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"Blessings Upon Everybody": Plaid Peddler Manager Antara Brander Retires After 20 Years

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Unless you’ve been at Heathwood for more than 20 years, you likely can’t remember a time when Antara Brander wasn’t running the Plaid Peddler. Since the year 2000 Antara has been the store’s manager and the person you were most likely to see when dropping in for uniform items, spirit wear, or snacks. Now, with a move to Asheville, she’s passing the torch, leaving an entire generation of Highlanders with fond memories of her as the face of the campus store.

When Antara and her husband Tom moved to Columbia from Memphis in 1999, they enrolled their daughter Arayael ’09 and son Gabriel ’13 at Heathwood, where she got to know then-Plaid-Peddler-Manager Fran Norris. When Fran’s family relocated a year later, she recommended Antara as her replacement. It wasn’t an obvious career move, since most of Antara’s previous experience was in advertising account management. But it proved to be a great fit, especially since it meant she was able to be on campus with her children.

“It was such a gift to be so intimately involved in my children’s daily life,” she says, “and to participate in the special events of their school experience — Convocation, choral concerts, and sports. That was a great blessing.”

She also found joy in getting to know all the students who drop by the Plaid Peddler from time to time: “It has been wonderful to form friendships with the students. Every year I feel just like a parent with a tug at my heart when the seniors graduate.”

Antara has also left a lasting legacy through the way she’s transformed the bookstore, says Assistant Head for Finance and Operations Liz Summers: “Her first major duty was to change the Plaid Peddler from a gift shop into a fully stocked school store to better serve our students and their families. She has assisted with numerous logo changes, was at the forefront of the move to online book sales, and even packed everything up and moved it from one side of the building to the other when the location of the Plaid Peddler changed.”

Now that she’s leaving the Plaid Peddler in the capable hands of Cecilia Powell, who’s been her assistant for the last two years, Antara will settle in to her new home in western Buncombe County, NC, and have more time to spend with Arayael, who’s an academic advisor in the athletics department at George Washington University, and Gabriel, a medical student at MUSC. She and Tom are also both learning to drive the tractor that will help them manage their 2.27 acres.

What she’ll miss most about Heathwood, apart from the people, she says, are the rituals that bring the school community together. “Participating in the Convocation ceremony always spoke deeply to my heart. There’s something about lining up behind the bagpipes all together to gather for a blessing on the school at the start of the year — what a beautiful way to set a foundation for the new academic year.”

With that sense of communal spirit in mind, she says, “In these very difficult times, I want to leave everyone with a message of prayer, not panic, faith, not fear, calm, not chaos. And blessings upon everybody."