By Stuart Taylor The Valdosta Daily Times, Ga.
Like her father before her, Robbie Taylor is an entrepreneur.
Bob Taylor ran Taylor's Clothing Store out of the same North Ashley Street shopping plaza where Simply Southern Baskets & More is now located.
Robbie grew up playing in the store, among the clothing racks.
Robbie has been a school teacher, drug rep, insurance salesperson, and more.
As a drug rep, she also sold jewelry on the side to the nurses and doctors she met.
She kept that up when she moved to Valdosta in 2014, meeting people all through town after finishing her day job.
And then it hit her: why drive all over town?
" I thought, 'I've got a store,'" said Robbie. "I'll set up here and everyone can come to me."
At the time, Robbie's family was using the storefront as storage.
The ceiling was bare with bright warehouse lighting, a far cry from what Robbie envisioned.
To get the store where she wanted it, she went to Bill Bullard of Savannah Heart Pine.
"I have to give Bill Bullard credit," said Robbie. "We sat in this empty store with nothing in it. I wanted to create a unique atmosphere, a place where people feel comfortable, a place they want to come to. He listened to my dream and this is what came of it."
What came of it is a rustic general store by way of Pinterest.
There's heartwood pine beams across the ceiling, a row of old-fashioned candy jars by the register and a stage in the back, illuminated by lights peeking through burlap.
The stage in the back is used to host art parties, Pinterest parties and wine tastings.
"My speciality is gift baskets," said Robbie. "I wanted to give Valdosta something they couldn't get anywhere else." To do that, Taylor focused on products made in Georgia, from candles and wine to pimento cheese and pepper jelly to Georgia-based artists.
"Everything in this store, I want to be the only place in town you can get it," said Robbie.
"My dad was always about helping people. To be able to have this store is such a blessing to me and I want to help others. When I see someone who has talents, I think it's a shame to not have an avenue to get it out there."
Robbie touched base with Zeigler Honey Company in Stockton, which led her to Lauri Jo's Southern Style Canning for pepper jelly.
It continued, one Georgia business leading her to another, then another.
For her gift baskets, Robbie works with customers to personalize each one.
One basket might center around spoiling someone, containing wine, candles, soaps and lotions.
Another might focus on breakfast food: pancake mix, syrup, grits.
And a wine and cheese basket, of course, would offer cheese and wine.
After opening in June, Robbie's found the store catching on.
"I got busier than I expected, quicker than I expected," said Robbie. "And I'm not done yet. I want to have a little bit of everything, but I can't have everything all at once."
Her grand opening is planned for Sept. 14, with chef Georgia Lara Lyn Carter scheduled to be in-store 6-8:30 p.m., Sept. 17, autographing her cookbook, "Southern Thymes Shared," and sampling recipes.
"I'm a very religious person," said Robbie. "I'm a devout Christian, probably more so now that I've lost my dad. I felt him telling me to do this. It's been the most amazing thing that's ever happened in my life. It all fell in place."
Simply Southern Baskets & More is located at 2182 N. Ashley St. It is open 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. More information: Call (229) 469-4585. Facebook: Simply Southern Baskets & More. Instagram: @southernbaskets.valdosta.