By Laurie Paolicelli
When customers walk into an eclectic retail shop in Chapel Hill, they eventually forget about the outside world.
A stroll through SallyMack uncovers a mix of jewelry, handbags, home goods and gifts with pop culture references, uplifting messages, or irreverent quotes.
For the past seven years, owner Sally Stollmack has enjoyed hand-picking items for her store at the Midtown Market on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. But like other retailers in the area, the onset of the coronavirus slowed foot traffic for months last year.
“The shop is located about three quarters of a mile from downtown, which is a blessing; I am not reliant on students for my business,” she said. “I am definitely reliant on the people who work for the university and serve the university, and I absolutely rely on the parents of the students.”
If you are looking for Sally Stollmack and she is not at work she is likely at Midtown Market, the shopping center bookended by Lucha Tigre and The Root Cellar.
It was an accident that the 1978 UNC graduate, who studied speech communications and sociology, got into retail. After two decades in the stereo business, Sally was shopping in a furniture store when a customer approached her. “She assumed I worked at [Ecko International Furnishings in Raleigh] because I knew everybody there. I never bothered to tell her I didn’t work there,” Sally recalls. “I sold her a complete bedroom’s worth of furniture.” Impressed by her sales prowess, the owner offered her a job on the spot that Sally would parlay into a store manager position. Soon, she was a regular attendee of the New York, and LA gift shows and traveled to Copenhagen and Milan on modern furniture buying trips.
When Sally left Ecko in 2008, she volunteered, then worked as a national sales manager for a commercial dining furniture company and finally ended up as a bookseller at Flyleaf for four years. It was her success selling jewelry and handbags there – and her huge following – that inspired her to open shop. After finding a location that was in her backyard, she returned to the gift-show circuit, applying her trained eye for color and design.
SallyMack is not a big box store. It is a cultivated, intimate way to find things you will love for your home or a friend’s, things that I have picked out because I love them too. “Whatever your budget, it’s my goal to make SallyMack a place you can shop. The range of goods shares one thing in common: they’re all objects that spoke to me, that I love enough to display in SallyMack.”
Sally’s decision to stay in Chapel Hill and curate a shop that appeals to all budgets and tastes is a good thing. “Sally has a unique eye and one of the most positive outlooks on life. This winning combination makes her a natural at design and working with the public,” says Elaine O’Neil, Hillsborough-based artist.
See you there. https://www.shopsallymack.com
Laurie Paolicelli is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.