As shoppers stroll Grand Boulevard searching for a special gift, they often come upon Magnolia House, which has many gift-type items alluringly arranged in its glass windows.
But once the door is opened and the shopper steps inside, it becomes apparent this is not an ordinary gift shop.
Words of encouragement and inspiration are all around.
Nancy Veldman has created a lifestyle and book store of beautiful items interweaving encouragement and inspiration amongst the beauty.
The beautiful items and messages sprinkled throughout are only one facet of what Magnolia House is about, however.
A baby grand piano rests in one corner of the shop, and if Veldman is not on the bench playing, one of her CDs is emitting peaceful melodious sounds through the air.
Veldman describes herself a late bloomer who began playing later in life.
She moved to the area 27 years ago to be close to her parents and opened Magnolia House in Grayton in 1992.
"I had never done retail before and thought it would be a just a regular gift shop," Veldman recalled.
However, the gift shop has turned out to be more.
"People from all over the world come in and tell me how peaceful it is and it's the one place they come back to. It's not what I have but it's the spirit of the shop," she said. "I feel like the Lord moved in at Grayton and followed me to Grand Boulevard. People respond to the music and say there is something different about the shop. The music has a calming effect."
Veldman has not always played music, however. She could play some when she was a child, but she did not have the gift of writing music and playing it. That came to her the day her father was buried 19 years ago.
The day her father was buried, Veldman began to hear music and went to the piano and started playing.
The next week she heard another.
Veldman moved a white baby-grand into the shop at Grayton and started playing for customers, which affected them to the point of making them cry.
"I thought I was probably horrible, or there was something special about the music," she said.
Nineteen years later Veldman has produced 10 CDs and 100 songs.
"Each one just comes to me. Sometimes they are for someone but I don't know who until they come through the door of the shop," she said. "The music breaks through walls and people feel they can trust me and they tell me very personal things."
Such as the Vietnam War vet who came in while she was playing and returned several times, always tearing up as he stood at the piano while she played. One day he asked her why she thought it affected him. Veldman told him she thought it was the Holy Spirit.
"He started to cry and I felt a wall come down," she said. "Then he opened up to me about being abused."
And that is only one example of her stories.
While in Grayton, several cancer patients came in at various times. One was Ruthie.
"She said, 'I'm dying of cancer and I'm not ready to die.' I went home and wrote 'An Angel For Ruthie' and sent it to her, and told her God gave me that music for her," said Veldman. "She played it 24/7 for weeks and when she went back to the doctor they couldn't find any sign of cancer. She lived 20 more years. I don't think the music healed her … I think it was the belief that God had sent her music.
"I'm a servant. I believe I have the gift of mercy and my purpose in life is when I can meet a need, I meet it," she added. "I don't think I am special or different. I just want to affect people's lives and God uses that."
Veldman continues to branch out and discovered a new gift nine years ago.
"One night an idea came to me for a story and I went to her computer and began to type. It just came. I wasn't even sure how to start," she said.
She has now published eight books and is about to publish her ninth. Like the music, the stories just come to her.
The head of Sacred Heart Hospital came from Pensacola to meet Veldman and videoed her reading from her book on treating the whole person. He took the book and one of her CDs back with him and began playing it in the hospital. Her music is now played in 500 hospitals across the nation. Cancer patients write, telling her how her music helped them through chemotherapy.
"This shop is a ministry undercover," Veldman said softly as one of her CDs plays in the background. "It's a peaceful place. I have been blessed with so many gifts late in life. We are all hurting and the way the world is today, we need peace."