Vintage style: Making old things into … something different

By NANCY WILSTACH / Community Columnist

Hang around Mary Frazier’s place long enough and you will learn how to do something … or how to make something.

Vintage and More is Mary’s shop at the corner of Shelby and Middle streets. It shares a building with Dre Fit and Hair Station. The building once housed the low-end inventory for Spiller’s Furniture store. It is much more fun now.

Mary Frazier displays a dresser scarf destined for new life as a pillow cover. (Contributed/Nancy Wilstach)

While Undrae Lilly’s clients are lifting weights and running on treadmills, Mary’s clients may be getting a new hairdo … or finding an old teacup.

On my first visit I found two wicker plant stands for our screened porch, and on my second one, I discovered the sweetest demitasse cup and saucer from Italy, a cake plate made in Germany before World War II and another demitasse cup and saucer, this one made in Occupied Japan.

When I bought the tables, Mary tossed in a third piece of wicker that was, well, topless. She had sawed the damaged-beyond-repair top off.

“What you need to do is sand (the three stumps) really well and make sure they are even,” she said. “Then, what I do, is I find a tray or a big plate, something that fits and looks right. Then I glue it on.”

Presto! That old battered piece of wicker is destined to be either an end table for my wicker couch or another plant stand.

Mary turns things into other things using energy, vision and inspiration. See that pile of discarded dresser scarves embroidered with flowers in pinks, greens and yellows? They are now spotless and ready for their new lives. Mary is using them to cover throw pillows.

When I commented that she is a regular “Hints from Heloise,” she smiled: “That’s where I get a lot of my ideas.”

Vintage and More occupies the hallway between the hair salon and Dre Fit, as well as a couple of more rooms off the hall. In one of those back rooms, Mary scooped up a bride doll about two feet tall. Her lace veil was gray with age; her once gorgeous silk gown was grimy. No problem for Mary.

She makes a concoction from Polident (the denture cleaner), the juice from a whole orange and a whole lemon and Tide liquid. She dips the veil repeatedly in the mixture until the gray gives way to Mary’s determination.

“It works on lampshades, too,” she said.

A set of children’s chairs and table are pastel trimmed with flowers in darker hues, done by an art student who comes in periodically and puts her talent to work. It is a win-win situation, Mary said. The student gets a few extra dollars, as well as another line in her resume, and Mary adds another one-of-a-kind to her inventory.

She sells clothes, too, but only vintage items.  “This is not a thrift store,” she explained.

Mary came to the United States from Sydney, Australia, in 1968 and has been a hairdresser since 1973.