SIKESTON - Right away you know you've found a store that's unique.
From the walk up to M's, located in the carriage house behind the residence at 312 Tanner St., to the distinctive black sign with its flourishing letters to the fragrant scent as customers open the door, owners Mark and Marianne Hensley have sought to create a shop like no other in Southeast Missouri.
For Mrs. Hensley the shop is the realization of a dream. "I like to decorate and I always thought I would like to have a quaint shop some day," she explained. "We wanted to create a place with a different feel to it."
The response from M's customers is that the Hensleys have succeeded. Since opening this past fall, the store has drawn a devoted and growing following.
Filling their store has been an education for the couple. They have learned about candles as they added their line of Tyler Candles. Hensley said the line was chosen for its excellent scents, good burn time and because it is not a line typically found in the area.
As they have visited various markets, M's owners have purchased small home furnishings and accessories such as marble top tables, chests, wall hangings and even original oil paintings. Some of these are new, such as the wrought iron arbors created by a craftsman just for the store, others are antiques found by the couple on one of their many buying trips.
During these trips, Hensley said, they often seek out the "mom and pop" operations, which create the unique gifts the store is becoming known for. He pointed to a display of bath powder, accented with powder muffs, puffs and antique shakers and explained the powder is the recipe of a Mississippi family, handed-down from grandmother to granddaughter, who turned it into her own small business. M's is the only store in the area carrying the Friend Zi's powders and accessories.
Along with the powder, M's offers other personal products such as body lotions, soap petals and even monogrammed toilet paper. ("For the person who has everything," explained Mrs. Hensley with a laugh.)
Angels, inspirational books and Penile Pillows, which include a New Testament and a related story from the Bible, also have a prominent place in the store. Hensley said this was done on purpose: "God has blessed us and this is one way we could witness."
Also customers can find live topiaries and silk arrangements. These can be bought from the store's selection or custom arrangements can be created.
Trying to find unique gifts is typical of the Hensleys. "We don't want to compete with the market that is already in Sikeston, but complement it," said Hensley. "We want our store to help draw new people into town."
Apparently this attitude is working. The Hensley said business has been better than expected in the first few months and already they have customers who make frequent stops to check out the ever-changing selection.
It is also encouraging the Hensleys to expand their outdoor selections as they create "Tiffany's Garden" next to the carriage house. Here browsers will see the wrought iron pieces, arbors, birdbaths, gazebos and more in an outdoor setting. They said they hope this portion of their business is completed by late summer.
M's offers gift cards, gift baskets, condolence gifts and delivery. But many customers prefer to take their purchases with them because of the distinctive wrapping, the Hensleys provide. Each purchase comes in a trademark black bag with printed tissue peaking out between the handles.
"We want everyone to know, even before they open their gift, that they are special," explained Mrs. Hensley about the packaging. "I believe it is the little touches that are important and it doesn't matter whether you are buying a $5 gift or something much more expensive we want to wrap it up for you. Being small we can cater to our customers."
M's is currently testing its summer hours of Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.