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The one thing that visitors never have trouble finding when they’re at Barbara Hartsfield’s little shop in Stone Mountain Village is a chair. There are more than 3,000 of them, though most are too small for even the tiniest person to sit in.
The Minichair Gallery at 994 Main St., Stone Mountain, is a combination shop and museum with plant holders, picture frames, bookends, cookie jars, inkwells, water globes, jewelry boxes and a huge assortment of other items—all made to look like tiny chairs. The salt and pepper shaker collection alone has more than 100 items. There are even chairs within chairs such as the chair earring holder that has earrings that are all chairs. In honor of the season, there is a Christmas tree with more than 100 different ornaments, each a miniature chair.
Hartsfield, in fact, is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the owner of the world’s largest collection of miniature chairs. “They had to create a category just for me,” Hartsfield recalled. “I stopped counting at 3,000. Somebody else may go after the record, but that’s OK. I have the one certificate; that’s all I want.”
She explained that the collection started as a hobby when she was working fulltime as a psychiatric nurse at Grady Hospital. She was writing an article for a professional journal on working with pregnant psychiatric patients. She decided that chairs would make soothing images for such patients and bought a few doll-size chairs to have around as she interviewed patients.
“When the building across the street became available, I was praying that I could get it. I would leave church on Sunday and come out here and look at that building and pray. I didn’t know that as I was praying I was standing on the property that actually was going to become mine,” she said.
In the seven months the Minichair Gallery has been open, it has nearly filled up with exhibits, most of which are in the museum. The shop occupies a relatively small part of the house. “I don’t like to sell the items in the museum—some are one-of-a-kind items that can’t be replaced—but once in a while someone talks me into selling something from the museum,” she said. Even the shop’s bathroom has chairs in its bathtub.
“My eye is always out for something different,” Hartsfield said, adding that she regularly goes online to see what other miniature chairs are being offered for sale. “I’m going to have to stop doing that—or get a bigger place,” she said.
In the museum, chairs are grouped by about 30 themes. There’s a Coca-Cola theme, a jungle theme and a sports theme, for example. There are groupings for Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and other holidays, but Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Labor Day items are included in the patriotic collection, where she has photos from the 2008 presidential inauguration that have never been published. Functional items such as radios, napkin holders and planters are separate from those that are just knickknacks.