MARS HILL – Mars Hill residents Kendall and Brian Chandler have worked for many years in local schools, but are now moving into second act after retiring from education.
The Chandlers opened a business in downtown Mars Hill, Quill and Honey, selling Kendall Chandler’s local, natural home and body products, including homemade soaps, as well as numerous other local products from about a dozen regional artisans.
Kendall Chandler taught in Buncombe County Schools for about 20 years and retired in June 2022. Her husband Brian Chandler was the principal at West Buncombe Elementary School and also retired in 2022.
“Since he retired last 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 exactly what I expected my life to be, but better. It’s great.”
Chandler graduated from Mars Hill University in 2005 and was a teacher’s aide in Buncombe County Schools for two years prior to graduation.
“The Quill and Honey is my product, so anything for bath and body, those are the things I do here at the store,” Chandler said. “It started organically, trying essential oils and making things with them. So I started online and we recently moved here. All the body stuff I make.”
Chandler opened the company in the first week of October 2022.
The building is owned by Mars Hill University and Kendall Chandler leases the building from the university.
Quill and Honey features work from a number of western North Carolina vendors, including Heart Llama of Leicester, English Woodwork Co. in Mars Hill, earrings by Knotted Moss in Candler, as well as crafts made from salvaged quilts by Roses and Pines based in Smreka Bor.
In addition, the store features SNIG Indie Wear, which offers jewelry, clothing and accessories, as well as clothing from Burnsville’s Magnolia and Wren. Quill and Honey also highlights handcrafted leather work by Weaverville artisans, as well as fly rods made by Candler-based Trout Cruisers Unlimited.
“I met most of them at markets because I used to open markets in the area a lot. I met most of these people over the years doing different events together,” Chandler said.
According to Chandler, she started making homemade soap in 2017.
“In 2017, I named the company,” she said. “Quill is my youngest son and Honey Jo is our middle daughter. 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 soap.
Every Monday I would do this little thing on Facebook called “Make It Monday” and I would teach a class online on how to make something out of things you have around the house and your essential oils. Eventually, people asked me to sell it to them, instead of making it for myself. So that’s how it all started.”
However, according to Chandler, owning the company was never in the cards until last year.
None of this was a plan, Chandler said. “I couldn’t have dreamed in four million years that I’d be a store owner. It’s great and I love it, but I didn’t plan for it. That’s the face (from our careers in education). The schedules are different. The work is different. There’s nothing that isn’t different. I mean, working with people is basically the same. We used to work with little people, now they’re grown people.”
Chandler said how the community has embraced the new business has been “amazing.”
“It was more than I expected,” Chandler said. “There are so many lovely people here. I think this community in general is full of really nice people. I got to meet people from my husband’s past. It was a pleasure to meet people. They were so nice to me, and they keep coming back – which is a shock, and I’m so humbled every time people come back and get more. It’s something I’ve done, and it’s a really humbling experience for me.”
Originally, Chandler asked the university to move into the space now occupied by the new Rios Mexican Kitchen bar.
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“I didn’t plan on opening a store. I thought about it and dreamed about it, but I never thought it would be a reality,” Chandler said. “We were going to quit and kind of ramp up our online business. I thought it was a small space that I thought I could afford. So I sent (Mars Hill University) president (Tony) Floyd a Facebook message.
“I said, ‘Well, God, if it’s your will, I’ll just do it, and if he responds to the Facebook message, so be it.’ He replied that that building was already occupied, but that I could come see this one.”
According to Chandler, the lease on the building began on August 1, 2022.
Since the Chandlers moved in, the other Mars Hill store owners have shown the new business owners nothing but love.
“They were so great,” Chandler said. “The lady who owns Wild Violet (Michele Clark), her daughters were just here. Everyone was amazing. I eat at all these restaurants at least once a week. Everyone was so nice. I hear the community is excited about the growth here. I feel like are excited that now they can come and spend some time in Mars Hill. They can eat, they can shop and they can drink coffee. It’s great.”
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Chandler said she hopes to continue to contribute to the entrepreneurial spirit that is constantly expanding in Mars Hill for many years to come.
“My true desire was to serve our community and give them a place to come and shop if they’re like me and don’t like to leave their house too much or go to Asheville, which I don’t. I don’t enjoy it. To each their own, but I like to stay close houses,” Chandler said.
“Really, my heart was to serve this community, and that’s exactly what I feel it was. I have some students and I have a lot of out-of-town customers, but the heart of the customer base is the people who live right here. We want to be great stewards of the space . We want to be a springboard for the continued growth of Mars Hill.”
Quill and Honey is located at 18 S. Main St. in the center of Mars Hill.