Two weeks ago I addressed students in the retail-merchandising program at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Anyone who has driven the long, still, back roads between my home in Athens, Georgia and Tallahassee knows of the “Pin-worthy” sites along the way: moss-laden live oaks, dilapidated barns, cows grazing in a junkyard where the cars are overgrown with ivy. But the lawn of gorgeous, weathered ceramic containers picture here, located in a small stretch of road between Warwick and Sylvester, Georgia (just past that field of collard greens on Hwy 300 beyond Albany if I was directing another Southerner) forced me to hit the brakes.
I turned around, pulled into the drive and before I could get out of my car, owner, Jennifer Davis, ambled out to welcome me. “You are in Oakfield, Georgia,” she reported in the sweetest Southern drawl, “and you are standing in the middle of my blessing!” Jennifer is a trained interior designer who moved from bustling Atlanta back to her family farm. She bought Purdy Antique’s a few years ago and restored the main shop that now houses a selection of French and English antiques and some contemporary art. In a warehouse out back, a local craftman designs (together with Jennifer) and builds furniture from reclaimed wood. Also heirloom quality, they are signed and dated before going out the door.
As for the pottery? “Oh, they’re just my advertising!” says Jennifer. “They are a well-made assortment from Italy, Mexico, Southeast Asia, and they really do get people to stop.”
By the end of my time at Purdy’s Antiques I had made a new friend, committed to two large vessels that are so heavy I have to go back and retrieve them with a van I don’t even own and, quite remarkably, sold a book. Like a true Southerner, she had many questions about where I had been and about the subject of my talk at FSU and before I could even finish telling her about Recipe for Press she had decided, “I just have to have the book!” Her goal: to see Purdy’s on the pages of Southern Living or Garden & Gun. I’d say she’s that much closer.
Everyone has a story and, I suppose, I’m the curious type who will always turn the car around to hear another. And I’m a richer person for it.