A Birmingham landmark is closing. McNolia’s in Five Points South will be remembered for its edgy, funny greeting cards and outrageous novelty items. Earl Capellen, who opened the store in 1984, explains why now is the time to walk away.
“It’s time to retire. It’s time to retire — it’s come full circle. It’ll be 32 years old when we finish up. My work here is done.”
When the word got out that McNolia’s was closing, Capellen started hearing from former clients in California and New York and everywhere in between.
“All this is bittersweet,” he says, adding, “The people were always the fun part of it. I mean that and some nonsensical piece of merchandise and the party’s going.”
Nonsensical merchandise like an electric spaghetti fork or solar-powered kissing cuties. Speaking of which, John McGill of Birmingham stopped by to pick up “butt-faced towels, and bombs-away shot glasses. And I think the clown shoes are awesome. You tie them on to your shoes and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Lisa Alexander has been a McNolia’s customer from the very beginning.
“I mean they have things in here — it’s just fun to come and shop. Even when you don’t have something going on, even if it’s not a birthday. You can walk around and see things you don’t see anywhere else. And get a smile.”
Capellen, 62, says loyal customers are one reason he stayed in business so long. He doesn’t know what his next act will be, so he plans to take a long vacation and think about that. But he knows he takes with him fond memories of the fun he’s created at McNolia’s.
“I still look back on some of the things we’ve sold over the years and chuckle. That’s really funny. We’ve always laughed with people, and not at people. Don’t do things that are disparaging, do things that are genuinely funny. Genuinely funny. But you know, there’s a lid for every pot.”