By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
LuLu Walker was born and raised in Michigan, but had the great privilege of living in Jerusalem from the ages of 13-17. Part of that time, LuLu worked in one of the many open-air markets in the Old City, and it was there that her grandmother affectionately nicknamed her “the Jewelry Gypsy.” This was because even as a young person, her love and knowledge of semi-precious stones won her both an excellent reputation for that as well as in sales; but she never imagined she’d one day be the owner of her own shop in Athens, Alabama. LuLu’s shop is called the Gypsy Market on Market, and she sells jewelry, antiques, up-cycled furniture, and clothing, all under the watchful eye of her parrot, Mango, the shop’s mascot.
Gypsy Market, which is located right next to Dobb’s at 108 W Market St in Athens, had their grand opening and ribbon cutting through the Chamber of Commerce in October, and word is getting around as to just how elegant, eclectic, and affordable are her pieces. During the time I did this interview, a woman who was a professional interior designer came in and exclaimed how beautiful the shop was. Not long after that, another woman came in for the first time, broke into a smile while she said, “Wow, you have a lot of beautiful things here,” unexpectedly found the perfect gift, and left with an even bigger smile.
LuLu and her husband, Dr. Darrell Walker, moved here from Nashville as part of the team that opened up Aspen Dental on Hwy 72 next to Panera Bread. While living in Nashville, LuLu had three shops, each specializing in one thing; and it is here in Athens that she pulled all of her expertise together and put her favorites in one place. “I decided to live my dreams and open a shop,” she told me. She did that task almost single-handedly in 10 days, and the result is several rooms of treasures to discover, enjoy, and take home. “It is the blend of everything I love,” she told me, and we all know that in order to be successful in any venture, you have to love people as well as what you do. LuLu most definitely does both.
LuLu and I share a specific love of the blue semi-precious stone known as lapis, and she has several stunning pieces from all over the world. “We sell more lapis than any other stone in the shop,” she said. A man came in who is also a “lapis lover” and familiar with LuLu’s offerings. He was particularly enamored with a new lapis cuff that had arrived recently. LuLu’s shop has estate jewelry, fresh water pearls from India and Thailand, and she also makes her own jewelry.
What else can be found at Gypsy Market? Lots of silver pieces, many of which remind me of my mother’s and grandmothers’ collections. There are tea sets, vases large and small, serving pieces, and salt and pepper shakers, many of which are silver. Silver is making a comeback, in case you didn’t know, and now is the time to get in on that trend. The Gypsy Market on Market carries several pieces of furniture, some of which are antiques in pristine condition and others have been up-cycled. “It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do,” LuLu told me with her trademark grin. They have a handmade wooden headboard with ethnic fabric inserts, a few choice lamps, and a round hassock that has an ornately carved base and a brightly colored quilted top. If there were a place for it in my house, I would buy it!
Some of the clothing at GMOM is new, and others have been gently worn. There is a coat with a fur collar that could have come from my mother’s closet, and right next to it, a long, flowing, contemporarily-styled purple cardigan that could dress up anything from a tunic or dress to a pair of jeans. As is the case with everything else in the Market, clothing prices are most reasonable.
I asked LuLu why, when I have several choices in the area, should I come to Gypsy Market on Market. She thought for a moment, and replied, “Affordability, especially the gemstones. We are clean and organized, and have pieces that are diverse and eclectic. There are lots of bright colors, lively music, and the whole store is comfortable.” (And, there is Mango the parrot, who loves to chew on the pages of Athens Now.) Come and explore the Gypsy Market on Market, and leave with a new friend and unique gifts for your loved ones or yourself!
By: Ali ElizabethTurner