Milledgeville is home to many colorful and eclectic treasures from the past and new additions to the downtown strip are bringing vintage charm to life.
The Market Collective, Upcycle and Eclectic are three boutiques all located on North Wayne Street, each with their own unique backstory that have influenced their individualized shopping experiences.
Eclectic, which opened last October, is the newest addition to the quaint boutiques along the downtown strip. Offering a wide variety of jewelry, gifts and other trinkets that embody an eclectic charm, the store’s name is a true testament to what’s inside.
Though the store may be fairly young, owning and operating a retail store is nothing new for owner Karen Barrett, the former owner of Monograms & More. After taking some time away from the business world to focus on her family, Barrett says that her self-motivation, creativity and energy inspired her to launch her newest business endeavor.
“I wanted to bring a nice, cozy atmosphere to Milledgeville that had a different look and unique items,” Barrett said. “Being eclectic, I wanted to cover a diverse range of people’s ideas and tastes with this shop.”
Some of Barrett’s favorite pieces include her metal and wooden vintage signs. The signs have pre-designed images on them, but can be personalized with names or locations.
Barrett aimes to set the tone for her boutique by creating more than just another gift shop. She creates an overall memorable experience for her customers by playing eclectic blends of music and hosting out-of-the-box events like book signings by local authors.
Most of the items that Barrett carries in her store are made in America, with some even being made locally by refugees making jewelry to sell for a living. In order to appeal to a mass audience, Barrett is beginning to carry gifts for graduations, baby showers, weddings and other major life events for both men and women.
“I try to find things that I haven’t seen anywhere else,” said Barrett. “My goal is to not buy into the mainstream…I want to be eclectic.”
The Peelers have been bringing creativity to Milledgeville for over 25 years. Having previously owned a floral shop, they now give new life to recycled items by repurposing them into functional works of art.
Inspired mainly by what she calls today’s era of repurposing, Phyllis Peeler dreamed up the idea to open Upcycle through a combination of her love of crafting and simple financial need. Her husband, Walter Peeler, works for the city as a fireman and construction worker. Opening the store was a way for the two of them to work together while making an income.
“She wanted to try to find something that would help with the finances, keep her busy and keep me off the roofs,” Mr. Peeler said.
While Mrs. Peeler enjoys spending quality time with her husband, she says that the social aspect of owning the boutique is the greatest part.
Looking around the rustic-inspired store, the couple’s talent for repurposing is clear. Some previous creations include a wine rack made from a hollowed-out drum, a towel rack made from a wooden plank and a horse stirrup and even an ottoman made from an old tire. All of the original pieces are completely unrecognizable, taking on their new, upcycled life.
Since day one, the best selling item has been signature shadow box tables made by the Peelers. The tables have a removable windowpane top that allows people to display their trinkets underneath the glass while still using the surface as a coffee table. Customers can personalize the shadow box tables by requesting specific paint colors, techniques and designs — the same with any of the other pieces in the shop.
Though they have learned to manage the paperwork that comes along with owning their own business, the Peelers have also had to learn to keep up their inventory since all of the items are handmade by the owners.
“There is so much stuff that people consider to be junk, but if repurposed can turn into very beautiful and functional pieces,” Mrs. Peeler said. “It’s all so much fun to make and people seem to love them.”
The Market Collective
With vintage treasures lining the walls and floor, The Market Collective feels like a real-life Pinterest board. Offering a wide collection of vintage décor, furniture, art and clothing, owner Donna Collins says her inspiration for her store stems from her passion for both vintage pieces and downtown Milledgeville.
“I’m very passionate about downtown, and when I decided to open this shop, it was really important to me that that’s where it was located,” Collins said.
The store’s most unique selling point is that it offers customers the option to rent pieces instead of buying them. Collins explained that her signature pieces include a rustic orange loveseat and custom metal light signs that can be shaped into most letters and symbols found on a typical keyboard.
“I think we’re bringing a new option where you can rent any type of piece with a vintage flare,” she said. “They are things that everyone loves to use in photo shoots or at their weddings, and we know we’d have a hard time replacing them, so we offer rentals.”
A banker by profession, Collins had an idea of starting her own business but admitted that she sought help from a small business support center in Milledgeville that offers free services to startup business owners.
She plans to continue growing the business into something she can enjoy after she retires from banking.
Longtime friend of Collins and part time volunteer at the shop, Gloria Prance supports her friend in her business endeavor.
“I’ve known Donna for 25 years and this store has always been her dream,” Prance said. “I’m so glad it has finally come to fruition.”