010418-blm-biz-1thepod

Customers admire artwork while shopping at The Pod in uptown Normal last fall. The store will close Feb. 15.

NORMAL — A locally stocked art and gift store in uptown Normal will close next month.

The Pod, 104 E. Beaufort St., will shut down Feb. 15 so co-owner Natalie Wetzel can pursue other opportunities, she posted to Facebook.

"For the past six and a half years, I have been tremendously blessed by our incredible community and local artists who have given me the great privilege of representing them and their work," she wrote. "However, after much prayer and contemplation, I believe God is leading me into a brand new season of freedom and life.

"By closing The Pod, I hope to gain more time to spend with loved ones and considerably more time to concentrate on my own artwork. I want to personally thank everyone who has supported us in this venture since its conception. I will miss people the most."

The town of Normal owns the building. Officials don't yet have any plans for the space after The Pod closes, said Normal Communications Director Dan Irvin.

"Starting immediately will be closeout sales including fixtures," Wetzel wrote. "If you’re interested in anything, please let me know, and I’ll give you a quote."

The owners could not be reached for more details on the business Wednesday.

Wetzel's post had a few 'sad' reactions as of Wednesday morning, but many more 'like' and 'love' reactions, as well as dozens of comments from customers and well-wishers.

"The Pod has added essential flavor for Uptown Normal; however, I believe your calling is exactly what you need, although you don’t sound quite sure where your path will lead you," wrote Harry Fuller. "Trust your innermost feelings, and God's blessings to you, Natalie."

"Your store created a mark in Normal and helped with the revitalization of downtown. What a fantastic store — your dream and your heart and energy given to make it successful," wrote Jewel Ward. "Great work. Whatever your future holds will be terrific."

Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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