A Visit to Columbia (Social Distancing Day 172)

Visiting Little Neighbors on the square in downtown Columbia.

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.

Cruising the (empty! LOL) shelves at A’Museum’s market section. January 2019.
Bouncin’ on a giant tongue. A’Museum – January 2019.
Our favorite part of A’Museum, probably – the extra large Lite Brite! I still have dreams to recreate this at home one day. January 2019.
Magnetic puzzles at A’Museum. January 2019.
Lunch at Square Market Café – a grilled cheese sandwich, but the pickle being reached for in the picture was the real star of the meal. January 2019.
One of the many sweet vignettes found at Needle & Grain. January 2019.
As soon as we walked in and saw a copy of The Gruffalo sitting on the couch, we knew we’d love Needle & Grain. And we did – and do! January 2019.
Beautiful styling of excellent products at Needle & Grain. January 2019.
Is it weird to really love a bathroom wallpaper? Because I do. Needle & Grain – January 2019.

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.

Jen (Swanky Shank), M, me, Susan (Needle & Grain). August 2019.
Jen (Swanky Shank), M, me, Susan (Needle & Grain).
(I miss hugging people.) August 2019.

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.

Little Neighbors is such a beautiful space!
There’s a great space in the back of Little Neighbors’ for various community classes and events, too.

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.

Masks ARE better when we wear them together!
My new favorite sticker on my 2020 letter board which TBH probably won’t change its message for a while.

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.

Ice cream in the open air.

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.

M + Baba walking over to browse the produce + pumpkins at Fast’s.
Tomatoes + a friend.
Tomatoes + a friend.

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!

I’m a sucker for white pumpkins in my fall decor.

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.

New fans of Fast’s!
We’ll be back, Fast’s!

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