WALLINGFORD — Retro clothing is among the unique items at The Mason Jar, a vintage shop inside a 100-year-old former chicken coop.
There’s a large selection of costume jewelry, shoes, housewares, toys, knickknacks and books at the store at 549 Center St., behind Vinny’s Deli.
Jenn Clapp, owner of The Mason Jar, said she sells old, new and local items.
“Everybody that comes in will find something in this store,” she said Wednesday. “They say, ‘oh my god, I had that when I was a kid,’ or ‘I remember my mom had one of those.’”
Clapp, a North Haven resident, named the store after her 4-year-old grandson, Mason Rigrodsky.
“He comes in, he calls it ‘my mason jar,’” she said, pointing out his chalk scrawls on the blackboard wall behind a white mesh metal shelving unit holding men’s hats and ties, magazines and prints.
The entire store is about 600 square feet. The main room showcases women’s and men’s clothing and accessories.
The side rooms, some of which once housed chicken coops and still have low ceilings, are stuffed with vintage ephemera.
She sells some new handmade items as well, like candles and art prints.
“I seem to be the only one in my family that has this sort of vintage bug,” she said.
Clapp ran a vintage store at the same location about 10 years ago, called XO Vintage.
She reopened with the new store name in January after Lucy’s Laundry closed — Lucia Pacheco now runs San Juanito Mexican Store on Route 5.
Clapp works at St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury as a respiratory therapist, a career she’s had for almost 30 years, caring for premature babies all the way up to senior citizens.
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, she has worked with many patients struggling with and dying from the disease. She lost her father to COVID-19 in July 2020.
“He used to be, of all things, a cigarette salesman,” she said, pointing out a photo on the wall of her father standing with a group of colleagues around a table of Kent menthol cigarettes.
She said that the store is her “happy place,” a respite from the intensity of her job.
“I wanted a place where I could go that I didn't have to think about all that stuff,” she said, “so I reopened my store.”
Clapp said her interest in vintage clothing was sparked when she started The Whitney Players Theater Company in Hamden, a group that is still thriving today.
“When we would put on musicals,” she said, “I’d go out and look for stuff, and I realized how much I loved it. I just started keeping some of it, and then I started (selling) on Etsy, and then ended up opening my own store.”
She finds some items at estate sales, but she also buys from people who have clothing to sell.
“I'll ask them what year they’re from, because I don't really want their clothes from now,” she said. “If they say, ‘oh, I found a chest of my mom's dresses from when she was in high school,’ I say, ‘oh yeah, bring those in right away.’”
After negotiating a price, she takes the clothing to be dry cleaned and mended. If a piece of clothing is too far gone, she’ll reuse the fabric.
A woman used her supply of vintage fabric to make face masks, which she gave away at the start of the pandemic, she said.‘Very unique’
The store is located in the same building as Vinny’s Deli and Sweet Cream's Ice Cream.
According to town records, the building was constructed in 1920. The total square footage is 3,786, located on roughly half an acre.
Vinny Iannuzzi, of Vinny’s Deli, bought the property in 1982 when he opened the deli.
The exterior door to the chicken coop is still visible from the back of the deli, though it’s boarded up and painted over.
The property was once a trolley turnaround, when the area was still rural, Iannuzzi said. When a tree was removed, “we found horseshoes in it.”
He said that Clapp is “a very unique person selling very unique items.”
“She's a character,” he said. “She's got her own way of doing things, but she's hilarious. She is one of the funniest people I know, and a sweet lady.”
Due to Clapp’s work schedule, the best way to ensure the shop is open is by calling ahead at 203-278-4217, or getting in touch with Clapp through Instagram at @TheMasonJarCT.