Oxford small business owner creates ‘new wave of craft culture’

Natalie Beth Seales
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

Bedelia and Earhart aren’t the only Amelias worth knowing.

Erin Austen Abbott is owner and founder of Amelia, a small Oxford shop on the Square since 2009 that houses products from around 200 artists.

“The theme [of Amelia] would be, ‘Where the new wave of craft culture meets design and makes it an art,’” said Abbott. “Nothing is mass produced; it’s all just small batch design in a small store.”

Shelby Kyser has been working at Amelia for 2.5 years. “It’s not about making money,” she said. “To me, it’s about finding smaller artists and supporting them. We do really really support artists. As an artist myself, that’s such a cool thing to do.”

While housing a variety of merchandise, such as stationery, school supplies, planners, various gifts, and even children’s clothing, the store is only 187 square feet.

“[The square footage is] definitely not an issue,” said Kyser. “This is the perfect place…I’ll just take the time and look around, because I’ll forget that we have some things, and we get in new things… You never know what all we have because we have so much so artfully placed.”

Abbott enjoys making everything work in the limited space. “The main thing I love is curating the store and picking everything out, and how it all flows together,” said Abbott. “I’m very visual, and I think that helps.”

Amelia is a unique store with an equally unique name. “I really wanted a name that signified a time when everything was handmade, because that’s just how it was,” said Abbott. “Amelia Bedelia and Amelia Earhart were two iconic Amelias that fit that classic name that I was looking for.”

While Earhart was a the first female pilot to fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean, Bedelia is the title character of a series of American children’s books written by Peggy Parish.

Abbott didn’t always live in Oxford, and her journey back to the Square gave her lots of life experience that she uses every day. The Oxford native moved to south Florida before her fourth grade year.

After graduating from the University of South Florida, she lived in Boston, St. Petersburg, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Memphis. She doesn’t regret her moves.

“Why not?” said Abbott. “I knew once I had a family or a steady career that I wasn’t going to be able to move all around, so I wanted to get it all out of my system.”

While Abbott enjoyed moving, she always longed to return to Oxford, where she had so many fond childhood memories. “I would move around, and I literally compared every place I moved to Oxford, and nothing matched up,” said Abbott.

Abbott is now a resident of Water Valley, located about 20 miles outside Oxford. “One thing I love about Water Valley is that it reminds me of Oxford in the ’80s,” said Abbott.

After spending a good portion of her life moving, Abbott feels happy in Water Valley. “It’s the longest I’ve ever lived in one place,” she said. “I’ve been there [Water Valley] for eleven and a half years,” said Abbott. “…I don’t see myself leaving any time soon. I absolutely love it there, even above all the other cities that I’ve lived.”

Part of the inspiration for Amelia came from a time when Abbott created merchandise for bands. She traveled around the country on tour, and her experience sparked the idea for a store.

“For all those years that I was touring with bands, we would get off the bus, and I would immediately set up my stuff, and then go find the cool record stores, or the little vintage shop, or the spot that was selling the stuff that you couldn’t find anywhere else,” said Abbott.

Her experiences in college also ignited her love of local artists. “All through college, I had worked in a really awesome vintage store, and this was pre-eBay,” she said. “And when I lived in Seattle, I worked in a shop similar to this [Amelia], in the mindset that everything was handmade from local artists. They were regional to the Pacific Northwest. And I just absolutely loved the idea of that,” said Abbott.

Amelia might be a small store, but it makes an impact on both Oxford and the Square.

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