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In Jimmy Carter's hometown, political memorabilia mix with emotion

Matt Kempner, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

Actually, such a price violates a rule Kurland tries to stick to.

“All our prices start off with ‘only.’ So, ‘this is only $6.99.’ That’s very important. It’s expensive if it doesn’t start off with ‘only.’”

Philip is 71. Ramona is ... “younger,” he says. She laughs and says, “I’ve been around longer than dirt.”

When they first settled in Plains in the early 1990s, they specialized in selling handmade Native American wares. Soon they shifted to antiques. But it was vintage political buttons that got the most attention from customers. They settled into memorabilia more than 20 years ago.

The Kurlands enjoy banter with anyone who enters the shop. He with his Bronx accent; she with what remains of her Chicago roots.

They do things their way. They accept only cash, check or, just recently added, PayPal. They operate in a 121-year-old building and don’t sell online. They only buy from people who are willing to travel to Plains, a two and a half hour drive from Atlanta and 50 minutes from the closest interstate.


The memorabilia are a reminder of a different era. Pinning your political allegiance on your chest? These days, “It’s very foolish to let people read where you stand,” Kurland ventures.

Some people want reminders. Lately, more tourists have been seeking out “Jimmy” stuff in particular. “Do you know how many people come in here who have named their sons Carter, because they like Carter?”

Media folk, who swept into town when Carter began hospice care, have shown a particular affinity for Billy Beer, named for the former president’s brother. Kurland said he recently sold out of his last two cases of the stuff, now decades old. And someone paid $130 for his only bottled version of the suds.

In a glass case out front is a belt buckle for the Ronald Reagan/George Bush ticket in 1984. And beside it, the Kurlands’ most expensive Jimmy Carter paraphernalia: two Carter buttons from a failed 1966 run for Georgia governor. Price: $229.99 for the pair.


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