Walking into Mason, visitors may not know quite what to expect.
The front windows display a carefully-curated collection of antiques and collectibles: gleaming lamps, china bearing a distinctive blue-and-white pattern, summery ferns spilling out of a vase with a simple kind of beauty.
Here, history mingles with a bit of sparkle, and that is a perfect representation of what can be found inside the store.
“I like to think of the shop as an inspiration destination,” says 47-year-old owner Mason Rhodus, who opened the store with his husband and business partner Jeffery Hale Jan. 1, 2016.
Originally from Richmond and Inez, respectively, Mason and Jeffery moved to Winchester because they loved the history of the town.
Inspiration is the word of choice. Cross the threshold and visitors find elaborate and intricately detailed doll houses — built by Mason himself — sharing space with miniatures meant to decorate fairy houses, hand-picked antiques from all over the world and hand-crafted bow ties, which Mason creates mostly for wedding parties.
“We consider ourselves an antique and decorative arts boutique, because we don’t really have a specific designated thing that we do,” Mason said. “Doing floral and bow ties along with antiques sets us apart.”
A large double-tiered table holds these bow-ties fanned out in a colorful offering. Not only does Mason create several different styles and colors, he makes custom ties, sometimes out of a piece of fabric a customer wants to have with them on their special day.
Mason also creates floral arrangements and centerpieces for weddings and other events, using both fresh and silk flowers to fit all budgets.
The feeling is that Mason and Jeffery want to give Winchester a gorgeous little shop everyone can enjoy. In fact, Mason said that was part of their mission when they decided to hold art workshops upstairs. Classes for children and adults are offered from noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays for $10 per hour, supplies included.
“We wanted to keep the cost down so everyone can do it,” Mason said.
The art studio — a fun, bright space illuminated by a skylight — is an aspiring artist’s dream, chock full of paint, brushes and various other mediums. The goal, Jeffery said, is not to keep a tidy, well-organized space, unlike the rest of the store.
“It’s a little messy, but you know, that’s what happens when you’re making art,” he said. “And I think kids need a space where they can be free to make something and not worry about keeping things tidy.”
Outside the studio, the hallway is lined with various pieces of pottery by local artist Brent Wilson. They are both beautiful and functional, Jeffery said, pointing to a piece on display that doubles as a work of art and a salad bowl.
Each month, this section is a dedicated space for a different artist to showcase their work.
The other upstairs rooms hold more antiques and show off Mason and Jeffery’s eclectic taste.
Pieces from Asia mingle with items specific to Winchester. A wooden spinning wheel, which is situated in a lovely vignette, immediately brings to mind images of a beloved fairy tale. Each table and display has a personality of its own, yet it all works together, a testament to the owner’s keen eye.
Mason said he doesn’t allow the pieces to sit in the same spot for long, changing out arrangements every few months or so in order to keep things fresh. This not only allows customers to see what a particular piece might look like in their own home, it is also a benefit to repeat clients, who are fortunate enough to get a new experience nearly every time they come in.
Outside of the items for sale, the store itself offers a feast for the eyes.
Built in the 1800s at 70 S. Main St., the two-story building was once a dress shop and features wood floors that add to the weight of history visitors feel upon entering.
In fact, Mason said a couple who was once married upstairs might be celebrating their 50th anniversary in the store; such is the local attraction to the space.
All the better for Mason and Jeffery, who said their goal is to participate as much as possible in the revitalization of downtown Winchester.
Offering a space for residents to be creative and plan for the perfect wedding is only part of it; they are also active in the community and regularly donate their time and services to organizations in town, such as Leed’s Center for the Arts.
A truly eclectic space, the shop holds a little bit of everything, and that is just the way Mason and Jeffery like it.
They encourage customers to mill around at their own pace, explore the rooms, and “go back in time,” as Mason puts it. The store is truly one that visitors will need to spend some time in to fully experience and see everything.
About the revitalization of the town, Mason said it is an exciting thing to see, especially as more boutiques and art-related shops open up.
“We really want to see Winchester come back to life.” §