It was a Thursday lunch at Willy T's that changed Corey Kirkland's life forever.
During that quick meal with her parents, she put the plans in place to purchase Southern Charm and put her stamp on the downtown scene.
“Years ago, when I worked for the Chamber of Commerce, I was approached with possibly buying Southern Charm,” Kirkland said. “However, at that time, it wasn’t something I could do. A few years later, I had another chance and took it.”
Southern Charm has been a part of Kirkland’s life in Eufaula since returning home from a job after college. Numerous lunch breaks and afternoons were spent in the old storefront, a spot Kirkland called “her happy place.”
After purchasing the business, Kirkland made a handful of changes but made it a point to keep Southern Charm as true to its roots as possible.
So, what is Southern Charm? Kirkland said that in its truest form her store is akin to the general stores of yesteryear.
“The best way to describe Southern Charm is it’s like walking in to an old time general store, said Kirkland. “We carry a little bit of everything, such as clothes, home décor, toys, baby items, gifts, gourmet items and more. We don’t necessarily have a niche as far as a particular item. I think our niche is that we strive to carry as many American made items as possible, and as many southern-made items.”
The boutique shop offers many locally-made and crafted items and gifts that can’t be found elsewhere.
“Everything that is in here is selected by us for the people of Eufaula,” Kirkland said. “We pick things we think they will like to have or use as gifts. In big box stores, those decisions are made by someone in another state that doesn’t know the community the products are going in to.”
Southern Charm has been a part of the Broad Street scene since opening in 2001. The retail market in downtown Eufaula is booming in 2017, but that hasn’t always been the case.
Kirkland remembers a time when many downtown storefronts were vacant and collecting dust. She is proud to be a part of the thriving downtown atmosphere and has an idea on what could make the area even better: the more, the merrier.
“I feel like all the stores downtown complement each other very well,” Kirkland said. “We strive very hard to not carry any other items that other downtown stores carry. The more stores and shops that are open makes it better for everyone. Shopping Eufaula first is a big deal, but if there is only one store open on Saturday; no one is going to shop. We need to have 20 stores open so people think it is worth their while to stay. It’s not about just shopping with us. It’s about shopping with everyone.”
Kirkland and staff – which the owner says she couldn’t get by without – are busy planning for the annual Downtown Holiday Open House and a busy Christmas season. But outside of the hustle and bustle of planning and operating her own business, Kirkland is still just a Eufaula girl at heart.
She loves her town and is proud to be a part of it. She sees a bright future for the community, and it all comes down to one thing no other place on earth can lay claim to.
“The biggest thing about Eufaula that attracts people are the people that live here,” said Kirkland.
“There is a sense of community here and the people rally together and support one another. The friendliness and kindness of the people goes a long way, and is probably the biggest selling point of Eufaula.”
For more information on Southern Charm or its inventory, check out its social media pages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter; or stop by the downtown Eufaula location at 109 E. Broad Street.