Certainty … There are some things in life you can pretty much count on. One of those things is when you walk into David Anthony’s you will probably see “Eleanor” standing at the gift-wrap area. She’s there to greet you, ask you about your day and of course, get you all taken care of when it comes to the perfect gift! Since 1984 this downtown gem has helped people spread joy with their friends and family. Originally owned by Betty Joyce (Kinton) Sammons, Eleanor purchased the building and business in 1988 and for 28 years has worked six days a week with enthusiasm that might make you wonder if she has a caffeine patch on her arm. Maybe it was her training as a Campbell College Cheerleader (yes, “college” was what they called it when she attended the school) or her genuine love of what she does, but whatever the reason … NOTHING seems to be able to slow down this southern bell.
Eleanor’s customers often will tell you they shop at David Anthony’s because “Where else can you walk into a store, find the perfect gift, have it wrapped for FREE and be out the door in 15 minutes.” Yes, folks …. That is even with the “David Anthony’s SIGNATURE bow on top. If you don’t believe them …. go in and try it for yourself! As I was visiting with her a customer walked in. Eleanor quickly said his name, asked about his wife and they both spent time talking about what was happening in their life. It was genuine. It was real. It was “Eleanor”.
Eleanor Stephenson genuinely cares about people and about Fuquay-Varina. She loved sharing with me how she was born in the house to the left of John Adcock’s office on Academy Street and how she and her very best friend “growing up”, Mollie (Ashworth) Stephenson, would walk to Elliott’s each day after school. She talked about the days when she loved working with brides as they purchased their china and gifts at David Anthony’s. Before the days of Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, etc. she would have around 20 brides during a summer. Talk about an economic stimulus package for a mom and pop! Her eyes lit up as she recalls the MANY teenagers she has hired all through the years as “David Anthony’s” was often times their very first job. Landing a role on the staff is something she has NEVER had to advertise. She smiles and says, “You know, anytime I’ve ever needed a new staff person, they just show up! I know God did that!” She reflects and in her eyes you can see how she loves the memories and how each one made an impact on her life.
The big box stores have taken a hit on many small business owners. She said she has many loyal customers and many new to the area seem to really grasp that supporting the mom and pops is so important. She makes certain what she carries you can’t find in the cookie cutter stores of mass production. She has even started offering a “vintage section” in the store where items of real craftsmanship are offered for sale or as she chuckled … a walk down memory lane for people.
For a business owner of this length of time you would think they would be tired. But not THIS GIRL. I think she came from “good genes” as I learned her mother was the very first Woman Vice President of a bank in NC. That bank is now what we call “Fidelity Bank”. Eleanor does not stop. She is the first one to jump on an idea and the first one to help a local cause. She sells books for the FV Woman’s Club and FV Museums. Anytime I’ve needed her, her answer is always “Sure”! It is that willingness to help and to be entrenched with what happens in FV is what I believe has kept her going for so many years.
As I walked around the store, she loved showing me so many wonderful new things that she was carrying. Jewelry continues to be a big seller for her and her coffee has been a product that has always been a steady staple. Her roaster is from Raleigh so once again … she preaches the “local”. If you are a fan of David Anthony’s FB page you will see items posted daily that will inspire you to head down to see “Eleanor” THAT week. You will walk out happy, not just by the purchase but because you were able to spend some time with “Eleanor”. Greatest GIFT of all!
Until the next conversation,