Hanging in a front window of Strictly Country is an assortment of stained glass suncatchers.
As the sun shines into the window overlooking the busy Washington Road intersection, the colorful shards of glass glisten and seemingly reflect the growth seen in the area since Strictly Country opened in 1987.
The corner of Washington and North Belair Roads will soon change once again after the retail gift store, an Evans fixture, closes its doors for business Saturday.
Owner Rachel Robertson recently announced she’d close the store with plans of spending more time with her family and traveling.
The 84-year-old, a lifelong resident of Evans, said her emotional ties to the property and the memories made throughout the years made it a difficult decision.
“I am overwhelmed with pride at what I have established,” she said tearfully. “The history of my building and the memories I have are priceless.”
Decades before opening Strictly Country, Robertson fondly remembers her trips as a child to the small white building with blue shutters.
Built in about 1930, the structure then served as a teacher’s cottage for the Evans School, the only school for Columbia County pupils at the time, Robertson recalled.
That school, formerly on the opposite side of Washington and North Belair roads, later became Evans High School and Evans Middle School before the site was sold for commercial development.
“As a student, I would eagerly volunteer to put coals in the heaters with the hopes of getting a little bit of extra credit or brownie points,” said Robertson, the widow of former Columbia County commissioner Vince Robertson.
The stones used in part of the construction for the cottage, including its chimneys, are the same local field stones from which the Evans schools’ arch and pillars are made. Those structures were moved several years ago and now are placed behind the Columbia County Library.
Born and raised less than a mile away from the store, Robertson’s family later purchased three acres at the Evans street corner, which housed the former’s teacher cottage.
Years later, after raising five children, Robertson jumped at the opportunity of joining a business venture with two other women to open a craft store, which later evolved into Strictly Country.
The store has remained popular for shoppers trying to find seasonal decorations, unique collectibles or other home furnishings. Throughout the years, Robertson has expanded onto the original building for additional space.
“It will be missed,” said Harlem resident Theresa Morris, who was browsing the store’s collections of magnets Tuesday with her daughter.
The pair said they wanted to come to shop in the store one last time before it closed.
Another customer, Lorraine Davis, said she was sad to learn of the store’s pending closure.
“I can always find what I wanted here,” the Martinez resident said.
For sales associate Shirley Ligon, starting a new job after the store closes will be a big adjustment.
“My car just wants to automatically come this way for work,” said Ligon, who has worked there for 18 years.
Though Robertson realizes the store is situated on prime commercial property, she is steadfast in her decision of preserving the historical value of the site and has no plans of selling it.
Robertson’s son-in-law, state Rep. Lee Anderson, will use the building as his campaign headquarters while he runs for the 12th District congressional seat.
“I told my children that I would just sit in my rocking chair on the front porch of my building enjoying the scenery and remaining merchandise in my store before giving it away to someone that has no heart for the integrity of Columbia County,” she said.