HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - After 58 years serving customers across the Tennessee Valley, a Huntsville business is closing. Southerland Station has become a piece of Huntsville's history. Southerland Station survived for almost six decades because the owners kept reinventing the business. It evolved from blueprints to toys, art supplies and trains.
Nikki Skidmore told us, “I grew up in it. It was dad’s before I came along.” She now owns it with her husband. They took over for her father who bought it in the 60’s. Smiling, she said, “It’s been part of the heartbeat of our family.” Everybody worked. “We all helped with inventory,” Nikki said. “At the end of the year, I remember counting pencils as a young girl.”
Now, she’s counting down the days until closing. “I've always loved it. Yeah,” she said. But all good things come to an end. “That's right,” she responded. “There's a season for everything and it’s just time. The Skidmore’s considered closing three years ago. “I can look back and say no regrets. We tried it. God has actually opened other doors for us,” she said. They both have other jobs.
But when the door closes one last time and the Open sign goes dark, “It's bittersweet,” Nikki said. “We trust the future is going to be bright. But closing that chapter and knowing it`s the last day will be tough.”
Other than the customer service, most customers will probably miss the trains. “We've sold a lot of trains through the years,” Nikki said. Her father, Dick Metzger has loved trains since he was a little boy. So in the 80’s, he set up his own train tracks near the front door of the business. Nikki says he did it for one reason, “So people would come see the trains.” And they did. The display way huge! Most of it is now in his basement and the trains are still running. The last remaining piece at the store won’t be making the move though. It’s been sold. “I found out one of my high school friends had bought it for his little boy and I started crying because I know it's going to a great home,” Nikki said. “And I'm so glad they're going to be able to hold onto a little piece of Southerland Station.”
And Nikki has some beautiful memories to hold onto as well. Like the time her father returned a Christmas gift from his wife because his only train engine was broken. Nikki was about two at the time. “They were at that point in their life, they weren't making a whole lot of money yet so he returned his shoes,” she told me. “He drove to Birmingham and bought an engine so I’d have a train to play with. That’s just what fathers do.”
Southerland Station is only open on Friday and Saturday for the next two weekends. The hours for Friday are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. The last day for business is February 25th and everything in the store is 50 to 60 percent off. It’s located on Whitesburg Drive.