Our Crew member, Betz Golden takes us on her gypsy travels to Fayetteville, North Carolina.
It is a city rich in history with passionate locals devoted to building downtown. The buildings are brick with funky and fun shops that maintain the historical integrity of the original area.
Fayetteville is located near Fort Bragg boosting of a large population. It is a “Boom Town” as a result of Germany’s invasion of Western Europe in 1940. The invasion was a warning that America had to be prepared to defend itself. The Army infused a lot of money into the construction of Fort Bragg. Workers from all over North Carolina constructed dwelling places for thousands of new volunteers, soldiers and draftees taking the population from 5,000 to 66,000 troops. President Roosevelt visited Fayetteville and Fort Bragg in 1941. Though impressed, Mrs Roosevelt, had concerns about expansion and its impact Fort Braff would have on Fayetteville.
In the 1960’s Fayetteville started to get a bad reputation. The soldiers would come downtown to visit the bars and look for entertainment. Early morning, a bus from the base would come and round up the soldiers and take them back to Fort Bragg. Fayetteville was nicknamed ‘Fayettenam’ because of it. Sadly, the city still had a bad reputation that it is desperately trying to shake.
I got a first-hand experience with this stigma associated with Fayetteville as I was trying to research what to do online. I really could not find any good recommendations beyond the Airborne and Special Operation Museum (which is a must). It was advised to steer clear of downtown as there was not much to do. However, once I ventured downtown and started to explore, I was pleasantly surprised!
Downtown Fayetteville is one of the most interesting places I have visited. The shop owners are exceptionally friendly and willing to help and give suggestions. There is nothing better than a local’s recommendation of what to see and where to eat. I also was impressed with the sense of community the shops had with one another. No one was in competition with the other. They all were striving to build downtown up and wanted each other to be successful. It was refreshing to see this neighborly attitude in modern day where we all keep to ourselves for the most part.
My first stop was A Bit of Carolina. Robin Matthews is the store owner. She is a friendly down to earth gal with tons of recommendations on what to see and where to eat in the area. Her lunch recommendation was the best place I ate during my visit. Her store is a wonderful collection of 76 local vendors ranging from sassy cup cozies to helicopters and planes made out of beer cans. I personally was drawn to the Mrs. Claus wine bottle cozie. However, my very favorite thing in her shop was the birdhouses made from a Dr. Seuss book that a local teacher created.
The next shop was Cornerstone Design owned by Tianna Dean. I was immediately blown away by the lovely fragrance of the store and its barnyard style. It is white, fresh and crisp. The owner is a bubbly energetic lady that has a smile that can light up a room. She told me her husband is retired military and has taken a liking to furniture making. Everything in the store is made by him. One special feature of this store is the chalkboard paint class for $75 that is offered. It is seasonal and each participant walks away with a 2 by 2 chalkboard to display in their home they created in class under the guidance of a knowledgeable artist.
I was tickled pink when my next stop was Winterbloom Tea. I love tea and prefer it over coffee in the morning. The owner, Josh, was one of the most knowledgeable people on the area. We talked for 1.5 hours as I sipped on my loose leaf tea that I had him custom make for me. He gave me the history of Fayetteville and why downtown is struggling. He opened the tea shop after traveling to China with his wife in which he not only learned how and why to brew different teas different ways, but also the health benefits. He is knowledgeable and his stope specializes in everything related to tea – including soap!
Once I finished my tea I headed off to Top of the Hill Boutique owned by Ms. Kellie whom has the sweetest southern accent and impeccable manners. The boutique specializes in monograming anything and everything. It is full of unique products that rotate out seasonally. It is important to Ms. Kellie that everyone has something that is one of a kind. The turn around time for monograming is one week. I asked her about the customers who were just passing through and would not be there for a week. She told me she would do it that day and suggest different stores and where to go to grab a bite to eat as she made the monogram, thus reaffirming downtown is a community of neighbors whom work together. One of my favorite things I saw in her shop was the cups that can keep drinks cold or hot in a slew of styles. The monogram options on these are darling! The store will have a new name in January 2018 – Kellie’s on Hay (Hay is the name of the street).
For my late lunch, I headed over to Circa 1800 which was recommended by every local. It is high end southern cuisine and only open for lunch from 11:00 – 2:30, dinner 5:00 – 9:00 and special brunch hours on the weekend. The ambiance is elegant and the best food I ate in town. I started my lunch with sweet tea and House soup. The sweet tea was traditional southern tea and the soup was amazing! It had a tomato broth with black eyed peas and collard greens. It was probably the best soup I have ever had in a restaurant. For the main entrée I had shrimp and grits served with delicious collard greens. They had a bacon and brown sugar glaze. The entire lunch experience was top notch. The next night I returned for dinner in which I ordered the same thing.
I spent the rest of the day and the following exploring the antique stores that really should be called a district. My plan was to only spend one day exploring downtown, however I ended up needing two. The antique stores really could take an entire day – especially if you are on the hunt for something!
