Mari Phillips developed a passion for craftsmanship a long time ago.
“I’ve always liked to do something from scratch,” she laughs. “I used to go to antique stores, thrift stores and second-hand shops to buy things that I think I can do something with. I do all.
Phillips, whose first name is pronounced “Mary”, has been adding his personal touch to items for years. She used to sell some of her wares at craft shows, but found setting up these events to be “so hard work” that she walked away.
Today, this half-century vocation has become a vocation. Three years ago, Phillips and her husband, David, opened a boutique in their Washington County home called Country Rustics by Mari. It occupies two rooms of their residence on Mt. Zion Road in the Prosperity section of Morris Township. Mari uses a third piece there to produce his crafts.
“We sell primitive rustic handmade crafts,” she said in a phone interview. “I do it because I love to do stuff, and I love when people like what I do. I’m not doing this for the money.
Ah, but she hopes the store will pay. It features shelves of items that are, indeed, rustic. They include small wooden signs, glassware, wreaths, quilts, flower pots, decorated ladders – and even a pot-bellied stove.
Most of the creations, she said, are a reflection of her Christian faith.
The touches she provides are a testament to her crafting abilities and perseverance. Husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2012.
“I’m still able to do most of what I want to do,” she said. “Sometimes the paint is hard, from the shaking, but I can hold one hand with the other.”
Country Rustics is rustic country, of course, in the sparsely populated southwest quadrant of the county, 20 minutes south of the airport. There was not a significant flow of customers to the store, a circumstance exacerbated by the pandemic, which severely limited operations at the start.
“We went four months without a client. We were isolated for two and a half months, ”said Mari.
But it continues in the minds of any small business owner off the proverbial beaten track, hoping to gain a foothold through a dedicated customer base.
“We are not well known enough,” said Mari, who is working to achieve this. She distributed flyers locally, handed out business cards, and displayed an attractive wooden sign identifying the company in the yard of their 48-acre expanse. The couple have resided on the property, a former working farm, for 12 years.
The company has a presence on Facebook, where Mari posted: “Prices range from $ 4 to $ 30. If you like rustic decor or need a gift, come take a look! ”
She manages the shop alone, generally from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The Phillips are retired. Husband, 65, a graduate of the University of California, Pennsylvania, was a foster and adoption social worker in Washington County. David, 67, was a forklift mechanic at West Penn Wire in Washington, and a gas well supplier.
They got married young, got married when they were in high school while attending different schools: she graduated from Washington, David de McGuffey. It’s a marriage that lasted, that’s for sure. The couple will celebrate their golden anniversary next March, with their four children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
With the pandemic ebbing and summer warming, Mari Phillips is optimistic about increased business. In the meantime, she will continue – in her lingo – to do things.
“Really, it’s a labor of love.”