By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
Following the closures of Christian bookstores statewide, one local business is standing in the gap.
Located at 428 Broad Street, Laura Lee’s on Broad owner Lee Posey-Kidd welcomes the community to experience blessings bestowed and the paramount hope of Christ demonstrated in every visit.
“Without God we have nothing,” said Posey-Kidd. “[I want to share] peace and serenity and the love of Christ, because of Him we have everything. Laura Lee’s on Broad is open because God spoke to me in the night and said, ‘You need to do this,’ when I kept insisting to him that I was going to retire. He informed me this was what He planned for me to do.”
While Posey-Kidd battled with the notion of another business venture, God created other plans. Posey-Kidd emphasized that the lesson she learned most deeply throughout Laura Lee’s development resided with turning her efforts over to God, rather than attempting to do anything by herself. An independent and determined person, Posey-Kidd confessed she often plunges into uncharted waves head-first before dipping her toe in the water to test how it feels. With Laura Lee’s, it was more than a feeling, but a knowing that this time, God surveyed the water and would help her remain afloat.
Posey-Kidd’s experience in gift shops dates back to the 1970s, when she traveled the world as a military wife. In Germany, she united with fellow military wives who created hand-crafted items to aid families in need, selling goods in ‘Sunshine Cellars,’ or boutiques in basements of buildings. Her gift shops sprouted worldwide, most recently in Huntsville before she returned to Gadsden to open Laura Lee’s, which now harbors three locations: Broad Street, Riverview Regional Medical Center and Gadsden Regional Medical Center.
“Lee knows where her blessings come from,” said Broad Street manager Cheryl Conklin. “She’s a very loving person. She loves people and she can’t not do enough for somebody if she thinks you’re in need. She’s very smart and a caregiver…she’s a nurturer. I would say she’s servant-hearted.”
As a Christian gift and book shop, Conklin describes Laura Lee’s on Broad as “the best well-known kept secret around.” Its eclectic range of merchandise offers visitors a variety of options, from clothing to home décor to accessories, catering to all ages. While Laura Lee’s diverse collection of items ensures all who meander through the boutique discover something to catch their eye, the message behind the carefully-selected merchandise captures visitors’ hearts.
Brands like Duke Cannon, Save the Girls and Chala all coincide with Laura Lee’s mission, serving as an extension of the values upon which the store’s foundation stands firm. Duke Cannon donates 10 percent of its proceeds to veterans, Save the Girls donates 10 percent to breast cancer awareness and Chala donates five percent to Heart and Home Animal Rescue Foundation. Glory Haus home décor supports women in Southern India, training and employing them to rise above their circumstances and discover a brighter future. All women employed through Glory Haus flourish in a loving community, where they receive fair wages, childcare, health insurance and free healthy lunches, alongside the opportunity to shatter the cycle of poverty in their lives.
“Those [brands] are very important,” said Conklin. “A lot of people like to know that they’re helping somebody. Especially with everything we’ve just been through – it makes them feel like they’re giving back to something.”
The spirit of giving that exudes throughout Laura Lee’s is one aspect of the peaceful, calming and welcoming environment the shop creates. The store’s purpose emerges as twofold: to provide visitors with physical gifts, but to nourish them spiritually as well, giving them the priceless gift of Christ’s love. Each handwritten invoice and package filled with tissue paper and ribbon exemplifies the time Laura Lee’s employees dedicate to making others feel special, to remind them that someone cares.
“If you walk in the door and need prayer, we are going to pray for you,” said Conklin. “If you need Jesus, we’re going to share Jesus with you. I can’t tell you the times I’ve prayed over the store and people have come in throughout the day who might not need anything, but just want someone to pray for them. We want [Laura Lee’s] to be a place where they know they’re not only going to get a gift, but they can be loved on too and we can share the love of Christ. We treat everybody with respect. It doesn’t matter race, religion, sex or national origin – we love you. We’re all God’s children.”
Moments illuminate Conklin’s mind as she reflects on the individuals who visit the store and the stories that arise in their midst. One woman found Conklin one day, saying, “I just didn’t know where to go. I just felt like this would be the place to come.” Another lost a grandchild and sought a sense of peace. Two young girls were preparing to leave for college and needed God’s guidance for their personal paths.
Conklin recalled changing a window one early morning when an elderly man approached her, asking if she could point him towards city hall because he needed help for his wife. He said, “I saw this is a Christian gift store, and I thought of all the places, maybe this could be the place where I could come and get prayer.”
“Some people are just wanting prayer,” said Conklin. “I want to be able to be used by God in order to be able to do that.”
“The people I come in contact with, they become family more than my customers,” said Posey-Kidd. “I love being a part of their lives and knowing what is going on in their lives. It’s more important to me that they share their lives with me than they share their money with me.”
Conklin herself became affiliated with Laura Lee’s three years ago, when the store first opened on Broad Street. She shared that as a teenager, she never knew distinctly what profession she wanted to pursue. Instead, God opened a door for her to serve as secretary for Etowah Baptist Association, then as secretary for her church. After Conklin met Posey-Kidd at a service, it only took her a handful of months to realize a partnership with Posey-Kidd was her next step.
Conklin attested to the personal transformation she underwent over the course of her years at Laura Lee’s. Under Posey-Kidd mentoring wing, Conklin discovered a newfound confidence in herself and what God can do in her life. Before, circumstances in Conklin’s life made her consider herself a victim. Now, she lives victorious, comforted through the knowledge that she is capable and God is with her to encourage her.
“You teach by leading,” said Conklin. “You lead by example. If you want your people to care about what they do, you need to care about what you do. You don’t teach by being ugly or hateful. [This job] has taught me a lot about me. It’s taught me how to be a leader and not make somebody feel like they couldn’t be, that mistakes are going to happen and there’s a way of overcoming a mistake. It’s taught me that I can be forgiven and [others] can too.”
Laura Lee’s is more than just a store. Its serene environment emerges as a refuge for people seeking solace, a place where visitors receive encouragement, nourishment and a paramount hope that with God’s guidance and grace, their lives are undoubtedly transformed. Through its dedicated and caring staff who strive to serve as examples of Christ, Laura Lee’s promotes a peace that surpasses all understanding, an unbreakable hope that abounds forever and the continuation of God’s blessings that nurture undying love.
“The relationships – that’s what I want this store to be about,” said Conklin. “I want it to be building relationships that are founded in God. If they didn’t know Him, they found Him in this store. I want [Laura Lee’s] to be a house of God in one sense of the word. I want people to know God dwells here in some form or fashion. I think that is Lee’s heart as well…she wants people to know He’s alive.”
“We want you to come and allow us to help you,” said Posey-Kidd. “But most of all, we want you to know (and I say this all the time and people think I’m joking) that God owns the business, but he graciously allows me to put my name on the store. Then, he helps me pay the bills. If you give what you have to God, He will bless you more than you can ever imagine. We are thankful for the people who help us become a success, but we know that it all comes because God is blessing us.”
Laura Lee’s on Broad is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, find Laura Lee’s on Broad on Facebook.