BAKER — In its day, the Baker Mercantile was the town's main place to shop for groceries and sundries. At the end of next week, the store resumes its place of prominence in the heart of Baker.
The Baker Block Museum and North Okaloosa Heritage Association's volunteers and staffers have renovated the easternmost of four stores that comprise historic Baker Block, a late 19th-century version of a strip mall.
The deep room gleams in the golden glow of varnished refinished pine floors and a bead-board ceiling. The back doors were milled from the building's original virgin pine foundation timbers.
"You just don't buy stuff like this anymore," shop manager Cara McSween said, running her hands lightly over the varnished double doors. "They don't make buildings like this anymore."
Sunlight floods from the front windows, in which are displayed artifacts from the museum's collection typical of merchandise the original Baker Mercantile once offered.
The store, marketed as a "vendor mall," has space for 12 booths and additional shelf space for smaller vendors. But this is no junk shop, volunteer Phyllis Enzor said.
'It's nice stuff'
"It's repurposed, vintage and handmade pieces," Enzor said. "It's nice stuff."
Shoppers will find handcrafted works from regional artists and crafters, as well as locally produced honey, cane syrup and soaps, McSween said.
Baker Block Museum staffers were excited that they will at last have a museum store, located just inside the mercantile door. Stock includes regional history books, including both volumes of "The Heritage of Okaloosa County."
"We really have a niche for the books," museum director Ann Spann said.
"And you'll always be able to buy the calendars here when they're available," Enzor said, referring to the popular "Lost Okaloosa" calendar, which sold out of both print runs at the end of 2013.
With less than two weeks remaining until March 1 opening day, McSween surveyed the bustle of activity as contractors finished last-minute details and vendors stocked their booths.
The Baker Mercantile is almost back in business.
"It's close," she said. "It's really close."
Want to go?
WHAT: Baker Mercantile grand opening
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 1
WHERE: Baker Block, corner of State Roads 4 and 189
DETAILS: Baker Block Museum and North Okaloosa Heritage Association revive the Baker Mercantile store offering vintage, repurposed, home- and farm-produced wares and foods.
CONTACT: 537-5714, firstname.lastname@example.org.