The Design Bar offers creative outlet
By JENNIFER MAIER / Community Columnist
Perhaps it is her 13 years of experience working for the Walt Disney Company, or the six years she has spent honing her design skills. Whatever the reason, it is clear that Michelle Barclay has what it takes to make her new Columbiana store a great success.
Barclay’s store, aptly named The Design Bar, will bring a new business concept to historic downtown Columbiana.
“The Design Bar offers personalized gifts, custom design, screen printing and special events,” Barclay explained. “We will host various art nights, as well as things such as our Toddler Tuesdays, complete with special art supplies for little hands. One of our signature items features your child’s artwork on a Tea Towel.”
I can attest to the fact the The Design Bar will have immediate appeal to anyone walking through the cheerful front door. I was in the store for less than three minutes before falling in love with a sweatshirt bearing the emblem of a certain SEC sports team that I happen to like. Before I knew what was happening, I was placing an order and swiping my debit card.
The addition of The Design Bar to historic Main Street is also proof that Columbiana is becoming a very attractive town for businesses to locate. Barclay, just like so many before her, has succumbed to the history and the charm this small town offers.
“Over the years I’ve fallen in love with Columbiana,” Barclay said. “We would come out to visit my folks at Lewis Lakes Vineyards.”
Barclay’s parents, Bill and Bonnie Lewis, are owners of the vineyard. “It got harder and harder to leave because we loved this small town so much.”
This is Barclay’s first venture as owner of a retail shop, but her experience in design and her love of people will serve her well.
“After working for The Walt Disney Company for 13 years, I moved back to Birmingham and didn’t want to join the corporate world again,” Barclay said. “So I decided to go after my passion and do something creative. I’ve been designing for six years now and am so excited to have a physical store. The one thing I miss about Disney is the interaction with people. This shop will allow us to do some crazy, fun and social things.”
Giving back to the community is important to Barclay, who plans on creating special T-shirts that are designed to raise funds for certain causes.
“My heart has always been in helping people,” Barclay said. “Everyone loves a good T-shirt, so why not design one to help folks reach their fundraising goal. We will offer custom artwork for the occasion, handle the online sales and the shipping.”
The store had its official opening on Sept. 7. It will be open Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Wednesday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment on Saturdays.
Barclay also plans to host events in her shop.
“We will host special events, birthday parties and other crafty functions at other times,” she said. “At the moment, I’m working on the details for a ‘Rock the Town’ rock painting party,” referring to the recent craze of painting and hiding rocks all over town. “It’s been fun to learn about the rock painting concept in general, so I will absolutely have to take part in that.”
The Design Bar also features pieces by artist Ben South, who is known for his aphorisms, or one-line observations, about the South.
“Ben South is a cool character,” Barclay said. “The Shelby County Arts Council featured some of his work a few months ago, and I adored some of the one-liners I saw. At the moment, we have four of Ben South’s hand-lettered original pieces. We also carry a line of Bar Towels featuring his one-liners.”
Barclay hopes to eventually offer wine tastings and carry bottles of Lewis Lakes Vineyards wine.
“During the holidays we will host ornament painting and other holiday fun. I would imagine Santa will stop by, too.”
For anyone looking for a creative release, Barclay provides supplies at design bar where anyone is free to doodle. But don’t be surprised if you end up turning that doodle design into a tea towel.
To learn more about this new shop, visit The Design Bar on Facebook. The website, TheOriginalDesignBar.com should be up and running in a few weeks. The shop number is 671-5178. Or drop by in person. The location is 113 Main Street.