Tucked away on a side street of unassuming downtown Tarboro stands a beige Victorian style home. If not for a sign in the front yard, the average passerby would just chalk it up as another sweet, southern home and not give it a second thought.
That passerby would be missing out on the hidden treasures of Tarboro. Open the door to that Victorian, and you’ll step into Off the Main, a co-retailing boutique that rents out storefront space to local businesses. The name Off the Main refers to the store’s location off of Main Street, but to me it also references the unique offerings that the boutique brings to Tarboro. In this small town, there’s nothing else quite like it.
Walking from room to room of the house, I took in everything from shirts to fuzzy socks printed with Tarboro, NC to jewelry to toys. Brooke Phillips, the owner of Off the Main was kind enough to speak with me when I visited, and explained some of the thought process behind the items she sells. She told me she looks for distinctive products that have meaningful stories behind them. For instance, a single mom from Columbia, NC makes some of the children’s clothing she sells. Some of the proceeds from a few of the dainty jewelry pieces I admired go to a local animal shelter. I was drawn to purchase Thai Basil scented wax made by a small business owner. The smell reminded me of Mike and Ike’s candy.
Phillips is passionate about what she does, and told me opening a boutique had always been her dream. She grew up in Tarboro, but left for several years to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Upon graduation, she knew she had to come back to her hometown to open a store. At the moment, Phillips works with ten vendors to stock the boutique. The connections she builds with these vendors and with Tarboro residents are at the heart of her business. As we spoke, the front door bell kept ringing, indicating another visitor had stopped by to view her new items. I found myself wishing I could be one of those regulars, just stopping by to chat and smell the candles.