Nestled between the trendy shops and restaurants of Hillsboro Village, the primary-colored exterior of Pangaea stands out from the rest.
Pangaea — a clothing, jewelry and home goods store — became a staple of the Village and a go-to destination for many Belmont students looking for unique and affordable finds.
But in an Instagram post in early January, the store announced it would be closing in the near future. A peek in the windows now reveals a vibrant but nearly empty interior.
“In the first week after the announcement, we probably cleared out about 75 percent of the store,” said Catherine Laux, a Pangaea employee and familiar face behind the jewelry display cases. “I’ve been here 15 years, so it’s sad to see it go.”
The Instagram post explained the store would be closing as owner Sandra Shelton enters retirement. But even as her life enters this new stage, her personality is just as lively and joyful as the store she created.
“I was a paralegal for a while. I thought if I could run a small agency, then I could run a business,” Shelton said. “Plus, I really love to shop!”
Her love of shopping eventually mixed with her love of travel, creating the eclectic mix of items Pangaea customers came to know and love.
“I started with vintage clothes, since I had so many and they were so cheap back then,” she said. “But then I went to Guatemala and saw all the beautiful goods and thought I could sell those too.”
The store originally opened in 1987 on Belmont Boulevard, where Proper Bagel is today. It eventually moved to the current location on 21st Avenue and has been there for the last 22 years.
“I was nervous because the Village has gone through its ups and downs in its history,” she said. “But with some of the other businesses that were opening at the time, it was worth the risk.”
That risk payed off, as Nashville — and Hillsboro Village, specifically — continue to grow.
“All of Nashville has exploded,” she said. “When I started, neither place was a shopping area, but we became a bit of a destination.”
All that growth can be a bit much, and Shelton eventually decided now was the time to retire.
“I’m 72 now, and, for a while, I would think about it every five years, but the timing was never quite right,” Shelton said. “I noticed lately I’m losing the enthusiasm to do the extra things, and that’s not a good place to be in a business.”
Watching the store go through the closing process has not been easy, and the memories here will remain an important part of Shelton’s life.
“Looking at pictures from just a few weeks ago has been breaking my heart,” she said.
The change won’t be easy for employees either, as Shelton considers them to be a part of her family.
“My employees are like my kids! It’ll be quiet once we close,” she said. “I always wanted work to be fun for them — they keep me current.”
Shelton plans to use her newly found free time to get back to doing what she truly loves.
“I plan to travel, to work on my home and then I’ll have to find something,” she said. “Volunteering, part-time work, just something like that. I’m scared and excited all at once.”
Pangaea’s doors officially closed on Sunday, with any future visits being appointment-only to pick up furniture.
“I hope it’s been a thing of beauty and joy for people,” she said. “I hope they take away a feel for other cultures and that sense of beauty.”
Photos by Rachel VanDoren.