ITALY — Lined with Elvis memorabilia, Depression-era glass and tea sets from all over the world, one small transformed shop in Italy is overflowing with collector's items of all shapes, sizes and eras.
Each piece found inside The Magic Mirror Beauty Salon represents the love that two West Texas natives have for collecting — and travel.
Frances Whitener, a Blooming Grove native, has owned The Magic Mirror Salon for almost 13 years. Though she’ll always be a hairdresser at heart, Whitener is preparing to retire her sheers to follow a slightly different path.
Whitener and her husband, Rufus, a former cotton gin worker and victim of a work explosion that left him legally blind in his left eye, are preparing to sell pieces of their lives and set off on a journey traveling through Texas. Though many in the community will miss seeing Rufus sitting outside his wife’s beauty salon while she works, the couple is will soon pack up the salon and hit the road.
“I want to downsize everything I own,” Whitener said. “I’m gonna travel in a travel trailer and I’m gonna live in the travel trailer, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise. I’m gonna sell it all and then I’m gonna sell my building.”
The proclaimed “ongoing moving sale,” which will be selling pieces both new and old, will be in full effect until every last item is sold. And by the look of things, it doesn’t appear that it’ll take long.
Ranging in price from 10 cents to $50, the items — some of which Francis has been collecting for 63 years and counting — have origins dating all the way back to the early 1900s. Of the hundreds of items for sale in the salon, shoppers may find Depression-era glass, designer purses, children’s items, milk glass, carnival glass, fine China, a Howard Hughes drilling box, 200-year-old Demitasse cups and the very first electric curling iron that her mother ever used.
And that’s just to name a few.
Despite a plethora of collector’s items, and an entire room of items that haven’t even been presented to the public yet, Whitener wants to make one thing clear: they are not hoarders. She is a collector.
“I’m not one of those wasteful people,” she said. “But I’m also not a hoarder. I love lots of things and I’ve collected lots of things, but by looking in my house, you wouldn’t even know that I’d ever had a collection.”
Growing up in Navarro County, Francis initially met her husband at the movie theater in Blooming Spring, Texas, before marrying in 1955. Sixty-three years later, the Whitener’s are ready to transition to the next chapter of their lives by exploring their home state of Texas.
However, that’s not to say the transition will be smooth.
“When you decide that you need to have a life besides working then you’ve got to work for it,” she said.
But for the travel-lover, that’s an easy feat.
“I really think I have gypsy in my blood because they like to travel. They don’t like to stay in one place for very long, and that’s how I am. I don’t wear all the jewelry like they do, but I do like to travel a lot.”
When asked where she and Rufus plan to visit, Whitener said she has a little more ground left to cover in the Lone Star State, first.
“I’m planning on seeing the state of Texas, first,” Whitener said. “I’ve seen a lot of South Texas, a little bit of East Texas and a whole lot of West Texas.”
Despite her excitement to start the pair’s Texas-travels, Whitener is still extremely optimistic about the turnout of people purchasing pieces from the salon.
Of Whitener’s personal favorite heirlooms, the hair connoisseur couldn’t pick just one.
“I still have some depression glass, barnacle glass, pieces that are older than I am,” she said. “I have a lot of crystal. I used to collect it. I collected bone China tea cups, birdhouses, old sugar bowls. I love the old stuff. The stuff I was raised on. I’ve collected that stuff. I’ve still got a house full.”
While customers can find designer purses such as Coach handbags and gently-used Dooney & Bourke, others may enjoy older pieces such as jewelry that once belonged to her mother, who would be 117-years-old today.
Despite the rapid pace of items being sold, Whitener said the sooner it’s all gone, the better.
After all, there’s still a lot of Texas they have to cover.
Anyone looking to attend the Whiteners' ongoing sale should go to the Magic Mirror Beauty Salon at 113 Main Street in Italy. The salon is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.