Downtown Icon to Close

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Story By Hannah Lester
Photos By Josh Fisher

Heritage Gifts and Gourmet, located on 8th Street in downtown Opelika is closing after 28 years.

The shop was the passion project of Barbara Patton, owner of Heritage Gifts. For years, shoppers have been able to browse the walls for estate-sale finds, vintage clothing, Christmas gifts, Jim Shore and more.

“It’s different; it’s got a little bit of everything,” Patton said.

The shop was originally part of the Heritage House bed-and-breakfast, selling items to guests that they may have forgotten at home — toothpaste and clothes for example. There were collectibles too, such as Department 56 villages and snow babies.

Eventually Heritage House was sold to new owners and the shop was moved to 108 S. 8th St. in 2004.

At one time, the back of Heritage Gifts was used as an artist’s location. Different artists displayed their work there. Too, the shop used to sell a lot of coffee, but when more coffee shops started cropping up, Patton said they didn’t want to encroach on that territory.

So, the business changed over the years.

photos by josh fisher / for the observer

The last few years of the shop, Patton worked with individuals to display their goods. One of the artists who used to display her work now brings in items she’s purchased at estate sales.

Some of the more popular items are the gourmet foods, Patton said, and of course, Christmas decor.

The Christmas decor, like the Department 56 Villages, isn’t just popular for the most wonderful time of the year, but all year long.

“People might come in and buy an anniversary gift, or a birthday gift, a wedding gift, sometimes people like to give a church [Department 56 village], get [the couple] started,” Patton said. “Some people have collected a lot of this for a long time, so they’re collected out. And not many people sell these anymore, so I have a lot people coming in saying, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you still sold this.’”

Patton has been the sole owner of the shop, but she has a couple of employees to help her out. Part of the difficulty in running Heritage Gifts comes with the technology side of the business. However, making a large profit was not her goal, Patton said.

“If I had to make a living out in this shop, I wouldn’t be here,” she said.

The charm of the business is the people, Patton said. Friends will stop by just to talk.

“I love the people coming in here, visiting with the people and finding out their stories,” she said. “It’s the connections, and the people, and the relationships and staying involved.”

However, Patton decided that it was time to close the business.

“About a year ago and thinking about my age, I knew it was probably time to think about deciding on the future of the business,” Patton said. ” If I closed, I didn’t want to leave an empty building downtown. So at around that time, I  told Ken Ward at Opelika Main Street that if someone came along and this building was a fit for their business, I would entertain an offer.”

Opelika Main Street decided that the building would be a great fit for its organization and a contract was signed. Patton said she was excited to see what the future holds for Main Street.

“I am excited for the plans that Opelika Main Street has and look forward to seeing the building after their renovation and move in.”

Closing is bittersweet for Patton however.

“After 28 years in business and enjoying it, it is bittersweet to leave.  I will miss all the interactions with my customers. At the same time, I am looking forward to having a little more free time.  I have worked almost every Saturday for all those years and having weekends available to make plans more easily will be a welcome change.

“I want to thank all my customers for their support over the years. I have enjoyed working with all my employees and appreciate their love for the store. I hope everyone will continue to shop local and also to support all the downtown businesses.”

The last day for Heritage Gifts and Gourmet will be Monday, Jan. 31.

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