I have this shop in downtown Southern Pines, NC and I would’ve never guessed what a strange and wonderful portal to the Universe it would become! It’s been an awesome opportunity for me to meet great people who I somehow have persuaded to be my friends, it has also introduced me to the Sunrise Theatre which I love and would’ve never had the nerve to volunteer had they not been my downtown neighbors. The shop has also introduced me to some real crazies. Like the time a Hobo ran into my shop looking for his cat Wolfie…a cat named Wolfie… or the bewildered coffee drinkers who think they are next door at Swank and mistakenly order their salted caramel mocha, Frappa, espresso, extra foam thingy’s, to me. From my perch on Broad Street I’ve met friends and discovered Southern Pines in a way I never could have imagined. My shop is called Mockingbird and here are a few of my favorite stories from my little nest on Broad Street. The good, the bad, the ugly…
One day several years ago a red- haired, smiling customer walked in to the shop and as she was perusing the baubles and books we struck up a conversation and before long we were chatting like old friends. I mentioned that I would be going to Jackson Hole in a few weeks for my first ski trip ever! (Hey, I’m from Florida- I swim!) She exclaimed that she used to live in Jackson Hole and absolutely loved it! She promised we would have a blast. The lovely customer gave us a list of great restaurants and must see spots around town and then to my utter disbelief she offered to let me borrow her ski clothes! Kristen exclaimed, “Ski clothes are so expensive there is no reason for you to buy anything for just one trip. I’ll go home and gather up what I have and drop them off.”
Have you ever heard of such a thing— a total stranger offering her ski wardrobe to a slob like me? I couldn’t believe my ears! I thanked her profusely and within a few days; good to her word she dropped off a huge bag of awesome cold weather gear which all fit perfect.
Weeks later when I was up in the Wyoming Mountains (absolutely shredding the bunny hills by the way…) people much cooler than me would compliment me on my “rad” jacket or “totally awesome” hat and I would simply throw my head back and say something like, “This old thing? It’s a limited addition, you can’t get it anymore.” Hey, they don’t need to know the details!
Every article she loaned was invaluable and perfect for the occasion. How do you ever truly show your appreciation for that sort of generosity? It’s been a few years since that chance encounter and Kristen and I have become great friends. She is my movie buddy and we are even in the same book club.
Working downtown has also given me the good fortune to work next door to the Sunrise Theatre which has turned out to be one of the best happy accidents of my life. Movies have been a passion of mine for years. In college I even took a Screenwriting course and wrote a full length screen play. I’m sure it’s still packed in a box in the dusty attic waiting for Weinstien or Paramount to cast Minnie Driver and Gerard Butler as the stars… hey a girl can dream can’t she?
I love being a volunteer for the Sunrise and being a part of a community that aspires to do right by our wonderful little town. So many vibrant characters work diligently to make the Sunrise Theatre a thriving place; a place for our community to come together and celebrate the arts in the Sandhills. I’m proud to say that I now Chair the committee that helps choose the films, but without the shop being next door to the theater, I really don’t know if I would’ve ever had the chutzpah to walk in and volunteer, but I’m so glad I did.
Of course it hasn’t all been unicorns and rainbows in my little downtown shop. I’ve met my share of absolute nut jobs. Take for instance the time a Hobo ran into my shop shouting for his cat Wolfie. I was pretty positive that the man was mistaken. After all, wouldn’t I notice if a Hobo cat ran into the shop, but then I saw something move from the corner of my eye and to my utter amazement a pretty little gray cat stuck his head out from under my counter and gave me a look as if to say, “Don’t rat me out Bro!” Turns out Wolfie the cat sprinted into my shop, presumably to get away from its odiferous owner. By the time I got the man’s attention he had worked himself into quite a frenzy and marched and fretted over every inch of the shop bellowing for his beloved companion. It wasn’t until he came towards the counter that I noticed something was very wrong. Turns out the Gent had cut his foot on something, somehow, and was bleeding pretty profusely. My face must’ve betrayed my inner horror as I now saw the bloody footprints which serpentined throughout the entire shop like an evil snail trail. Seeing my horror struck face he quickly said, “Oh yeah, cut my foot…”
He lifted his dirty bare foot up to show me that indeed his foot was cut and dripping blood. Seeing as I’m not the biggest fan of blood or bare feet (at least not in the confines of my shop) I asked him over the sound of the thumping pulse in my head and my own waning vision if he wanted me to call somebody like 911. That seemed to strike the wrong chord because the man quickly grabbed Wolfie and drug his bloody stump out of the shop all the while murmuring about a late train schedule.
After a few seconds of my head tucked firmly between my knees, my vision returned and the woozy sensation in my stomach diminished. I was able to lift my head and see clearly as I took in the full scope of what occurred. There were bloody footprints all over the store; my cute little shop now resembled a crime scene! I had visions of being in an episode of Law and Order. You know those first thirty seconds that sets up the entire episode- right before the iconic, “Dun Dun”.
I pulled myself together and got to work. I dumped every cleaning agent in my arsenal into my mop bucket and began industriously mopping every square inch. Customers occasionally would wander in and then discover the blood bath and beat a hasty retreat. Of course I would try and play the atrocity down, but the whole day sort of went like this:
“Welcome ladies, how are you…sorry for mopping during the day, please watch your step… What’s that?…Yes, that’s blood….what no, everyone is fine, you see a Hobo came in looking for his cat Wolfie…yes a cat…I don’t know why he named it Wolfie…Yes well, he was bleeding rather profusely and…what? Oh, Okay…Sure … well please come again.”
With eyes widening the unwitting customers slowly backed away and moved down the street never to return… When I finally finished cleaning and only tiny pools of Mr. Clean remained. I straightened up to stretch my back when to my utter disbelief, Wolfie the cat ran back in to the shop… and so it went for the rest of the day…
Then there are those customers who are accidental. They march in assuredly and make a B-line for the counter and proudly recite their coffee order. When I explain they are in the wrong store the response is mixed. Some blink owlishly and consider my words thoughtfully and leave without another word, others become defiant and demand to know when we moved locations! Because the coffee shop and my shop are carbon copies of one another I can see how the mistake can be made… to a point. Some customers mistakenly wander over to a section of my store and ask where the creamer or coffee sleeves are, pawing blindly at the stationary display before them. As nicely as I can, I inform them that sugar packets and lids are next door in the exact same spot—just one shop over. Once a customer waltzed in barked out her special coffee order and began smelling candles while waiting for her imaginary order to be completed all the while oblivious to her surroundings. When I tried to explain that she was probably looking for the coffee shop next door. She responded without looking up; immersed in the business of candle smelling, “I think I know where I am. Thank you- did I say large because I really need a large.” Why I never! The nerve of some folks! Lastly, there is my favorite kind of accidental customer; the ones who smile sheepishly at their own silly mistake and give a light hearted laugh at finding themselves in in this funny little predicament.
Throughout the years I’ve enjoyed meeting customers and hearing what’s new in their lives: new babies, weddings, graduations, a good book recommendation. Some stop in regularly and give me a full update, while others just have time to wave as they walk their dogs or run errands. Some I just see for the big holidays; Christmas, Mother’s Day, Easter, etc. I catch up with them as they busily shop for loved ones and I feel such fondness and appreciation to be a small part of their lives. I owe so much to my little shop in downtown, but I could have never guessed that a small town gift shop could become a sort of strange and wonderful portal to the universe…and beyond.
This one’s for you Wolfie, wherever you are…