Vidalia native puts city on a move on the mapPublished 12:00am Sunday, June 10, 2012
VIDALIA — Finding gifts for her co-workers that represented hometown Vidalia, La., was easier said than done for Vidalia native and former Detroit resident Audrey Bowman.
Being raised in Detroit, but born in Vidalia, led to a blend of big city living with a small town personality at heart for the owner of one of Vidalia’s newest businesses — Vidalia Souvenirs, Etc.
And working alongside Detroiters who knew little of Louisiana, let alone Vidalia or the Miss-Lou, Bowman found herself a proud ambassador for all things Vidalia.
“Of course they knew about Mardi Gras and crawfish, but that’s really all people knew about where I was from,” Bowman said. “And every time I would come home to visit, they were asking me to bring back something with Vidalia on it.
“I started looking around, and I just couldn’t find anything.”
The search started small as Bowman looked for something as simple as an ink pen for her fellow mailroom employees who spend half the day with a pen in their hands.
“I could find things that just said, ‘Louisiana’ on them, but nothing with Vidalia or anything,” Bowman said. “Those people are like my family, so I wanted to be able to bring them something.”
During another visit home where she was unable to find any Vidalia goodies, Bowman broke down and bought a King Cake and Mardi Gras decorations.
“We had a little Mardi Gras party in our office in Detroit,” Bowman said. “You get to be so close to the people you work with, that I want to show them my roots.”
After being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, Bowman was unable to continue her employment in Detroit and found herself moving back to the city on the move in 2008.
Since her condition can flare-up at any moment, Bowman said it was difficult to seek any normal 9 to 5 job.
After several requests from local family and friends, Bowman began working on craft projects from her house — creating anything from flower arrangements to embroidered Valentine’s Day presents.
“I would say I’m a little bit crafty, so I just started working on some little things,” Bowman said. “It’s something I really enjoy doing.”
As the orders continued to pile up, the thought of her Detroit co-workers’ request for Vidalia items was never far behind.
“I was already making some items, but then I wanted to start putting Vidalia on them,” Bowman said. “I didn’t think I could just go around putting Vidalia on all my stuff without permission, so I went and started talking to the mayor about it.”
After discussing the idea with Mayor Hyram Copeland, Bowman said she applied for a vendor’s license, choosing not to take the traditional route of getting a business license.
“With my condition, it’s hard for me to be in a building Monday through Friday from 9 to 5, because it could flare-up at anytime,” Bowman said. “So I decided to do most of it from my home and also setup as a vendor at different events.”
With her vendor’s license in hand and an assortment of pens, coffee mugs, tote bags and tumblers inscribed with “Vidalia. A City on the Move,” Bowman setup shop at the Vidalia High School reunion last month for her first business venture.
“I got some good responses from everyone,” Bowman said. “They hadn’t seen any souvenirs with Vidalia on them either, so I had some good sales.”
Even though she already had her products in stock and sales counted, Bowman said the realization didn’t sink in until Thursday — when Copeland and other city officials cut the ribbon on the newest Vidalia business.
“It was so wonderful to see everyone and have them give positive feedback about the souvenirs,” Bowman said. “It definitely made it official.”
Now Bowman said she will continue to order the existing products, but will expand the line as her business grows.
“I’ve already ordered some decals for the car windows, and I’m hoping to do postcards, shot glasses and beer mugs next,” Bowman said. “I just have to put my trust in God and see what happens.”
Starting in two weeks, Bowman will begin having open house sales at her home on Friday’s and Saturday’s.
For more information or to order souvenirs, contact Bowman at 601-443-1014.