As I walked through the door of Harpeth Gallery last week, it got me thinking: are there shops like this everywhere, or are these quaint boutiques like rare birds, indigenous only to the South? I am quite sure it is the latter. In this day and age of chain stores and big box marketing, you almost feel as though time has stopped when you walk through the door. This tiny jewel box of a store offers a treasure trove of one-of-a-kind finds and a level of personal service that has nearly disappeared from retail establishments.
Being from Memphis, Harpeth Gallery feels so much like the Gift and Art Shop I grew up knowing. They aren’t directly related, but both shops intimately understand the art of bridal registry, and how important that component of wedding planning is to the bride and her family.
All of my sisters were married in Memphis, and like it or not, my Mom always called the shots. And right at the top of her list was the management of their bridal registries. Every time the door bell rang, we knew it was another treasured package from the Gift and Art Shop. The delivery man was charming, always saying, “Mrs. McDonnell, I’m not sure you have room for all these gifts.” Of course she did! As soon as my sisters opened a gift, she would whisk it away to display ever so carefully on our dining room table for the neighbors to survey. Once the dining table was full, card tables were set up to contain the overflow.
Walton Estes, the delightful proprietress, continues this time-honored tradition of the bridal registry today. From the moment she heard the shop was for sale, she claimed, “It’s mine– my parents registered there in 1958 and my apartment is filled with things from Harpeth Gallery.” That was 11 years ago, when she left her job as a paralegal and never looked back.
With a sense of purpose instilled by the shop’s first owner, Buddy Wade, Walton helps each bride select gifts to accommodate a variety of different budgets, and then with her special brand of TLC, she lists each registered couple on a blackboard. If you have not seen her calling card library, it is a real treat. Regular customers keep their calling cards on file, so they can be tucked into each gift as it is sent out.
Not only does Harpeth Gallery offer free gift wrapping and delivery, they even deliver daily to brides in the area, if Walton sees the need. And with complete discretion, gift returns and exchanges are handled by the shop’s competent staff.
I am as sure as I am my mother’s daughter that nothing slips through the cracks under Walton’s watchful eye.
And speaking of eyes, after spending some time in the shop, I have to say Walton has phenomenal vision when it comes to gifts and accessories. Every nook and cranny of her store is filled with lamps, throws, pillows and amazing tableware.
Since I adore jewelry, I made a beeline to her jewelry case. She carries a limited selection from designers such as Vaubel, Dina Mackney and Kimmeron. Many of the pieces are custom-made, and the minute she gets something new in, it flies off the shelf. She has a gorgeous collection of 18K gold necklaces and bracelets, and I found her selection of horn jewelry both affordable and extremely wearable. In fact, I have yet to take off the horn hoop earrings that I purchased there.
Do yourself a favor and stop by Harpeth Gallery soon. You’ll discover everything from whimsical to traditional gifts inside, but most importantly, you’ll find Walton and her staff there, ready to help you find a special treasure.
(And as a side note, their new website was designed by our favorite graphic designer, Terry Bailey. I’m sure you’ll agree, it is gorgeous!)