The Salisbury Emporium: Retail Relaxation
An antique pump organ. Stylish hand-made handbags. Kitschy advertising items from the 50’s. Fine art from local artists. Military collectibles. If you’ve got an eclectic holiday shopping list this year, the Salisbury Emporium might just be your one-stop shop.
“It’s all about the variety,” says Emporium co-owner Betty Black. “It sounds like a cliché, but there really is something for everyone.” Of course, at the Salisbury Emporium, that variety is by design. “I have one flag shop, and that’s all I’m going to have,” says Black. “To do otherwise wouldn’t be fair to my shop owners, nor to my customers.”
There are more than 85 little shops, boutiques, and galleries here, all under the roof of a three-story building built in 1905 by the Overman family. At first, this building just off of the railroad tracks served as a wholesale grocery store, but eventually it was bought by the Frick Company and became a place to buy farm equipment and industrial supplies. To this day, faded paint on the old red brick building offers steam engines and saw mills to passersby of a bygone era.
In fact, the history that echoes through the building itself is an added benefit to the Salisbury Emporium shopping experience. “We have a building unlike any other,” says Black. “Some people just come in to wander through the shops and listen to the music. It can be very relaxing.”
The idea that holiday shopping can be relaxing might strike most people as bizarre, but Salisbury Emporium shop owners insist that it’s true. Over the holidays, a large Christmas tree adorns the center of the building, and seasonal music softly echoes through the shops and galleries. Even the aroma of the building, with hints of candles and potpourri, can give one the feeling of an old-fashioned holiday at home.
Then, of course, there’s the shopping itself. Women will likely enjoy the handcrafted items or the figurines and the unique jewelry collections, while men might marvel at the old-timey golf clubs, the military memorabilia, or the vintage 50’s items from Cheerwine or John Deere. Even kids can get into the act, finding unique wooden toys or teddy bears decked out in a favorite college sweatshirt.
Black says many of her visitors are traveling through Salisbury on their own or with a tour group, but some are repeat customers making the trip from cities like Raleigh or Greensboro or Charlotte. Some have even discovered the place while waiting for the 6:13 P.M. Amtrak Piedmont, which arrives and departs less than 100 yards from the Emporium’s doorstep. “They’ll keep coming back,” she says, “because each time, they’ll find something different.”
Of course, the fact that many of the items here are one-of-a-kind can also be frustrating. That item you thought about purchasing on your last visit may be gone tomorrow. Even so, merchants here believe you’ll still be able to find something for every name on your gift list at the Salisbury Emporium… and they hope that either way, you’ll have fun looking.
The Salisbury Emporium is located at 230 East Kerr Street in Salisbury, and is open Tuesday through Sunday. For more information call (704) 642-0039.
added: December 15, 2008
updated: February 2, 2010