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Ugly Duckling owners find beauty in upcycling

By Susan Shinn

For The Salisbury Post

“You’re not gonna throw that away, are you?”

You probably know folks who say that, but Shane and Laura Benfield have taken upcycling to a whole new level.

Upcycling is making something new from items that would otherwise be thrown away.

Take burned-out light bulbs, for example. Laura has transformed them into glittery snowman ornaments. Spent shotgun casings? A red and green holiday wreath.

At Laura’s 12-foot-long work table in the back of their shop, The Ugly Duckling, 421 N. Lee St., she’s in the process of making cute penguins from gourds, winsome angels from piano legs and pillar stands, jolly Santas from gourds, and whatever else her imagination can come up with.

“I just see stuff and get inspiration from other people,” says Laura, a huge Pinterest fan. “We want to have mainly handmade knick-knacks and jewelry. But we’re not at that point yet.”

Thanks to Laura’s designs, the store is getting a bit of a Christmas feel. Holiday artwork from artist Carol Dunkley — known mainly for her rooster paintings — adorns the wall at the store entrance.

For the past year, the Benfields have offered antiques, repurposed items and salvage art.

“We like working with our hands and being creative,” Laura says.

She usually works from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., then Shane takes over ’til 5 or 6.

“Our hours are until 6, but after 5, it gets dark and people just don’t come in,” Laura explains.

So it’s a good idea to call before you come, Laura says. She and Shane are also the parents of two boys, Brody, 4, and Tatum, “Tater,” 2, and they come first.

Laura says she’s always liked arts and crafts. “I was the only girl in wood shop growing up.”

She’s got plenty of her paternal grandmother’s leftover crafts materials. Her maternal grandmother painted in oil and watercolor. Her mom is also artsy and creative, having done cross-stitch, sewing and making boxwood Christmas trees.

“We like to try a little bit of everything,” Laura says.

Because Laura’s father is an oceanographer, she grew up all over, and has traveled quite a bit. She and Shane met in Florida.

“We knew we wanted to raise our children here,” she says, and four years ago, they moved to Granite Quarry.

Laura and Shane certainly have the raw materials for you to make your own holiday crafts, but she’s happy to make it for you if you’re not on the crafty side.

Her husband goes “picking” every day, she says, to yard sales, auctions, barns on the side of the road.

“We try to have our prices lower than anybody else,” Laura says, “so people can resell or keep it for themselves.”

For the Benfields, the more rustic their finds, the better.

“We like to be able to see the age of an item,” she says.

Shane had the idea for the business, Laura notes. “I wanted to be a good wife, so I backed him. Our sales change like the weather. We have a great customer base, but our sales are up and down like any other business. It’s more or less just people knowing we’re here. Once they come in, they’ll come back.”

Shane and Laura have enjoyed getting to know other downtown business owners. Shane and Clyde hit it off, and the older artist has taken the family under his wing.

“He is angelic with my children,” Laura says.

(I swear, I am not making this up.)

“I’m grateful we have our own business,” Laura says, “and all of the local businesses have to take care of each other.”

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