Audrey Haynes has been a loyal customer at Frontier, buying homemade jewelry and French soaps that she can’t find elsewhere. Haynes, an associate professor at the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs, has also sold her own artwork including suncatchers made of wire and glass beads and donated her profits to a local animal shelter.
As reported in The Red & Black, after 30 years of offering local gifts to customers, Frontier, located on East Clayton Street in downtown, is closing.
Having opened in 1989, Frontier sells one of a kind merchandise from local artists and independent companies. Although the store does not have an actual date for its last day, owner Devin Clower said they will close sometime in May.
Although Frontier’s physical location will be gone, the store will begin selling online.
Clower, the fourth owner of Frontier, is a UGA alumna who took over the gift shop in 2010. Although she graduated with a degree in interior design, she always had an interest in downtown’s historic structures just off campus.
She has decided to follow the footsteps of the previous owners in finding something different to do.
“It’s been such an enriching experience,” Clower said. “Running a small business is a challenge, and a marriage, and all of the above but in the best kind of way.”
She takes pride in Frontier and all the connections she formed with other local small businesses and artists.
Athens resident Cecile Paige Riker appreciates how local and different all of the items are that Frontier offers, and will also miss being greeted by Clower’s shop dogs.
“We wouldn’t have been doing it if it weren’t for our loyal customers,” Clower said. “It’s a bittersweet transition that hopefully will open up a new opportunity for me.”
Haynes shopped at the gift shop before and after Clower took over, and said Clower made it feel inviting for all customers to come in.
“Everything is so warm and comfortable and just interesting, that’s how the store always felt to me,” Haynes said. “And I can always find something, whatever price point … and they would always gift wrap it to make it extra special.”
Haynes said she will miss Frontier, but she is also worried about what it will mean for the future of small businesses downtown. She is concerned that Frontier leaving is an indicator of less local businesses with more corporate stores moving in on the downtown scene.
“If it becomes all just corporate franchises, it’ll lose a lot of what makes Athens sort of the cool place to hang out,” Haynes said.
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