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Ethnic shop broadens horizons

August 24, 1998

Cultural ExpressionsBy KERRY LYNN FRALEY / Staff Writer

photo: MIKE CRUPI / staff photographer [enlarge]




MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Growing up watching her mother sketch and paint inspired Martinsburg native Carolyn Mason to want to do something artistic herself.

But between work and family commitments, there just never seemed to be enough time to cultivate her own talent, said Mason, 43, now a Hedgesville, W.Va., resident.

Cultural Expressions, a new shop in downtown Martinsburg offering art and craft items from different parts of the world, was inspired by that love for art, she said.

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The shop at 214 W. King St. allows her to combine her life-long love with her broad business experience in an enterprise she hopes will be profitable and benefit the community at the same time, Mason said.

One of her missions with the shop is to heighten cultural awareness, she said.

Many of the shop's items come from Ten Thousand Villages, a company that deals directly with people making the items in the various countries, Mason said.

The shop also has a wide selection of Afrocentric greeting cards, something that seemed to be lacking in the area, she said.

Another mission is to maintain a positive presence through the shop and involvement in the community, Mason said.

That includes keeping money circulating locally by referring customers to other businesses, said Mason's husband, Charles Mason, who serves as an adviser and helper.

It intertwines with another mission, which is to promote and display the works of regional artists and area crafters, Carolyn Mason said.

Works by her mother, Helen Fox of Martinsburg, will be included, Mason said.

Before opening the store on Aug. 15, Mason spent three years test marketing the kinds of items she now has in the shop.

It included operating a small booth at the Olde Kilbourn Mill Craft Gallery in Martinsburg, having a display at the Boarman Arts Center during Black History Month, and selling through home parties, cultural festivals, social events and mail order.

The next phase will be to expand the store and establish smaller satellite stores within the next five years, Mason said.

Kathy Pannell, a teacher at Opequon Elementary School, is a quarter partner in the business, she said.

James Fisher, a partner in the earlier stages of the business, is now a consultant, helping with historical and cultural background on items, Mason said.

The shop has something for everyone, with prices ranging from $1 to $2,000, she said.

Items include fine art prints and posters, African sculpture, African clothing, crafts from around the world, dolls, jewelry, books, bookmarks, greeting cards, T-shirts and calendars, Mason said.

Shop hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

The store is closed Monday and Tuesday.

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