Sharron Britton, owner of the High Springs Emporium, maintains an inventory of distinctive gift items appealing to a wide range of customers, from the frugal shopper to the affluent collector.HIGH SPRINGS – Fire licks its way up the delicate feathers, consuming the creature in a pile of ashes. Out of this mass rises a colorful bird, reborn.
The mythical phoenix is the logo for the High Springs Emporium. Owner Sharron Britton, 60, knows a little about rising from the flames.
“My first store burned to the ground,” she said. “I lost everything I had. I had to reinvent myself.”
She is now the owner of what she says is the only rock and mineral store in North Central Florida. Her store sells a large variety of mineral products in a wide range of prices.
The store is located in High Springs at 600 NW Santa Fe Boulevard. Open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, the store has something for everyone, Britton said.
For people looking for unique gifts, she sells trinkets like inexpensive crystal jewelry and small, carved animals, she said.
Serious collectors can choose from Britton’s mineral collection, gathered from all over the world. For these individuals, she offers workshops, either run by her or visiting friends.
“My community is vast,” she said. “People travel hundreds of miles to come to my shop. I get the Goth kids, people looking for gifts, people using stones for metaphysical uses, even religious people. After all, God made the rocks.”
She also utilizes stones for therapeutic purposes, explaining that different minerals have unique energies. By offering consultations at her store, she said she helps people heal.
“People can heal themselves on a certain level,” she said. “They can decide to shift their focus.”
Britton has a counseling background. She moved to Gainesville in 1968 from Venice, Fla., to study psychology at the University of Florida.
Seated comfortably in a plush, scarlet couch, she shoos away volunteers hanging up swooping bats to decorate the store for Halloween. She explained that this back room is for tranquility.
“We talk about things here,” she said. “I can do better counseling at the store.”
However, she encourages people to stop by and explore her store on their own. She set up a spiral labyrinth in the wooded back area to give people an opportunity for mediation.
The labyrinth is made of agatized coral found in North Central Florida. Agatized coral occurs when silica in the ocean hardens, replacing coral with a kind of quartz.
She laid the coral down in lines, following the ancient spiral pattern.
“It creates a walking meditation that’s meant to bring you closer to God and the mystery within,” Britton said. “When you reach the center, you give thanks. As you leave, you feel all the patterns and all the things that don’t serve you leaving.”
This opportunity to learn is most important, she said. That is why she does events like the Halloween Psychic Fair, to be held on Oct. 29.
“This is not about mega-weirdness,” she said. “People can believe in this or not. It is all in the spirit of good fun, positive energy and inquiry.”
The event offers a great variety of psychic readings, from Nordic Runes to tarot cards. However, Britton includes candy for the kids, encouraging them to dress up.
“It allows them to experience reality in a different way,” she said. “It opens their imagination and allows them to create. I like this. It’s fun.”
She enjoys sharing her knowledge of geology with kids that come into the store. Britton started collecting rocks when she was a little girl.
“I like the rocks and minerals in and of themselves,” she said. “I love the possibilities and potential.”
When she moved to High Springs 10 years ago to sell minerals at her brother’s furniture and antiques store, she had no idea where it would lead. All she knew was the importance of waiting for things to reveal themselves.
A year after her move, her brother decided to leave his business. Seeing Britton’s profits, he offered to sign the business over to her.
For years, she ran a profitable business on Main Street. She lost her entire inventory in the fire, which she said totaled about half a million dollars.
However, community members asked her to start over. Her vendors offered to give her merchandise on credit.
“They said, ‘Pay me when you can,’” she said. “Everyone was wonderful and supportive.”
Since, she has paid off all her debts. She said she feels blessed to run a continually successful business, never forgetting the generosity of the community.
She pointed to a towering crystal structure in the corner of the room. The purple stone reaches to the ceiling, white tips glittering.
She explained that it is called an amethyst cathedral. It is a crystal from Brazil, incredibly rare because of the black, round marks that dot the stone.
“They call them frog eyes,” she said. “Here we call them open eyes.”
An open mind is all she asks of visitors. She is careful not to reveal her own beliefs, instead focusing on what she calls the wonderful things people have taught her about other religions.
“I will never say, ‘You have to follow my way to God,’” she said. “We know we are here to turn towards love. I certainly remember that from my Sunday school.”
Britton said she wants any people of good will to come into her store.
Whether people drive 200 miles to take a class or walk down the street to buy a present, everyone is welcome at the High Springs Emporium.“I want people, when they come in, to imagine the possibility of peace,” she said. “We are all children together in the same place.”
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