MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR: Valerie Cagle

While Valerie Cagle’s vocation was once hospital administration (she spent 12 years working at the cancer center), her love of the unique has become an avocation and vocation all neatly packaged together.

That has resulted in her newest venture, The Longleaf Market, located on Hwy. 589 south of Sumrall, not quite six miles from Hwy. 98 in West Hattiesburg.

Cagle said she enjoys the business set up in what she describes as “the rural hills at the edge of a pasture.”

“Some have described it as an escape and very peaceful,” she said.

Cagle, who co-owns the business with her husband, Chris, a pilot for UPS, has cultivated an amazing group of 16 vendors who sell everything from locally-made goat milk soap to incredible European and American antiques. The Cagles consider it “a collection of shops.”

Having only been open since mid-November, the business sells art, home decor (lamps, mirrors and whatnots), unique gift items, antiques, seasonal merchandise and fresh florals. Customers can purchase flowers by the stem, like a European flower market, and put their own arrangements together.

“It’s an amazing and very eclectic group and we’ve hand cultivated all of them,” said Cagle.

This isn’t Cagle’s first foray into this type of business. She operated the Secret Gallery in Maple Plaza on Old Hwy. 11 before moving the business to Newpointe, where she had a vendor-based business and tearoom for 10 years.

“We used the same framework and idea and just changed the setting,” Cagle said of the new business.

And while pop-up vendor shops have become popular in latter years, Cagle said they were doing the vendor thing back when it wasn’t even a thing.

“We want to be a one-stop shop where you might come in to purchase a birthday gift, but find something for your home. We want to be able to provide that and meet everyone’s needs.”

The business also carries new and vintage clothing, Dr. Amenda Habeeb’s jewelry line and they are constantly getting in new merchandise.

 “You’re not going to see the same things when you come back two weeks in a row,” Cagle said. “While we have some painted furniture, we really specialize in true antiques. There are not very many in our area who do.”

They offer free gift wrapping and free delivery within 30 miles.

On Fridays, a unique meal, which is different every week, is prepared by Ashley Baudoin of Le Envié Creative Catering and served in the tearoom from 11:15 a.m.-1:30 p.m. The meal includes a salad, entree, dessert and drink for $14 and reservations are required. While guests are invited to come eat in the tearoom, delivery is available on orders that are in close proximity to the business.

“We’ve been friends for years and this is a good partnership,” Cagle said of her relationship with Baudoin. “She’s just amazing. Anyone not eating here is missing out.”

Baudoin’s meal offerings are very different and most are recipes she’s created or have been passed down in her family – all fresh and from scratch.

Longleaf has also hosted a little girls tea party, a book club, an anniversary party and other special occasions.

The business carries the works of many local artists. Hattiesburg artist Kym Garraway-Braley, who is also a vendor, has a working art studio at Longleaf and may  offer art lessons this summer.

Cagle said her vendors are like extended family members and the shop, which is open six days a week, has a little something to meet everyone’s needs. And if they don’t have it, they are up to the challenge of trying to find it for you.  “We’re always out on buying trips,” Cagle said.

“My favorite thing (about the business) has always been the customers, establishing relationships and getting to know them,” she said. “They have become an extended family. That’s what I missed the most during the years I wasn’t in business. I missed seeing my customers. Luckily, some have come to find me. That’s the best part of it. I enjoy being around beautiful things and artists, but the main thing is customers.”

The staff of six includes those who can take items purchased at Longleaf and decorate the home, at no charge, which is ideal for the holidays.

During the holiday season, a live nativity scene, was displayed on the front lawn with Sumrall children as members of the nativity. They also had luminaries.

But the grounds can accommodate a variety of events, not just at Christmas. “We can put tents around the grounds and entertain 100-plus,” she said.

The next thing on the Cagles’ plate is a Farmer’s Market this summer, which would set up in a barn on the back of the property and carry fresh produce from area farmers.

Cagle said they try and make the shopping experience a personal one.

“There are so many who would love and enjoy Longleaf that don’t know it’s here,” she said. “It’s a brand new endeavor and we are slowly cultivating it and growing it to be a personal experience.”

Beth Bunch is managing editor for Signature Magazine, but she could have majored in shopping during college and made the President’s List. She’s even thought, at times, about becoming a personal shopper. Need to know where to find something? She can hook you up.

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