CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Elisa Payne likes to quote her husband's assessment. "He says it was cheaper to buy me the store than for me to continue to work in the store."
The store she is referring to is Eggplant, the glittering, glamorous magnet that draws customers from South Hills and beyond to the Bridge Road shops.
In early October, she and her husband, Charles K. Payne IV, bought the store from longtime owner Thebe Warren. They signed the papers, exchanged money and then everyone went back to the store for a champagne toast.
Warren, who bought the gift shop in 1996 and expanded it, is moving back to her home state of Texas on Friday.
"I loved having the shop and I loved living in Charleston, but I am ready for the next chapter in my life," Warren said. "I am so happy to see Eggplant continue. It will be in good hands with Elisa."
Although Elisa Payne jokes that she has been a shopper-in-training for 47 years, this is the first time the mother of three has worked for herself.
"I love it, I have no regrets. I'm not afraid to make mistakes," Payne said.
Payne started working a couple of days a week at the upscale gift shop seven years ago, mainly to get out of the house for a while. Her husband's business, Engine Sales and Service, had dissolved and he was at home along with their young children.
Over the years she added hours and got to know the customers very well. "I've met lots of people. I am a very social person," she said.
For now, Eggplant customers will see little change in the shop full of bright Christmas decorations, Vera Bradley bags, greeting cards, gourmet food items, unusual jewelry, children's clothing and an ever-revolving selection of gift items that are, in Payne's words, "anything but ordinary."
She would like to carry more locally made products. Eggplant already sells items by Wallace Metal Works of Charleston, Blenko glass and Adam Morton's hand-poured candles in decorative cut wine bottles as well as a few books by area writers. "There are people who do great work in this town, in this state," she said.
Likewise, customers will be served by the same employees plus a few new faces -- friends of Payne's. "I have a great staff -- and friends," she said.
The shop windows and store displays are put together by Susan Bliss, who has worked at Eggplant for 15 years. "She has a flair for design. Her parents used to have Jan's Flowers," said Payne. "I give her full rein."
Whitney Rey, who works with decorator Pat Bibbee, "has a great eye," and Nancy Abcouwer oversees the printing department, where unique invitations, cards and stationery can be ordered.
"It's nice to see everyone's talents come out," said Payne, adding later, "I'm no micromanager."