“It makes me sad to close the shop because I love what I do, and our business is the best it has ever been, but the time is right to sell the building because I have a new roof and new HVAC system,” Barbara said. She would have loved to sell the shop as well, but those interested in buying it did not want to own the building, and Barbara was not interested in being a landlord.
“My children have been after me for quite a while, encouraging me to retire,” Barbara said.
She has two daughters, a son, and eight grandchildren she plans to see more often.
Barbara first started the shop in her home in 1982. After a year with the shop at home, Barbara said her customers gave her the courage to move to the downtown shopping center in Oak Ridge, where her 15-foot wide store was located in Argonne Plaza in the former Back Stage location.
In 1984, The Ferrell Shop became an approved Colonial Williamsburg Gift and Accessory Shop. When the shopping center was being converted to a mall, she moved in 1989 to the Karen’s Jeweler’s building on the Oak Ridge Turnpike. There, her space and inventory expanded, and her customer base grew.
In 1996, she had the opportunity to move her shop to Historic Jackson Square, occupying the former Samuel’s Men’s Store in the original Town Site. She, her family and contractors totally remodeled the space, removing four layers of flooring to find original hardwood floors and uncovering storefront windows to let the light in. Barbara painted the black-and-white checked floor in The Pantry. Her gift shop space increased to more than 3,000 square feet, with similar space in the basement for storage and offices.
“We are going to miss our customers, more than anyone would probably suspect,” Barbara said. “We are so lucky. We almost never have a grumpy customer. So many of them have become our friends through the years. We will miss those customers who come in for greeting cards and say we have the best in town. We will miss those who come in saying they don’t need anything right now, that they just need a peaceful place to be for a while.
“We are going to miss selling football tickets to home games, Flatwater Tales, and other events because we get to see people we ordinarily don’t see. We like being the place customers bring their out-of-town guests and the place people call to ask for Dean’s (restaurant) phone number or almost any information about Jackson Square or Oak Ridge.”
She has appreciated the support of so many customers throughout the years, from Oak Ridge, Knoxville, and surrounding communities, and especially those who purposely supported the shop during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“I also owe so much to my co-workers, former co-workers, friends, and family for support and understanding. I’ve been so fortunate.”
Barbara and her co-workers are also going to miss being part of the Jackson Square neighborhood. The businesses there support each other, making it a nice place to work. It is a gathering place for people of all ages and it is home to festivals and events, including the annual Lavender Festival that Barbara has organized since 1999.
The Lavender Festival will continue, she said, with plans already underway for the June 15 event next year. In the last few years, more people have become involved in planning and executing the event. She’s looking toward to a time when she will ease her responsibility for the festival, but that likely won’t be soon.
Now through Oct. 14, the planned closing day, all the merchandise will be 20% off. The Ferrell Shop will be accepting gift cards through Oct. 14. There will be a table with further reduced items. All displays will be for sale, including the fireplace wall. Basement Sale No. 2 will be held behind the building Friday and Saturday, Oct. 6 and 7. The plan is for Whitley Peanut Factory and other food products to be available at Calamity’s Coffee in Jackson Square after the shop closes.
“My hope is that someone will want to do something that serves the same purpose as The Ferrell Shop has,” she said. “I think it should have its own identity and have a bigger online presence than we do. Otherwise, where are all those people who want to shop locally, support our local economy going to shop in a locally owned store? Where are the people who come from Knoxville, because it is easier to get here and easier to park than shopping in Knoxville, going to shop? What about those who come in saying, I just need a little retail therapy?”
Her many customers hope for that, too.
This article originally appeared on Oakridger: Longtime Oak Ridge business The Ferrell Shop closing after 40+ years