Sassafras gets new owner after 34 years in downtown Vicksburg

Published 6:57 pm Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Nancy Bullard has been the owner of Sassafras, a mainstay downtown business that offers a variety of home décor, gift items and an extensive collection of bridal registry gifts, for more than 30 years.

But on Tuesday, Bullard officially sold the business and passed the torch to Margie Heltzel Steckler, a Vicksburg native, who plans to continue the Sassafras tradition while also bringing her own style to the store.

“This is like a dream come true,” Steckler said after taking ownership of the business as well as the Washington Street building. “I still can’t believe this is real. I’ve always loved it (Sassafras) as a gift shop, and it’s been one of my favorite places to shop. And Sassafras is a staple of downtown Vicksburg and Vicksburg means a lot to me. So, it was important to me to be able to buy the business in a building and in a place that I love.”

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Steckler and her husband, Wesley, currently live in Natchez, but plans are to move to Vicksburg once they sell their house. But until that occurs, Steckler said, she will be staying with family a few days a week.

Prior to purchasing Sassafras, Steckler had plans of opening a brick-and-mortar retail shop in Natchez in an effort to grow her Etsy shop, The Social Butterfly, which includes custom invitations and party supplies. But after learning that Bullard was interested in retiring, things changed, she said.

“I was actually on a phone call with Jennifer Coulter. She had called to talk with me about being a speaker at the Beautiful Table Settings convention (which is scheduled for January 2024), and she mentioned that Nancy was looking to retire and ready to sell Sassafras,” Steckler said. “So, I went home and asked Wesley, and he said I should inquire.”

Steckler said Bullard was at market when she first reached out to her, but on July 10 the women made contact — three months to the day from when the business changed hands.

“It means a lot to me that someone like Margie wanted to take over something I invested a lot of myself in, because after doing anything for so long and putting so much work into it, it becomes a little part of you. So, it feels great that someone as kind and capable and passionate wanted to come in and do that,” Bullard said.

For 34 years, Bullard said she worked five days a week at her business. It had been her dream, she said, to open her own business.

“Retail, and having my own business was something I had thought about early on. I was 32 when I opened; I was a baby,” she laughed. “But I set my sights on opening that store. I saw a niche and I don’t know what could have stopped me because I just knew I wanted to do it.”

During her years as a business owner, Bullard said, “Downtown has been good to me and downtown was a great investment, and I wouldn’t have done it anywhere else,” which is why closing this chapter of her life is bittersweet, especially when it comes to the people.

“I have heard people that are going to retire say, ‘We’ll, I’m going to miss the people.’ Well now I get that because I made wonderful friendships with customers,” she said.

But Bullard is ready to enjoy the freedom that comes with retirement, she said, and having someone like Steckler take the reins is comforting.

Steckler said she will keep the Sassafras name while also incorporating her branding — The Social Butterfly at Sassafras and will continue to have an extensive bridal registry. A paper and party department will also be added.

Before Bullard took possession of the property located at 1406 Washington St., Sassafras was home to Michaels Jewelry Store and the Versils gift shop. The 4,000-square-foot building also has a second floor that once housed The Attic Gallery and a basement level.

Steckler said she has not made any definitive plans on how to use the unoccupied spaces, but ideas are swirling.

To honor Bullard’s 34 years as the owner of Sassafras, an open house will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. on Oct. 26.

For anyone interested in browsing Steckler’s Etsy shop, visit

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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