Everyone wants to be friends with Erin Abbott. Her style and love for art add a unique flavor as an Oxonian. As one who resides in Water Valley, but frequents the 38655, Abbott has made an artistic, creative influence on both towns and woven herself within the locals.
Most easily recognized for her unique shop attached to the Lyric, Amelia, Abbott has lead an interesting and whimsical life in and outside Mississippi. Raised in the home of an Oxford writer, Abbott considered authors Willie Morris, Richard Ford, Barry Hannah, Eudora Welty and Shelby Foote to simply be close family friends. Not until college when Richard Ford won a Pulitzer and a PEN Faulkner Award did she realize their worldly popularity.
“All these people that were iconic to our state were just my mom’s friends,” Abbott said. “It was really very neat growing up around people clearly were defining the literary world.”
Abbott moved away in the mid eighties only to return to the Water Valley Oxford area in 2005, and in 2009 to open the shop Amelia.
“I knew that I wanted to one day eventually open up a little shop. I wanted to open up a shop like the one I was always searching for. And it didn’t exist in Oxford,” Abbott said.
Abbott spent time after college working as a traveling nanny for bands and celebrities like Nascar driver Jeff Gordon.
“I went on all their family vacations. We went to Mexico twice and then we did a ten day yachting trip through the South of France. We took a private plane from New York to France, which was pretty spectacular, something I will never experience again in my life.”
As she traveled from town to town, she would search for a shop that had unique items, items you probably couldn’t find anywhere else in the world. And when she returned to Oxford she opened one of her own, Amelia.
“It kind of all fell into place perfectly,” she said. ”The owner of the lyric and I had known each other since preschool and we both moved away from Oxford at the same time and both moved back at the same time. This little 187 sq feet of space was just sitting here as his storage room, and I asked him if I could open up a shop.”
Abbott lived in Oxford until she reached the fourth grade, remembering the town as a very magical place.
“I am glad it necessarily wasn’t so busy when I was kid, though,” she said in regards to the hype and population boom Oxford experienced in the last couple years.
“Growing up here, I love the small town mentality, but Oxford definitely offers as much as a larger city. There’s always things going on. I like being able to walk to the same coffee shop and know people there and I like being able to support local businesses. I just like that mentality as opposed to the big hustle and bustle of a big city.”
Although Abbott, her husband, former Colour Revolt member Sean Kirkpatrick and their son, Tom Otis, live in Water Valley, they consider both Oxford and Water Valley home.
“When I was a kid there was like four or five restaurants [in Oxford]. Summers felt like they were 6 months long. As an adult, I don’t know if I would have had the same mindset.”
Abbott says she believes Oxford and Water Valley work together to create an atmosphere for the art and music world of North Mississippi.
“Water Valley definitely reminds me of what Oxford was like when we left in 1985. Everything is on main street, and its very quaint, kids still playing the front yard. The post office is on Main Street. You don’t really have to drive anywhere you need to be,” Abbott said.
Tom Otis, born in 2012 can be found all over Abbott’s blog ‘My Mornings with Tom Otis” as she takes him on many adventures and experiences. One of Abbott’s most fond memories was Oxford on the Fourth of July at Avent Park pre-playground with fireworks and friends. The three still enjoy Avent Park along with the occasional trip to Square Books Junior to read next to the giant Curious George.
Although Oxford has grown immensely, Water Valley has maintained the appeal of a small town, the same appeal Abbott said she experienced as a child, playing in the woods and riding her bike in the front yard, an experience she wishes Tom Otis to have.
Abbott considers herself somewhat of an idea generator, as a photographer, music lover and creator, she works to show off many of the artists around her, from founding the Motel Art Show at the Ole Miss Motel and continuing it from its start in 2009 to helping locals to create an art show in an alley.
“If I don’t come up with a new idea every day, I kind of beat myself up,” Abbott said.
— Mallory Simerville