The Design Bar owner Michelle Barclay wants people young and old to reconnect with creativity.


By Emily Sparacino
Photos by Dawn Harrison

The directive “Be Fearlessly Authentic” on the window of The Design Bar is as much a piece of advice for visitors as it is for owner Michelle Barclay, who opened her business on Columbiana’s Main Street several months ago.

Barclay, a Birmingham native who moved back to Columbiana in July after living and working for the Walt Disney Company in Orlando, Florida, for nearly 14 years, wanted her shop to serve as a creative destination for people of all ages. Knowing how therapeutic painting, drawing and other activities are for her inspired Barclay to open The Design Bar.

“I have paint on my laptop,” she says. “It’s soothing to me to see paint on my laptop. The goal of this space is I want it to be very peaceful.”

Barclay’s first job after graduating from Auburn University as a theater major was performing. Several years later, she transitioned to a sales and marketing position with the company. “I miss that job. That being said, I’m not a corporate person.”

Over the years, she and her husband, Vaughn, and their five kids, Chase, David, Mackenzie Grace, Rixon and Matthew, often visited Michelle’s parents, Bill and Bonnie Lewis, owners of Lewis Lakes Vineyards in Columbiana. “We kind of fell in love with Columbiana,” Michelle says. “We got to where we didn’t want to leave.”

Now, they won’t leave. Not only have the Barclays put down roots in Columbiana, but Michelle has opened her first business, a venture she hopes will still be open years from now. “I’ve had an Etsy store and done (projects) for friends for seven years,” Michelle says. “This is my first storefront––kind of my own craft room. It’s just fun and something I’ve always enjoyed doing.”

The Design Bar is the result of an idea Michelle had to open a space where anyone could tap into their creativity––or ask Michelle to tap into hers. People can create a design themselves and have it printed on a tea towel, a T-shirt or some other item, or they can work with Michelle to come up with a custom design that fits their needs.

Michelle wants the shop to serve as a gathering place for people of all ages and walks of life. She envisions mothers bringing in their toddlers once a week for make-and-take crafts suitable for small hands. She sees special needs teens and adults who have graduated from high school coming to the shop to socialize and participate in activities with their peers. She pictures leading a class on recreating items found on the popular site Pinterest. She hopes to help customers one-on-one, too, whether they are interested in screen printing, baby gifts, personalized stationery or something else. She can even work with people’s gift registries.

“My goal is to provide a customer with a unique, special experience,” she says. “I want to actually design something for them. I like putting it together.”

Michelle also wants to help local groups with fundraising projects. “We’d love to be involved in the community and support everybody else.”

Michelle’s husband built the bar – the centerpiece of the shop and a significant part of its name – where she sits with customers to talk about what they want to design. A small kid’s table in the middle of the shop holds a basket of markers and a large roll of paper for drawing and coloring. Michelle also sells artwork by local artists and other gift items.

“This place will morph as it needs to. Stuff will change, and the space will not remain the same,” she says. “I hope we’re here in five years, changing it up. I just want people to enjoy coming in here. We’re just going to have fun.”

For updates and announcements, follow The Design Bar on Facebook or call (205) 671-5178.