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Passing on the joy


When my husband left me, I was as down as a bloodhound who'd lost the scent. Few things elevated my mood as Cameron's in Chapel Hill's University Mall did. There I felt stirrings of love again--for a wooden, kinetic Ferris wheel--its seats filled with hand-carved fairgoers, including the fat lady who sings, and sharing another seat, African-American identical twins wearing beanie caps. Cost? Several months of my salary. My frequent visits were "look therapy." One day, Danny Cameron, who started the unusual art and gift store 25 years ago, told me I had to have the piece. He lowered the price and told me to pay it off as I could. It took me almost three years. I told Danny recently of the great pleasure the Ferris wheel has brought me, and he said he wanted me to have it since I responded to it the way he did, lovingly and with excitement.

Last month, Cameron's passed into new hands. Danny thought he would have to close it since he didn't think anyone could retain its quirkiness, but Wendy Smith and Bridget McMillan, twin sisters who've shopped at Cameron's since they were little, and worked there now for years, bought it. Danny feels like he's passed the torch to his daughters. I'm comforted, for a lot of people besides me go there not only to browse and buy but also to indulge in look therapy. Some come just to visit the shrine, created by Cameron's employees, to get their weekly fix of happiness.

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