Since it set up shop three years ago, the spiritual successor of the Nell Hills store in downtown has had success, but amid the most important time of year for retailers throughout the country, they’ve had a special helping hand in 2019.

Presley Busenbarrick is putting the finishing touches on some of his Christmas designs meant for festive-minded homeowners throughout the region, ahead of the Commercial Street Mall Holiday Open House event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, anchored by 5th Street Mercantile.

Busenbarrick, who became well known at a young age throughout the region for his skill and creativity in the arts of interior design, contributed to the HGTV and DIY networks on programs such as “Bargain Mansions” during a 2018 internship. He joined the 5th Street Mercantile staff as a designer in March, and is now gearing up for the first Christmas and holiday shopping season of his professional retail career.

Busenbarrick regards the renowned Nell Hills proprietor, Mary Carol Garrity, as an inspiration, and he hopes to one day help make 5th Street Mercantile as successful as Nell Hills. Garrity opened her store in 1981, and by the 1990s, it had become a regional landmark.

“The legacy of Nell Hills is so important for Atchison,” said Liz Wagner, owner-operator of Jerry’s Again restaurant, a neighbor to 5th Street Mercantile, and Nell Hills before.

“We would have mobs of people, and I mean mobs, running out the door on Saturdays at Nell Hills. It is unbelievable how much that woman (Garrity) did for this town.”

Busenbarrick said he considers it a privilege just to work in the same building as Nell Hills, under 5th Street Mercantile co-owners Eric Royer and Scott Weinman.

“Seeing what she could do in here, makes me feel like, ‘OK, we can do something like that again in our own way,’” Busenbarrick said. “And we know that it’s, that you’re capable to do it, so let’s try and get as many pretty things we can and get as many people down here just to check it all out.”

Garrity is wrapping up her career by turning over the second Nell Hills location situated in The Village at Briarcliff in Kansas City, Missouri, to Katie Laughridge, and will be fully retired in December. She said she admires Busenbarrick in turn, and the work of Atchison’s retailers in general makes her confident in passing the torch.

“Oh, I love Presley, he’s done such a great job,” Garrity said. “I’ve watched him grow up — I am close friends with his grandmother and his family — and I just can’t think of a better person to be in there. It just looks wonderful. He’s a very talented young man. I’m a big fan of his.”

Royer said Busenbarrick has a special skill to present ideas and products customers never would have previously considered.

“Customers can come in here and be like, ‘Hey, I saw something like this,’ and within a few minutes, Presley is going to have a vision for them to take home, and invariably, they’ll be like, ‘Wow, we love this,’” Royer said.

Garrity said she is excited to see what the future holds for 5th Street Mercantile and other businesses like it.

“Of course Atchison is my hometown, so it’s a very, very special place,” she said. “It’s exciting because you’re seeing a lot of young energy in there again ... There is so much young energy back into the city today, it’s exciting to see that.”

Marcus Clem can be reached


Follow him on Twitter @AdAstraGorilla.

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