When Amanda Shafer Kelley left her hometown of Starkville to go to college at Arizona State University, her mother wanted to get her some dishes she could take with her. She knew of a man in Meridian who owned the Meridian Pecan Cracking Company and sold restaurant ware dishes, so she bought Amanda some dishes from him.
Amanda moved home in 2014 to Starkville and started doing design work locally after spending 10 years working in hospitality design in Atlanta and New York City.
But she still loved those dishes. She tracked down the man who she had bought them from only to find out he had recently passed. She was in luck, though, because his wife was looking to sell the whole lot to someone. The rest, as they say, was history.
“So, I bought the dishes and opened the shop,” Amanda said.
Before opening the retail space, she started out selling dishes and other home goods in a 1996 Airstream camper that she and her brother, Austin Shafer, renovated. They would set up shop around town and at the Cotton District Arts Festival in Starkville. Amanda said that was their way of testing the waters to see how a full-on retail space might work.
“It went really well, and it just kind of grew from there,” she said. “A shop just seemed like a natural fit to meet people in the community and spread the word about design.”
Amanda opened the brick-and-mortar space in 2016.
Now, Jamison Fry is part retail space, part interior design services. The shop sits on the corner of University Drive and Fellowship Street between Starkville’s downtown and Cotton District.
Besides the shop, Amanda does design work in Starkville consists mostly of residential and restaurant interiors. Her first project in Starkville was designing The Guest Room, a speakeasy-style bar downtown. She’s currently working on renovations at Restaurant Tyler and City Bagel Cafe.
Along with the dishes Amanda bought in Meridian, the shop is stocked with items made by local makers including wooden spoons and utensils and naturally-dyed and handmade quilts. She also stocks photo prints by Jeremy Murdoch.
Some vintage home items sold at the store are collected by she and her brother, but mostly her brother, when they travel.
“He’s always traveling to cool places and bringing home things,” she said.
Austin’s vintage tools that he restores for his business, Fry Retool Company, are also sold in the shop. He takes old, worn axes, hatchets, hammers and more and restores them to their former glory.
The siblings share a love for taking old things, whether it’s a house or tool, and giving them new life. Amanda said their interest in design and restoration came from her parents. Their dad was an architecture professor at Mississippi State University and opened his own architecture firm in the 1970s.
“He and my mom are really the ones who have given Austin and I a passion for renovation and restoration,” she said.
That shared passion recently landed them a television pilot on HGTV.
“It was kind of one of those things that seemed unreal,” Amanda said.
Amanda and Austin were at a vintage market with the Jamison Fry airstream when they caught the eye of an HGTV producer. Later, that producer followed up with them to learn more about their work, and eventually, asked them to do a test-run project for the network. After that mini project, HGTV asked them to do a pilot called “Hammer to the Manor.”
The siblings and their crew totally renovated an old home in downtown Starkville in just six weeks. The filming process took a total of eight weeks — Six weeks were spent actually working on the house, and two weeks were spent planning and finishing up. While six weeks is a pretty quick turnaround for flipping a house, Amanda said everything ran smoothly.
“We had a great time,” she said. “We had such a good crew.”
The pilot aired in November, and Amanda and Austin will find out soon if the show will be picked up for a whole season.
The next project for Amanda is one that’s close to her heart: Her own home in Starkville’s Cotton District.
“That’s kind of on the to-do list,” she said. “This year we are planning on renovating our own house, so I’m excited about that.”
Q&A with Amanda
What is your design style?
“I always say with design that it really depends on the client. I don’t have one particular style. I do tend to like renovations and old things. I have a passion for renovation and restoration.”
What is your favorite place to eat in Starkville?
“My husband is Brian Kelley with Eat Local Starkville, so I would say any of the restaurants that are part of that group are my favorites.”
What is the best thing about living in Starkville?
“I think the best part about living here is that it’s a college town, and the university gives the town life… There’s a really nice pace of life here.”
What design elements do you like to use in your own home?
“I’m kind of a white walls gal. I also love using older pieces and repurposing them for something else. That makes spaces more interesting and gives them soul.”
Did anything surprise you about the filming process when you guys did the HGTV pilot?
“Everything. It was really cool to see the behind the scenes of how they produce something like that.”