is a take on the Gin Rickey with a little extra flair! To make this cocktail you will fill your favorite cocktail glass with ice. Squeeze the juice of a large orange wedge (or two of my frozen cubes), the juice of a large wedge of lime, and 1.5 ounces of gin. Top it off with club soda and a lime slice and you have yourself a Gin Roxie. This drink is so refreshing! If I am sitting outside I love to sip it from my pretty floral, insulated cup from Paulk Vineyards winery.
Check out the video below to let Roxie show you how to crank out these cocktails!
Whether you are getting together with friends or just relaxing on your screened in porch, I hope these recipes inspire you to take a little time and enjoy the simple pleasures of summer in the south!
To find a recipe card for the Gin Roxie, click HERE to visit our recipe archive. Look around while you are there and find a little inspiration for your next summer soire!
Check out our store for a great selection of recipe books, including this cute cocktail book, "A Spot at the Bar".
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!
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,
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.