My family recently relocated to middle Tennessee from New Jersey. Awful timing, pandemic and all. I know. But it was a plan that had been in motion since late last year so we decided to move forward in the safest way possible. I’m grateful that they’re here and have joined up with our little quaran-pod of immediate family members on both sides.
They moved in to their new home a few weeks ago and today I decided to take my mom and sister with M and I to explore downtown Columbia.
M and I have been to Columbia twice before. While still on winter break from school and work in January of last year, we threw our carseat in the back of a friends car and made a day of it. M and M’s bestie explored A’Museum (Columbia’s hands-on children’s museum), ate lunch at Square Market Café and shopped at Needle & Grain before crashing on the car ride back home.
Then late last year our friend Jen Shank (owner, heart & soul of Swanky Shank – your source for handmade, punny and social justice-oriented tees for your littles) partnered with Susan at Needle & Grain for a Swanky Shank pop-up so M and I had to stop in to pick up some exclusive Swank and say hello.
Since then I’ve followed Needle & Grain (named so because Susan is a talented quilt artist and her husband Bryson an expert woodworker) closely on Instagram and was thrilled when Susan & Bryson announced that they were going to be opening up a kid-centric store with a community space right off the square in downtown Columbia called Little Neighbors. (You should follow LN on Instagram, too!)
Our whole purpose in going down to Columbia today was basically to shop at Little Neighbors, I’ll be honest. Susan has a great eye for style and quality when it comes to the things our littles wear, learn from and play with and Little Neighbors truly has a wonderful selection ranging from clothing, books, toys, games and household goods.
As a family we’re big fans of Plan Toys but Little Neighbors‘ collection of Tender Leaf Toys really piqued my interest. M picked out the ice cream cart set, cash register and the little bunny and cat collections to leave at my family’s house to start stocking the play room for future visits.
I have to mention that I’m incredibly proud of Susan + Bryson for standing up for their own health and the health of their customers by continuing to expect visitors to be masked when they shop in either of their establishments. The mayor of Maury County did not implement a mask mandate and neighboring Williamson County’s mayor recently let the mask mandate expire. All four of us wore masks and kept them on while shopping at Little Neighbors.
Bryson designed the (free!) stickers pictured above that we all received and proudly wore before we left Little Neighbors. I would seriously consider ordering a batch of them to wear whenever I leave the house (which still isn’t that often) and to keep in my pocket to hand out to others.
We then stopped in at 3 other establishments on the square in downtown Columbia to pick up some snacks and coffee (A Balloon Shop, Pie Sensations and Muletown Coffee). Since none of them had mask requirements my family waited outside while I masked up and went in to pick up our orders.
We probably encountered two dozen or so individuals over the duration of our visit, on the sidewalks and in these establishments. Of those I saw 6 individuals with masks on while in the stores or around their ears but hanging off their mouth while outside.
I would absolutely not hesitate to return to Columbia and make a half day of visiting both Needle & Grain and Little Neighbors as well as another local favorite shop, Lily Jane. (We wanted to stop in at Lily Jane today but I planned ahead poorly and didn’t realize their hours are now Thursday-Sunday. They also have a mask requirement for customers visiting their store!) I wouldn’t, though, plan to frequent any of the other retail or dining establishments around the square without calling ahead to enquire about mask requirements – if it is as important to you as it is to our family.
On our way back to my family’s home we made an impromptu stop at a produce and plant stand in Arrington – Fast’s Greenery – Garden Center. Since moving from New Jersey my parents have been on a quest to find good local tomatoes and have struck out at Whole Foods, Publix and Sprouts. I think we found some winners at Fast’s today!
M picked out a few baby pumpkins to start decorating our house for fall and I have plans to return to pick out some houseplant as I have big dreams of growing some plant babies over the next year.