Karen Barrett knows that shopping for that perfect gift for a loved one can be a challenging task. That is why she puts so much effort into curating a unique collection of merchandise at her downtown Milledgeville store, Eclectic.
“If somebody’s looking for a gift, I have something for anybody,” said Barrett.
Reflecting the store’s name, Eclectic offers a wide variety of items that are not likely found in other stores in the area. Barrett drew inspiration from shopping in such trendy towns as Savannah and Dahlonega, Ga. when creating the template for her store in 2014. She felt that Milledgeville needed a shop that would offer such unique gift and home décor items.
“I wanted to offer things that nobody else had,” said Barrett.
Barrett had previously owned stores in traditional mall and strip mall settings, but she chose downtown Milledgeville for Eclectic because of its charming environment.
“This is more quaint, and it has more character,” said Barrett.
Eclectic recently celebrated its fifth anniversary in October, and Barrett continues to stay busy running all aspects of her business, including buying inventory, setting up displays, hosting special events and working with local artists.
In addition to selling a variety of housewares and home décor items such as clocks, lamps, signs and shelves, Eclectic also offers accessories such as scarves, ponchos, kimonos and baseball caps. Another popular product line Barrett offers is a variety of jewelry.
“I have a lot of customers that come in on a regular basis and shop the jewelry,” said Barrett. “We have trendy earrings, bracelets and necklaces.”
Barrett also likes to stay tuned into the various specialized themes of products her customers enjoy, such as animal-themed items, camping-themed items and products promoting local life on both the Oconee River and Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee.
“We continue to be really successful with the lake residential population because they know that we offer maps and signs [featuring Lake Sinclair],” said Barrett.
In fact, Barrett has found a variety of ways to support the local community through her store. Eclectic sells T-shirts for the Oconee River Greenway and features work from local artists, authors and musicians for consignment in the store. Additionally, the store hosts regular art shows featuring paintings, drawings, photographs, ceramics and more from local artists. Art shows are often held on Friday evenings and during Saturday business hours, and the shows allow customers to meet with artists and see a broader collection of their work. Several of these artists can even customize items for customers.
“I have a lot of local artists that can custom design items like metal works items or paintings and drawings,” said Barrett.
Barrett can work with customers in the store to place such custom orders, and signs can be made in “any kind of style you can think of.”
Eclectic also features soy-based candles made by one of Barrett’s friends and colleagues. The candles often come in fun shapes or in trendy containers. When the candles burn down, customers can return to the store with their container to have it refilled.
For shoppers looking for good deals, Barrett often arranges a section of sale items on the back porch of the store. Eclectic also offers a variety of special deals during Milledgeville’s monthly First Friday event downtown.
In addition to attracting lake residents, college students and their parents and other locals, Barrett often welcomes shoppers who are tourists visiting town. When they wander into her store, she says the out-of-town visitors are often “pleasantly surprised.”
“They love the town,” said Barrett. “They’ll talk about how great the little town is.”
While she admits that local residents are sometimes hesitant to shop downtown because of parking, Barrett points out that the parking situation is actually just fine, especially if you come at the right time of day.
“You’re not going to walk as far to go a block to get into a store as you would to go to the milk department at Walmart,” said Barrett.
In fact, Barrett makes a point of encouraging downtown shopping by often referring her customers to check out other boutiques and restaurants that are near Eclectic.
“If we support one another, we’re going to build the whole downtown,” said Barrett.
When asked about her favorite part of owning and operating Eclectic, Barrett points to her interactions with the customers and the joy she gets from helping someone find the perfect gift.
“I have a lot of people who come back to me and tell me that their gifts were a hit, and I love to hear that,” said Barrett. “Because that’s kind of what I’m here for, is to help people find something that’s just fun and different.”
Address: 132 N. Wayne St., Milledgeville
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.