Local gift shop supports Kentucky

After retiring from the military, Jeff Meo, the owner of Meo’s Collection, came across Bowling Green while kayaking down the Green River. He decided it was the place for him to retire. Meo now owns and runs his own store in the square. “I like to travel, and I like to collect, and I like people,” Meo said. “I started this store as a chance to meet people and have fun.”

Maciena Justice

On the counter of Jeff Meo’s shop, Meo’s Collection, there is a miniature outhouse. When the curious customer opens the mini- door to sneak a peek, the entire structure comes tumbling down. But Meo takes it all with a laugh as he puts the mouse-trap outhouse back together.

The Raleigh, N.C., native has traveled throughout his life, spending 30 years in the Army and collecting items from the travels. After stopping in Bowling Green, he saw a need for a gift shop and decided he would open a store and stock it with Kentucky-made products.

“It’s just a great way to help out local artists,” Meo said.

Located on the square at 415 Park Row, Meo’s Collection has a wide variety of products – everything from soaps, hand-made scarves and wind chimes to homemade honey and peanut butter. But what Meo values most is that 60 percent of the store’s stock is Kentucky made.

“It’s important to buy American – to support local folks,” he said.

Meo said that is one of the reasons he rarely turns away anyone who comes with a product to sell.

“If something doesn’t fit in right, I send them to another store if isn’t fitting here,” he said.

Meo said he put a lot of time into what would stock the shelves of his store; going to various farmer’s markets and art shows to find what he wanted to line the walls. He met Anna Combs, creator and owner of Bark Twain, a healthy and wholesome dog treat.

Combs, a part-time English professor at WKU, said that Meo came to the farmer’s market outside of Hobby Lobby and spoke with her about selling her products.

She said she doesn’t want her product to be in competition with inferior products. Combs’ Bark Twain dog treats are sold very selectively in Bowling Green, at the farmer’s market she attends, Meo’s Collection and at Barbara Stewart Interiors. Combs does this to keep her product a special treat.

She also keeps different products at each store. Liver treats can be found at Meo’s, while liver bits are at Barbara Stewart Interiors, keeping the competition between the stores to a minimum.

“I like win-win situations,” Combs said.

Combs said her product fits great in the store, since there isn’t anything else like it there.

She also said that Meo’s Collection was the only place in town where refills for her liver treats can be purchased.

Another vendor that Meo found for his store is photographer Paula Martin, a former WKU student and now Louisville resident.

Martin’s photos are of things in Kentucky, which is what Meo wanted in his store – Kentucky made and produced products or art.

“I’m always looking for new venues to sell my photos,” Martin said.

She said that she really liked the concept of the store, adding that Meo’s is “a really great thing for Bowling Green” since there’s nothing else like it.