2 for 2: Mother, daughter put talents together

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 20, 2004

People always told Carol Collins that she and her daughter, Leigh Abrams, shared a lot in common. So when it came time for the two women to decide on a name for the eclectic gift store they opened four years ago, it was only natural that they should call it Two of a Kind.

“That’s me and my daughter, that’s where that came from,” Collins says, referring to the name. “Everybody says we’re so much alike.”

Leigh is no longer an active partner in the business, having returned to Spring Hill to resume her role as a stay-at-home mom. Collins doesn’t mind telling you that she misses working with her daughter. They were best friends as well as business partners.

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Still, things have been anything but quiet since Leigh left. The phone seldom stops ringing for long with folks wanting to know if Collins stocks this item or if she could special order that item for them.

The store started out as an antiques shop — and you can still find the odd piece here and there. Today, though, Collins orders most of her stock from specialty stores in the Atlanta area.

“You’ve got to get out and ramble around to find stuff like that,” she sighs. “With my daughter gone, I don’t really have the time.”

Small wonder.

Two months ago Collins opened a new location on U.S. Highway 80 West in Demopolis in addition to the original store on Main Street in Linden.

Most of the people who come through the doors at Two of a Kind are looking for a gift for a special occasion. Birthdays are the most popular reason, followed by weddings and baby showers. Most customers are women, but Collins gets her share of men who have put off buying that special gift till the last minute and who need a little expert advice. Quick.

A lot of people, of course, are just looking. Two of a Kind is a browser’s paradise.

Confides Collins, “I have people who come in and stay a long time, because they say if they don’t take their time they’ll miss something.”

A quick glance around confirms the truth of that statement. There are birdbaths, picture frames, candy, candles, glassware, towels, flowers, baby clothes, and on and on.

The inventory is a reflection of Collins’ personality. It was her eye for color and her knack for choosing pieces to help pull a room together that inspired her to open Two of a Kind in the first place.

Collins is not a native to these parts. She moved here from Lake City, Fla., with her husband. The marriage didn’t work out, but by then she decided to stick around. “It’s nice here. I like it,” she shrugs.

She worked at The Gold Mine jewelry store in Demopolis for years before deciding to abandon the security of a weekly paycheck to go into business for herself. It’s not that she minded working for somebody else, she just wanted to be her own boss.

There are still days when she wonders whether she has taken leave of her senses.

“A lot of people think that if you own your own business you have lots of money and you can do anything you want,” Collins says with a throaty laugh. “I work six days a week. In November and December I work seven days a week. Every now and then I’ll take a day off, but not very often.”

So why does she do it? Why does she put in the long hours and the hard work?

Collins fidgets for a long moment. “Crazy, I guess,” she offers at last.

Then this: “Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. But it’s the customers who are the best part of this job. I love talking to everybody, seeing them, getting to know them. Does that make sense?”

The phone is ringing again. Carol Collins picks up the receiver. Her voice is warm and cheerful, as though she is greeting a friend.

“Good morning,” she answers. “Two of a Kind.”