By DeLani Bartlette
After 25 years, an important center of Fayetteville’s alternative community may be closing its doors. Passages Center for Harmony at 930 N. College Ave. was put up for sale in July, and if a buyer doesn’t purchase it by the end of the year, its doors will close permanently.
Barry and Lorraine Langford, originally from Los Angeles, first opened the store under the name Crystal Presence in 1986. Barry had just earned his massage license and needed a place to practice, so he borrowed $3,000 from his sister to start up in a tiny storefront on Mission Boulevard.
Lorraine says, “We knew it couldn’t make it on just that (massage.) People liked the music he played during massages, so we started selling CDs, crystals and stones; those were our major focus. And books, but just a few.”
The store also carried essential oils, incense and tarot cards.
The shop continued to grow, first into a vacant motel office near the intersection of Dickson Street and North College, and in 1989 to a house on the corner of Maple Street and North College. It was here the shop changed its name to Passages.
“We felt like it expressed more of the intent of the business: to help people with their passages,” Lorraine says.
Here they greatly expanded their book selection, offering dozens of titles on subjects such as tarot reading, alternative spirituality, channeling and healing.
Things continued to get bigger and better for the store. In 1995, it moved into the historic Coca-Cola building at 200 W. Dickson St. The Langfords smile, recalling the shop’s heyday.
“That was the peak of Passages,” Barry says. Lorraine agrees, “It was the best; we had the most stuff. And the clothes!”
Barry says the difficulties began when everything the shop dealt in — aromatherapy, alternative healing, divination and alternative spirituality — “went mainstream.” Lorraine says, “That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it really impacted us.”
Two relocations later, in what may be Passages’ final home, Jessica Steed, a former employee, is buying a Witches’ calendar and some small bells to make charms and cat toys.
She says a lot of people come here not just for the products “but for the people.” She says Passages plays an important role in the community because “there’s a lot of information sharing that happens here (as well as) networking and meeting like-minded people.” As for the shop’s possible closing, Steed says she’s sad. Other than Passages, she says, “there’s not a specific place that you can go to find that information, and meet people face-to-face.”
Kelsang Khacho, Buddhist nun and longtime friend of the Langfords, agrees. She says the store is “so special. It forms a focal point for light. … It’s like an information center.”
Now, Lorraine says, keeping the doors open has been difficult, as it has been for most small business owners. They’ve had to cut the shop’s hours and staff down to only two part-time employees.
“People just are not spending as much money,” she says.
Lorraine adds there is a personal reason they’re stepping down: “We’ve done it for 25 years, and we’re tired.”
At one point the Langfords had a potential buyer lined up, but she was unable to get a loan.
“The banks just aren’t lending,” Barry says.
The Langfords started their close-out sale Tuesday, which will continue until everything, including the store fixtures, is liquidated. Regardless of Passages’ fate, the Langfords will continue their healing practice through White Lotus Massage.
“We put our hearts into it always,” Lorraine says. “I think that showed.”