Over the Back Fence

Debbie Croft: Personalities and presence of Mariposa’s shops

composed@tds.net January 24, 2014 

DEBBIE CROFT

No matter what time of year it is, Mariposa’s downtown area attracts visitors, shoppers and folks hungry for a bite to eat. Allow me to introduce you to some of the men and women behind the counters in our delightful shops:

• Miriam and Company is a home-away-from-home for Miriam Costello – businesswoman extraordinaire.

“I’ve lived in Mariposa 25 years, and this is my seventh store,” she told me recently. “And I love it!”

Costello has retired before, but she can’t seem to stay that way for long. After selling or closing one store, she starts looking for another place to open shop again.

With home décor items spilling out of the doorway onto the deck and garden area, Miriam and Company invites passers-by to come in and stay awhile.

The shop is filled with gourmet food items, chocolates, fine linens and gifts, including locally handcrafted products. Samples of jams and hot cider or coffee are always available. And of course, Costello wants to chat.

She also offers staging consultations and interior decorating services. Her shop is at 5040-B Highway 140, in the same plaza as Sugar Pine Café. Days open are Thursday through Monday. Call (209) 966-2250 for more information.

• Dave and LuAnn Mello grew up in Merced, spending summer vacations and weekends in Mariposa and Yosemite. One of their favorite places to hang out was the Frost Shop, a drive-in known for its ice cream.

The Mellos own the new Mariposa Creamery & Booksellers, which opened for business last summer. The interior is bright and clean, with room for small gatherings or children’s birthday parties. A back room holds shelves of books.

“Our decision to offer soft-serve ice cream, rather than scoop ice cream was, in part, due to the overwhelming local nostalgia for the Frost Shop,” LuAnn said.

Shakes, floats, sundaes and cones can be made with vanilla or chocolate or twist soft-serve, and smothered with a variety of sauces and toppings. Dole soft-serve is also available in fruity flavors.

Fresh popcorn and a full espresso bar bring customers in from the cold.

Mariposa Creamery, near Mariposa Marketplace, is at 5022 Highway 140, on the east side of the roadway. The shop is usually open every day from noon to 8 p.m. Call (209) 966-2226 or visit on Facebook for details.

• The Colonial Woodwrights recently merged with Chocolate Soup, an established specialty shop. Owners Michael and Robbie Crowley have previous experience working in family businesses.

Robbie loves antiques and anything old-fashioned, a trait she inherited from her mom, also a shop-owner. When her mom looked for reproduction early American-style furniture for her store, the only companies producing that style were back east. Shipping costs were astronomical.

“She would show us brochures and catalogs, and Michael would say, ‘I could make that,’ ” Robbie said.

Her mom told him, if he built some pieces she would put them in her shop.

He did. They sold. And The Colonial Woodwrights was born.

For a few years in the mid-1980s Michael worked weekends and evenings building furniture. Selling to other stores in Central California caught the attention of a sales representative, who began offering their creations throughout the West Coast.

The Crowleys moved to Mariposa from the Santa Cruz area, placing them in a more central location for making deliveries. It also provided the opportunity to buy a home, expand the workshop and raise their girls in a small town.

For several years The Colonial Woodwrights joined Miriam Costello in one of her many shops. Eventually their furniture became available at Chocolate Soup, owned by Elaine Seymore.

Last year when Seymore was ready to retire, the Crowleys jumped at the chance to take ownership of a place they’ve always loved.

The Colonial Woodwrights crafts heirloom quality furniture and accessories made from select wood and reclaimed materials. Using traditional methods of joinery and environmentally responsible top coatings, the pieces look very much like antiques. The simple lines, though, also work well in contemporary settings.

Their website, http://colonialwoodwrights.wordpress.com, tells the rest of the story.

“Chocolate Soup has been a special place to gather, a place to bring friends and family, and to find that special gift or décor for your home,” Robbie said. “That won't change. We hope to make it even better!”

The Colonial Woodwrights and Chocolate Soup are in the bottom floor of the two-story red house at the intersection of Highways 140 and 49. Visit www.chocsoup.net, or call (209) 966-5683 or (209) 966-7832 for more information.

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at composed@tds.net.

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