The Gift Garden and American Classics Garage celebrate 35 years on the Outer Banks
Published 3:10 pm Friday, December 9, 2022
The Gift Garden and American Classics Garage are celebrating 35 years in business on the beach. A celebration of “change and thankfulness” will take place on Saturday, December 10 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the form of an open house. All are welcome to stop by throughout the day, donate a new toy to the Dare Cares toy drive, grab a bite to eat, stay for giveaways and shop the sale.
Locally owned and family owned and operated, this unique retail duo set up shop in 1987 at the Outer Banks Mall as a small t-shirt company. Brenda Quidley, who now owns both stores with husband Richard, started selling T-shirts when she was 14 years old. Never did she think the business would boom as much as it did in the years that followed. As the demand increased, the “specialty” gift inventory was added. Eventually, so was a line of NASCAR memorabilia. The business moved from the mall to its current location in 1999. Richard left his job in auto parts retail to work the store with Brenda full-time.
Over the years, the business has grown and evolved with the changing times. Dipping their toes into the sports sector, Brenda and Richard started carrying NFL merchandise. With little to no other options for sports gear in the area, they built a large following. However, hefty contracts began to put many sports stores out of business, and the couple decided it was best for them to stick to what they knew and especially what they loved: memorable gifts.
In 2014 the couple took a trip to the mountains and on their return to the beach, they stopped at the Charlotte Motor Speedway for a classic car show. “We walked around and as we got ready to leave, we looked at each other and said, ‘This is what we should be doing,’” Brenda shared. The concept for a gift shop with a specialized partner store offering all things automotive sprouted into a huge rebranding.
“If you’re going to make it in business, you’ve gotta change with the times, especially in retail,” said Benda. “It’s an ever-changing market year to year, and back then we felt like we needed to change.” Embracing Richard’s love of cars and long history in the automotive space, American Classics Garage opened in 2015.
Building off of the classic car concept for the store, Richard along with close family friend Sara Hole and Michael Tillett started OBX Rod and Custom. “We started that on two hundred bucks,” Richard chuckled. “The first year we were able to donate back $17,000 to charities. It’s built year after year, and that kind of ties in with the car lovers.” Tillett now tours with classic cars, where Richard sets up a trailer at events in an effort to promote the business. “It all comes full circle, one supports the other.”
Although the physical store and its contents have progressed over time, Brenda said one thing has always remained the same. “The color of building has changed, the brand name has changed through the seasons, but this business been locally owned and family owned and operated since day one.”
Now it is time for a new chapter, while standing by that fact – Brenda and Richard’s nephew, Michael Muse, along with Hole, will begin to take the reins on the daily operations and bring both The Gift Garden and American Classics Garage to new heights. “Him [Michael] and Sara are taking this to the next level,” Brenda shared. “With times changing, there are more things that they are more up on with computer stuff and art and all that.” Richard added, “We’re trying to work it where she gets time to play in the garden instead of working it.”
As a new journey begins, Brenda and Richard offered their thanks and gratitude for all of those who have come through the doors of their shops, and those who have kept it running: “I want to thank all of the customers who have put us where we are for thirty-five years, as well as the folks who have worked for us and with us in partnership. And a special thanks to my sister and brother-in-law.”
Brenda’s sister and brother-in-law, Linda and George Raper, lent the couple $5,000 in order to open T-Tops back in 1987. Their daughters work for the family every summer. The family’s kindness and generosity has lent itself to a place where anyone can walk in and find that “feel good” item they have been searching for, where the heart of a family who has served the Outer Banks for decades can be felt in every square foot.