A couple of years ago (while I was still in Florida) I wrote a blog about how “diminished” our towns would be if all the independent boutique-style shops closed. In particular I was speaking about yarn-shop patrons succumbing to the lure of the Internet. Apparently the situation that prompted that blog has worsened.
I got an email from two friends, partners in the boutique Shop 256 in Morganton. It’s a mix of antiques, hand-painted furniture, and a very interesting line of clothes. Aside from being friends to each other, they made friends out of all their customers. Unfortunately, there just weren’t enough customers and they are closing up their shop soon. There’s a big sale going on now as they liquidate their stock.
Three days ago, in another boutique called Cranberrys and Lace, not far from Shop 256, I stopped by to say hello to the owner/operator and was shocked to hear that she’s closing in a couple of months with the big sell-off starting in April. She was one of those shops that had a bit of everything country: furniture, antiques, paintings and prints, lamps, linens, candles, and handmade dolls. While this type of shop is as common as crabgrass in New England, it’s uncommon here and I was happy to patronize it. Now I’m sick that she’s closing. Some of her items will be in an antique mall at Exit 90 off Hwy 40, and she’ll be decorating a local furniture store with her “smalls,” but for me it just won’t be the same.
I took one of my country drives today. It was sunny and 70, and my windows were down for the first time this spring. The trees are all blooming white, purple, and lavender, and the daffodils have turned these mountains almost completely yellow. The smoky smell has left the air, and now everything smells like moist dirt – one of my favorite fragrances. I visited a shop in Shelby called Country Heart, and there I learned that the owner of the building is looking to sell, so they will be moving “to something smaller.” At least they’re not going out of business, but the owner had much to say about the competition of the Internet. I also learned of some other country/primitive places nearby that were closing, and I came home wondering when this recession that everyone says is over will actually be over. It’s certainly not over in Western North Carolina.
Do I need anything from these shops? No, of course not. But like a lot of people, I like decorating for each holiday, and trends change – which is why they call them trends. I can buy a lot of this stuff on Etsy, Ebay, and even Amazon. And yes, perhaps I can save a little. But I can’t drive down a country road to get to Etsy, Ebay or Amazon. I can’t have a conversation with an Etsy, Ebay or Amazon shop owner. And I can’t walk into an Etsy, Ebay or Amazon shop and smell those cinnamon or maple syrup candles. I can’t pick up an item to see if it has some heft to it. And I can’t take it home with me and set it out right away and stare at it, happy with my purchase.
I get the Etsy, Ebay, and Amazon shopping experience. I buy almost all my books, dvds, cds, etc. from one or another. I’m even buying plumbing supplies and some architectural items for this home renovation. But when these little country/primitive/boutique-style shops are all gone, I am going to be completely miserable; not just missing the country drives, but missing my friends as well.