MARS HILL – Mars Hill residents Kendall and Brian Chandler worked many years in local schools but now are transitioning into a second act after their retirement from education.
The Chandlers have opened up a business in downtown Mars Hill, Quill and Honey, selling Kendall Chandler’s local, natural, home and body products, including homemade soap, as well as a number of other locally sourced goods from roughly a dozen regional artisans.
Kendall Chandler taught in Buncombe County Schools for about 20 years and retired in June 2022. Her husband, Brian Chandler served as a principal at West Buncombe Elementary, and also retired in 2022.
“Because he retired this past year, we were able to kind of do this together,” Chandler said. “It’s surreal, and crazy and wonderful, and I love it, but not ever what I anticipated my life to be, but better. It’s great.”
Chandler graduated from Mars Hill University in 2005 and was a teacher’s assistant in Buncombe County Schools for two years prior to her graduation.
“The Quill and Honey is my stuff, so anything bath and body, that’s stuff I make here in the shop,” Chandler said. “That started organically, trying out essential oils and making stuff with it. So, I started online and just recently we moved in here. All of the body stuff I make.”
Chandler opened the business in the first week of October 2022.
The building is owned by Mars Hill University, and Kendall Chandler rents the building from the university.
Quill and Honey features the work of a number of Western North Carolina vendors, including Heart Llama from Leicester, English Woodwork Co. in Mars Hill, earrings by Knotted Moss in Candler, as well crafts made from salvaged quilts by Roses and Pines, based in Spruce Pine.
Additionally, the shop features SNIG Indie Wear, which offers jewelry, clothing and accessories, as well as clothing from Burnsville’s Magnolia and Wren. Quill and Honey also spotlights handcrafted leather works from a Weaverville-based craftsman, as well as fly rods made by Trout Cruisers Unlimited, based in Candler.
“For most of them, I’ve met them at markets because I used to do a lot of popup markets around the area. Most of these people I’ve met just over the years doing different events together,” Chandler said.
According to Chandler, she started dabbling in making homemade soap in 2017.
“In 2017, I named the business,” she said. “Quill is my youngest son, and Honey Jo is our middle daughter. So that’s where our name comes from. I started because my husband has sensitive skin. I was messing around with essential oils and he asked me to make a soap.
Every Monday I would do this little bit on Facebook called “Make It Monday” and I would do a class online on how to make something with stuff you have at home and your essential oils. Eventually, people asked me to sell it to them, rather than making it for themselves. So that’s how it all started.”
According to Chandler though, owning a business was never in the plan until last year.
“None of this was a plan whatsoever,” Chandler said. “I would not have dreamed in four million years that I would be a shop owner. It’s great, and I love it, but I did not plan it. It is an about face (from our careers in education). The schedules are different. The work is different. There is nothing that’s not different. I mean, working with people is essentially the same. We worked with small people, now it’s grown people.”
Chandler said the community’s reception to the new business has been “amazing.”
“It’s been over and above what I anticipated,” Chandler said. “So many nice people are here. I think this community in general is full of really kind people. I’ve got to meet people from my husband’s past. It’s just been a delight to get to know people. They’ve been so kind to me, and they keep coming back over and over again – which is a shock, and it’s so humbling to me every time people come back and get more. It’s something that I’ve made, and it’s just a really humbling experience for me.”
Originally, Chandler reached out to the university about moving into the space now occupied by Rios Mexican Kitchen’s new bar.
More: Mars Hill’s has new Mexican eateryFor 21-year-old Mars Hill restaurant owner Daniel Garcia, Mexican food is a family affair
“I was not planning on opening a store. I’ve thought about it and dreamed about it, but never thought it would be a reality,” Chandler said. “We were going to quit and kind of beef up our online business. It was a little tiny space that I thought I might be able to afford. So, I sent (Mars Hill University) President (Tony) Floyd a Facebook message.
“I was like, ‘Well, Lord, if it’s your will, I’m just going to do it, and if he answers the Facebook message, so be it.’ He answered me and said that that building was already taken, but that I could come and see this one.”
According to Chandler, the lease on the building started Aug. 1, 2022.
Since the Chandlers moved in, the other Mars Hill shop owners have shown the new business owners nothing but love.
“They’ve been so great,” Chandler said. “The lady who owns Wild Violet (Michele Clark), her daughters were just in here. Everybody has been amazing. I eat at all these restaurants at least once a week. Everybody’s been just so kind. I hear the community getting excited about the growth here. I feel like they’re excited that they can come and spend a chunk of time in Mars Hill now. They can eat, and they can shop and they can have coffee. It’s great.”
More: Mars Hill’s teahouse/grocery a hitWild Violet offers unique combo of teahouse/organic grocery store in Mars Hill
Chandler said she hopes to continue to contribute to that ever-expanding entrepreneurial spirit in Mars Hill for many years to come.
“My true desire was to serve our community and give them a place where they can come and shop, if they’re like me and they don’t like to leave their house very much, or to go in to Asheville, which I don’t enjoy. To each their own, but I like to stay close to home,” Chandler said.
“Really, my heart was to serve this community, and that has been exactly what it feels like it’s been. I have some college students, and I have lots of out-of-town customers, but the heart of the customer base has been people who live right here. We want to be a great steward of the space. We want to be a springboard for Mars Hill’s continued growth.”
Quill and Honey is located at 18 S. Main St. in downtown Mars Hill.