Nestled away on Billy Dyar Boulevard in Boaz, inside a home formerly owned by Cecil Thompson, is Crystal Corner – one of the largest gift shops in the Southeast.
Mary Ann Lowery first started Crystal Corner out of her basement in 1984 as a way to deal discontinued china. After business grew, she set up shop at a service station by Pasquale’s Pizza, then moved to her current location when the Boaz Outlets began to boom.
“This was our neighbor’s house, and we used to sit here and eat with them,” Lowery said. “When we heard those outlets were coming … my father-in-law told me: ‘Now if you ever want to try this business, now is the time to buy that house.’ So we did. We sat over here by ourselves on what used to be a dirt road for a while. I was doing a lot of mail orders and had the website, and I answered letters on old china and crystal — that’s how I managed to just hang in there until those outlets got here.”
The idea to deal rare, discontinued china and open Crystal Corner was sparked while Lowery worked at The Jewel Box as a bookkeeper.
“What’s really funny is, they had tons of this old china but didn’t work it,” Lowery said.
One day while working, Lowery said she went up stairs to look around and found several boxes full of letters asking if The Jewel Box had different types of china. With the company’s permission, Lowery began reading letters that she believes were at least 20 years old.
Even after the business made about $30,000 by Lowery just answering a handful of letters, The Jewel Box didn’t want to expand its business to deal with china.
That’s when Lowery started her own business and Crystal Corner was born.
Over the last 35 years, her business has grown into something she never quite expected. Her store has expanded into much more than rare china, crystal pieces and dolls. There are thousands of different items located within the estimated 8,500 square-foot building, which includes toys, clothes, jewelry and seasonal decorations.
“We’ve got just about everything here,” Lowery said. “If you can’t find it here, then you probably won’t find it anywhere else — or it hasn’t been made yet.”
Within the last decade, Lowery said there has been a decline in business — mostly because people think her store only carries china and crystal, and “no one uses china anymore.” While she hopes it will make a comeback like many fashion trends do, Lowery fears the days of collecting china are over, and that’s why she’s put focus on selling other things.
“I could be wrong, and I sure hope I am, but I don’t think china will come back,” she said. “Now, if my brides come in and pick out dinnerware, it’s something they can either dress it up or they can dress it down. They’re not doing both anymore.”
Whether china makes a comeback or not, Lowery said Crystal Corner would remain true to itself and continue to be the unique place it’s always been.
“They can walk in and almost do a one-stop shop,” Lowery said. “We’re the only one that gift wraps anymore, we’re the only one that has as many different choices — other than Hobby Lobby, maybe.
“We just want people to know we’re still here,” she added. “And we don’t plan on going anywhere.”