Owner Rachel Robertson said she plans to close the 25-year-old gift store to spend more time with her family and travel.
Robertson, 84, a lifelong resident of Evans, said her emotional ties to the property and the memories made throughout the years made it a difficult decision.
“The history of my building and the memories I have are priceless,” she said tearfully.
Decades before opening Strictly Country, Robertson said she remembers trips as a child to the small white building with blue shutters.
Built about 1930, the structure served as a teacher’s cottage for the Evans School, the only school for Columbia County students at the time, Robertson said.
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 were made. Those structures were moved several years ago and now are placed behind the Columbia County Library.
Born and raised less than a mile from the store, Robertson’s family later purchased three acres at the Evans street corner, which housed the former teacher’s 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 that 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 the original building.
“It will be missed,” said Harlem resident Theresa Morris, who was browsing the store’s collections of magnets earlier this week with her daughter.
Both 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 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 18 years.
Though Robertson realizes the store is situated on prime commercial property, she is steadfast in her decision to preserve the historical value of the site and has no plans to sell.
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.