If you can think it, you can do it!

Published 8:10 pm Monday, December 7, 2015

Jessica Rhyne and Linda Howard

Jessica Rhyne and Linda Howard

Linda Howard had a dream when she was nine years old. She liked to play ice cream parlor with her teddybears, teacups, and cupcakes. She always talked about a day when she could have a real shop. But, as Linda tells me, “The corporate world can consume dreams.” She was a consultant for 20 years, relocating to Spartanburg from Baltimore, working with Adidas and then US Foods.

Today I’m enjoying a visit at Southern Delights, Linda’s real life ice cream, sandwich, and chocolate shop. She and her husband, Chris, first opened Carolina Antiques.

“We both love antiques. We had booths in two antique malls when the opportunity to purchase the building here presented itself. We decided to actually live upstairs and have our antique business downstairs. Nothing was finished,” Linda explains.  “We had to completely redo everything to make it livable and get our business open.” Linda continued to work in Greenville, while Chris worked in the shop and traveled looking for antiques to bring in for sale.

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“Then one day I heard from State Farm that they were leaving the building a few doors down. I had been talking about wanting a place for a coffee shop, and of course, ice cream and cake. I never lost sight of my childhood dreams. So I decided this was it and we bought the building,” she sighs. “Then we had to wait five months for State Farm to relocate. I prayed every night that I had made the right decision. All my fears came out at night. What if no one showed up? What if I couldn’t do it? It became very scary. I would think, ‘What did I do?’”

The time passed and the building became theirs. Then the real work began. They replaced rotted floors, tore out the dropped ceiling and discovered the original wood ceiling, dug out the whole basement floor and replaced it with concrete. “Some days I just sat down and cried,” Linda remembers. “But it was all worth it. People come in and commented about how warm and comfortable it is in here.”

Eventually Linda left the corporate world to spend full time with her business.

“It’s about the relationships,” she confides. “I have wonderful employees and great customers. Working with other businesses in town to keep things happening in Landrum has been rewarding. This is my happy place,” she tells me with tears in her eyes.

And she has plans to bring more fun into the business. Starting in January she will be holding game nights. “We’ll have all the board games, Scrabble, Sorry, Monopoly, and will have contests. Winners get gift certificates to the shop,” she smiles. “Already people come in for some of the games we have.”

And Carolina Antiques is still another part of the business. Linda and Chris are back and forth between both places, always making changes, adding new things, keeping things interesting for their customers.

“We’ve changed the focus of the antique store recently. We’re bringing in a lot of the old arcade games, pinball machines and Pacman, nostalgic things like old gas pumps, ‘30’s radios that still work, things for game rooms or décor for restaurants and businesses.”

We discuss the challenges of opening and running a business. Linda describes the emotions. “This has been a wonderful, scary experience. I’ve embraced my fears. I’ve learned if I can think it, I can do it. I have a favorite expression. ‘If you have an idea, turn it on’. And that’s what we do. My employees are creative and come up with new coffee drinks and specials. They create the artwork and signs. It’s all a team effort.”

I spend a little time browsing. Delicious cakes tempt me along with chocolates and truffles. A big snowman in the window welcomes customers as they enter. It’s rainy and gray outside this morning, but inside, Southern Delights is a “happy place.”