My first stop was White Trash and Colorful Accessories. This shop had some of the most unique pieces I’ve ever seen. There was a shelf of vintage looking heads that were gorgeous! The new on-trend make your own leather bracelet were displayed on the coolest steampunk hand and wrist mobile. The owner has a deep admiration for Paris that was influential through out the shop. Beautiful handmade beaded purses and wallets paying homage to the vintage era were displayed in the front of the store. Cleverly placed next to them were sassy saying pendants and keychains with an mixed media flair. Of course there was the royal looking crown next to funky antique finds repurposed as bird feeders for a garden. My very favorite thing in the store was the steampunk cake. I gasped when I saw it and wished I had enough room to take one home. This store was a delightful experience, but it got better! The store gave homemade white trash candy out to all the visitors. A crockpot in the front of the store was a welcome sight to those wanting a sweet treat. I purchased a key chain and was delighted with the packaging! Not only was it cute, but it also contained an adorable sassy post card and magnet with the recipe to the White Trash candy on it.
Prime and Proper (which also houses the Empty Nester) was my next stop. I literally gasped when I stepped through the door. The walls were a beautiful dark chalkboard color and it was decked out in repurposed finds using antiques. This store appeals to the dainty vintage inspired home that loves tea time as well as the industrial farmhouse that delivers meals from the tailgate of a pick up truck to the hardworking ranchers. I had the pleasure of chatting with one of the owners (Empty Nester as she was crafting an awesome tree made out of an old quilt and metal type poker). 95% of the store is made up pf things the owners create. I adored the banners made with old pages from books, displays in jars and wreaths made from rusted out metal pieces. Empty Nester got it’s name because her kids were all leaving home and she was going to be an empty nester. She wanted something to take up her time, so she bought part of the shop. She loves what she does and enjoys sharing her passion with anyone who visits the shop.
My last stop of the day took me to probably the most well known antique store in the area. It actually is not just one store – but two! The Cotton Exchange and Livery is the mother ship for all antique lovers. It is housed in what appears to be an old barn or factory by the railroad. The first shop had fun finds rom records in old wooden crates to lovely displays of what could be kitchens and dinning rooms from the early 1900s. The gal working the afternoon I was there was friendly and helpful.
The other building that was part of the shop had the best entrance. It was a rusty door with a welcome sign. The set up was different than the first building. It reminded me of an antique mall in which vendors rented booths. Each booth was different and worth exploring. Above the booths doors lined the walls. There was a grand looking cash register in the back with old statues on either side.
I finished the day with a stop at the local brewery on Hay street. I ordered a margarita at the bar and was quite impressed with the architect of the building and dinning option on the second floor reserved for special events. There are specials every night and tons of local beer to chose from. The ambiance alone makes it worth a visit.
On my second day, I visited the Airborne and Special Operation Museum that is sponsored by the US Army. This really is a must visit spot that will take up about two hours of your day. It gives an excellent history of the area, World War II, Vietnam and Desert Storm. It is free to visit, but donations are welcome. The flight stimulator is a great experience that may leave you a little dizzy. There is a fee to ride it, but well worth it. One of my favorite things about the museum an exhibit a group of kindergartners created. It was a 3-D map of their town. The class used everyday items to create it. Post it notes were used as streets, paper bags for houses, and paper towel rolls for helicopters and flag poles. The creativity of these youngsters was remarkable and I can only imagine the teacher is fantastic!
From the museum to downtown is a short walk. I passed the police station that used to be the whore house (this was done on purpose to tell the community Fayetteville is no longer that type of place). City Hall was next and the beautiful Methodist Church that is a historical landmark with breath taking stain glass windows is across the street.
Southern Alternative was my first shop stop Tuesday! The staff was super friendly and extended that southern charm. It had the décor of vintage chick with a HUGE ornate mirror, brick walls and chandlers that housed sassy sarcastic on trend products. The mix was unexpected, yet perfect. Items include cuts that say “You used to be my cup of tea, but now I drink beer.”, “Crafty B****!” keychains, and sweatshirts that sparkled “Santa’s favorite Ho”. It truly did live up to it’s name – Southern Alternative.
My last stop before dinner (back at the Circa 1800) was The Shops 123. This was a huge antique type mall located in the center of downtown. It had lots of fun and unusual finds ranging from rulers in a rusty tin can to an old big traffic light. The owner of this shop was Joy and she has been open the longest out of every shop I visited – 7 years. She provided me with a map of all the antique stores in North Carolina and had nothing but wonderful things to say about all the other antique store in the area. She made sure that I had paid a visit to all of them downtown!
After I visited the Shops 123, I made my way to the local coffee house – Rude Awakening, to enjoy the afternoon and reboot my system with a cup of Joe and to my delight a gluten free treat (I had several options). All the locals raved about this place and I knew I needed to check it out. Not only is the coffee and food delicious, the store is funky in décor with signed albums from Olivia Newton John to other artists. There is a charming patio in the back – like a secret garden, for customers.
I ended my trip with wine tasting at the Wine Café. Once again the gal working was friendly, knowledgeable and full of passion about
the store and area. I was able to sample 4 or 5 different wines through a machine dispensary. The gal working gave great suggestions on which wines to choose and why. Thought I did not leave with a bottle, I did leave with a slight buzz and warm appreciation for this downtown and people that make it up.
Fayetteville exceeded my expectations. The reputation of it being a dangerous trashy area is farthest from the truth. The shop owners love this area and are working hard on seeing it thrive once again. The shops each maintain the historical integrity of the buildings they are in while striving to lose the negative reputation associated with the area. I highly recommend a visit to Fayetteville. There is something for everyone with plenty to do.
I just wish I had an extra day.
See you next time!