Lo and behold, I landed back in Chapel Hill in 1976 and followed my dream of starting my own business. Cameron Craft Gallery opened on February 13, 1977 in the back part of the house that still stands on the corner of Church and Rosemary Streets.
The first year was a little slow. In fact, I would nap on the floor frequently and spring to my feet when the occasional customer walked in! The accountant sent monthly reports with recommendations to close the doors and to cut my losses.
Who listens when they are young? Not me. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. So I moved to University Square and expanded the size of the store. Things picked up! After three years, I moved to University Mall, shortened the name to Cameron’s, and things really started humming along.
I have always thought of the store as more like putting on a play. We have always focused on pleasing the senses and lifting the spirits of our customers, and sales seem to take care of themselves. Life is too short to not be as fun as possible, and that includes shopping!
In 1919, my grandfather and Mr. MacMillan started a business called MacMillan and Cameron. In 1991, Wendy McMillan joined the Cameron’s team. It did not take long for the whole McMillan family to become a big part of Cameron’s success. Wendy’s sisters Bridget, Donna and Sally helped us when we needed extra hands. As did their mother (“Mom” to the whole staff) and Wendy’s husband Andy. I joked with them early on that the McMillan and Cameron circle would come around again.
Wendy managed the store for a number of years. Bridget came on board and made the “shrine room” happen. I had been secretly working on my plan to pass the torch to them when the store turned 25, and was delighted that they felt the calling. That was over a year ago. I’ve had more fun than anyone as I’ve watched my “baby” become the best it ever has been since it was born.
Of course, there is so much history I have failed to tell! Esther Carp’s Cafe Deluxe, the swish little cafe that was upstairs from 1986-1987. The baby doll shrine room disaster. That Halloween window with the truckload of real pumpkins that taught me a good lesson. So much to tell! We’ll just have to add tidbits of history from time to time. In the meantime, here’s to happy visits to Cameron’s and an invitation to become part of our future history!
Danny Cameron, August 2003