CULLMAN, Ala. (WBRC) - Given the times in which we live, nostalgia is something lots of people are feeling. For a step back in time in Cullman’s Historic District there’s a spot called Ashley Mercantile where the feeling is definitely old school.
“The dream was to have a stand-alone store that we could put stuff in that would be heirloom grade things that you could pass down like my grandmothers wanted their grandmother’s stuff,” says owner Ryne Ashley.
In Cullman, the past is truly part of the present and the future. Ryne grew up in here working at his father’s pharmacy, little knowing it was preparing him for a future which would involve taking a step back in time and opening his own store.
“This building here was built in 1904. The space we’re standing in right now was a mercantile store when it was first built. We try to make sure it’s warm and inviting and it just takes you back to a time when things were a lot simpler and a lot less chaotic, just kind of a getaway.”
Ryne knows the story has a real effect on the people who visit, “We’ve had people that have gotten quite emotional when they’re like, ‘You know that smells like my Grandpa?’ And this lady was crying. She said, ‘That’s the first time I’ve smelled him in 17 years because he died.’ So, I said, ‘Well, I’ll be up front crying, too. I don’t want to ever become callous to life because life is emotional.”
For Ryne this is more than just another store. “We just try to take care of people here and we’re not going to hound people about buying stuff. We’re just going to try to educate them on what’s in here, why I chose to buy it and make sure they have all the information they need to make a decision if they want to buy the stuff that we carry.”
Ryne says the idea is to stay as local as possible. “If we can find it here in Alabama, it’s good quality at a good price then we’ll buy here because that’s where I’m from and we want people to know that we can do really cool things here in The Southeast and in Alabama.”
It seems as if he’s been preparing for opening Ashley Mercantile all his life. “I grew up selling drugs with my dad at the drug store and went to school for business and when people ask, ‘What do you do?’ I say, ‘I sell a bunch of candles for a living. A bunch!’”