By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times
The front counter inside Mantachie’s Owl Bee Boutique is older than the store itself. It’s older than the building in which the store resides and far, far older than its owners. It’s what someone might call a “dinosaur” or “relic” or “ancient.”
Co-owners Emily Spradlin and Amber Bradley refer to the old counter in more endearing terms. Call it, “love at first sight.”
Originally located at the front of T.L. McFerrin’s store in the early 1900s, the counter has had numerous homes over the years. After McFerrin’s closed, the counter relocated to Tom Taylor’s store. After that, it took up residence in Gary’s Drug Store.
Until recently, the counter was buried at the back of Dan Walton’s flower shop.
But when the two young business owners spotted the thing, they knew it had to be theirs.
“It was in the back of Dan’s shop, all covered with blankets,” Spradlin said, running a hand across the glass topping the eight-foot counter. “We just had to have it.”
The counter definitely wears its age: It’s scuffed to high heavens, likely the result of hundreds of hands, elbows and untold items being set, dropped and pounded atop it over the decades. It’s missing one of its front panes of glass, something Spradlin said they likely won’t replace. In fact, the counter’s new owners might not do anything at all to restore the counter. It has aged gracefully, they said; why not let it proudly show its age?
“I’m all about old stuff,” Spradlin said. “I like a lot of things that most people would think is just junk.”
In their late twenties and early thirties respectively, Spradlin and Bradley have only seen a small fraction of the years the counter has. But falling in love with something old is … well, nothing new. In recent years, there’s been a push into making old things new again. Vinyl record sales are on the rise, and vintage clothing stores and boutiques — not unlike the one Spradlin and Bradley run — are popping up like flowers in the spring.
The world is round; everything old is new again.
“People are really trying to get their hands on this kind of stuff,” Bradley said.
Spradlin agreed. There’s a certain charm to something that’s aged: Not “been aged” — like wine stored on a shelf for a generation — but worn from use and history. There’s no telling how many people have leaned against that counter or how many items have sat on its shelves.
“I just think about my grandparents going into McFerrin’s store and seeing this counter,” Spradlin said
Others remember it, too. More than once a customer has commented on the old counter. They remember it, they say, from some bygone location, and their faces light with nostalgia.
It’s that kind of reaction Spradlin and Bradley love to see.
“We like bringing old things back to life,” Bradley said. “[This counter] is a part of Mantachie. It’s been here a long time. How many people have touched that counter? I just think that’s pretty awesome.”
Almost as an afterthought, she added, “It’s a part of people’s lives.”
And so it continues to be.