Somewhere over a rack of artsy clothing, unique jewelry, kooky cards, yodeling pickles and fire-breathing wind-up nun toys, there's a bittersweet milestone that Priscilla Bahr has reached.
After 40 years of calling Fair Haven her business home, she is closing the doors on her cozy, eclectic River Road boutique, Nature's Emporium, at the end of February.
What's next for Bahr? She's not quite sure yet. But what has now become her short-term future that somehow arrived with the speed of an overnight shipment of store merchandise is peppered with the irony of excitement for a new phase in life and nostalgic fear of the unfamiliar.
It's the same for generations of lifetime, loyal customers, too.
Word got out that the place people from miles around came to know as where to go when you want a gift or treat for yourself that no one else will have will soon be gone. Since then, customers have been stopping in to offer Bahr many hugs and good wishes blended with teary "Please don't go(s)!"
"I'm just so grateful for the wonderful customers I've had and truly come to love over the years," Bahr said. "I just can't thank these people and my fellow business associates in Fair Haven enough. They've played such a major role in a fabulous life here (at Nature's Emporium)."
And that life has been a very long one. Bahr started out setting up shop in the early 1970s in a corner of what used to be The Black Sheep, which encompassed the entire building that now houses her shop and Blue Stove Antiques.
The Black Sheep, along with Bahr's nook, was and is forever known as the one-of-a-kind place to go for all sorts of hand-crafted leather goods, like sandals and belts, as well as jewelry and, of course, Nature's unique clothing and chachkis.
Then the time came for Black Sheep owner Lee Yarnell to move on, so Bahr ended up taking over the one side of the building as Nature's Emporium.
And the store and her special blend of merchandising has always been a, well, natural for Bahr.
From the street you can't help but notice the window displays, always flush with car-stopping clothing, handbags, jewelry and goodies you just don't typically see anywhere else.
And, for decades, a trip inside is like a visit down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. Soothing blend of music in the background, Bahr is always there to greet with a warm smile and lots of goodies.
"Thank God for Nature's Emporium!" a customer visting recently said as she swept into the store in a panic looking for a last minute gift.
Bahr pops her head out from behind a display of bandages that look like strips of bacon, breakfast food-flavored dental floss, scarves and handmade soaps. She smiles and asks the forever patron what she's looking for. And, within minutes, a gift no one else will bring to the party is found.
In another corner, a customer is oogling over boxes of chocolate covered orange peels, pecan food glazes, candles and a batik dress.
And in the back of the store, someone is always laughing over a crazy card or book. Being there is akin to taking a trip like none other, alright.
Just when you think you've seen it all, when you find yourself at the counter ready to tally up, there's always something else to add to the bag, like a glitzy little costume jewelry ring or a set of angel stickers or a refrigerator magnet more beautiful and quirky than a pricey painting.
But, Bahr said, you can't buy the kind of experience she's had as a business owner in Fair Haven.
Priceless. That's how she described her Nature's lifetime. "I don't know what's ahead for me yet," Bahr said. "I do know, though, that another journey is coming. And if it's as good as this last one, I'll consider myself very blessed."
"Closing Sale," says the giant red and white sign in the store window. Everything in the store must go by Feb. 28 — everything except the keepsake Nature's memories and goodies Bahr and her customers take with them.
Next time you put on that special Nature's outfit, reach for a bacon strip bandage or set off that yodeling pickle for a good laugh, it's Bahr's hope that you remember it came from a heartfelt spot.
"Thank you!," she said. "Stop by and see me before I go. I'm sure I can find something special in here for you to take with you on your own next journey."