PERRY -- James Farmer could have opened up shop almost anywhere. But he chose to stay close to home in the small town of Perry.
It’s where people know him, not as an acclaimed designer or editor-at-large of Southern Living or a frequent guest on national television shows, but as just James. That is one reason he decided to open his first design and antique store, James Farmer Inc., on Carroll Street.
The store, which recently opened for business and will have a grand opening in September, sits in a brick building with large windows and red doors. It’s another step in Farmer’s career and another hat for Farmer himself, who along with shop owner is also a garden and interior designer, an author, a speaker and an editor.
Now he hopes his downtown shop will become a staple in Perry.
“I’ve got big dreams for downtown Perry,” he said.
Inside, a diverse collection of furniture and decorations sits throughout the shop. There are sofas, tables and chairs. There are vases, decorative plates and mirrors. A chandelier hangs from the ceiling near an ornamental whisky jug and a frozen custard sign.
Summertime generally is the slow season for interior design, but Farmer said he has been pleasantly surprised by the steady stream of customer traffic. Lamps and pillows seem to be the most popular so far -- Farmer already feels that he needs more of those items, he said.
“It adds a lot of interior decorating to the area,” said Kaylee McCullough, shop and office assistant. “People come in, and they’re ... just blown away.”
When looking to open his first retail store, Farmer knew he wanted to give back to a community that has given so much to him. Growing up in Perry and Hawkinsville, he always knew what he wanted to do with his life.
“I wanted to make things pretty,” he said.
He was inspired by an architect from Moultrie, who became successful while living in a small town. Farmer believed he could have the same success in the same way. And he did.
After graduating from Auburn University, Farmer established his design career and gained national recognition. At age 31, he has published five design books and is working on publishing his sixth. He has made appearances on national television shows, including “Today,” and he has landed some big design jobs, including the old Governor’s Mansion in Kentucky, parties in New York City and show houses in Atlanta and South Carolina.
But, he always comes back to Perry, which is no longer just his hometown but his retail business headquarters.
“It takes a village to raise a child,” he said, “and this is a good way to repay the village.”
Farmer looked at several spots for his shop, but he was drawn to the corner building on Carroll Street mainly because of its history. Most recently, the building housed a beauty parlor, but it’s also the former location of the Houston Home Journal, which is appropriate because Farmer is a writer, and he sells his books at the store, he said.
It’s not only a boost for Farmer’s career, but he also hopes it benefits downtown Perry. Not only will it hopefully make Perry a destination for a slew of design customers, but it’s also important for young entrepreneurs, such as Farmer, to invest in the area, he said.
“What’s so important for a community is the multi-generational effect,” he said.
To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.