By Cindy Hoffman, Staff Writer
(June 29, 2023) People who are looking for quirky gifts, unique jewelry, antiques and fashion for the home or clothing, and love a little adventure, Love Letters is it.
Shop owner Brandi Mellinger has settled into this unusual shop on the grounds of Mariner’s Country Down at 11341 Sinepuxent Road in Berlin.
For those who are unfamiliar with this 600-acre property, it is light years away from the beach culture, with its sprawling forest and rustic buildings nestled among moss, trees, ponds and creeks. Small toads hop around the grounds, along with a community of cats and some very happy dogs.
Mellinger has two dogs, Oliver and Kingsley, who joyfully run the property with one or two other canine friends. She said she is happy to put them away if visitors are not charmed by their presence.
Visiting Love Letters should not be a quick stop. Visitors driving onto the property will see beautiful flowers and trees, old and quirky farming equipment, fountains, and wooden bridges over creeks. Her shop is the one labeled Country Store with the bay windows featuring many of her own crafted items.
Mellinger creates artistic mugs with outlandish, inspiring, or whimsical sayings and art. She also designs T-shirts, pillowcases, bags, and hats. Fifty percent of the inventory is personally designed by Mellinger. Other items include candles, jewelry, cards, sunglasses, and clothing.
“I am trying to make it [the shop] retro-vintage style,” Mellinger said.
She also happens to love antiques.
“I think I was born in the wrong era,” she said.
She does custom orders too. She specializes in modern calligraphy and custom signage.
She opened her shop in Mariner’s Country Down this month. Prior to that, she was working out of her house, with a heat press, mug press and shirt press. The presses run at 400 degrees. With business booming, it was time to move out of the house.
“I needed space to expand, workshop space and storage. Having a spot for retail made sense,” said Mellinger, who discovered Mariners Country Down years ago.
“It’s so magical. I vowed I would get married here one day.”
While the wedding did not happen, when she went searching for a site to move her business, she reached out to Reggie Mariner, the owner of the property.
She met him at a house he was building.
“He told me to pull up a bucket,” said Mellinger.
“I told him what I was looking for and we went back and forth. He pulled out a carpenter’s pencil and mapped it out in the sand.
“We talked numbers and I pulled out my phone. He was drawing on the house, running the numbers. It took me 10 seconds; it took him 10 minutes.”
They came to an agreement and she started moving into the little country store on the property the next day.
This day would not have happened without Mellinger’s grandfather.
Mellinger has not always been a small business owner. She was the managing editor at Ocean City Today about 10 years ago and created unique mugs on the side. Her grandfather who, along with her grandmother, raised her, told her he wanted to invest in her business.
“My grandfather bought my first mug press,” Mellinger said.
When she met with Mariner, he reminded her of her grandfather.
“If they would have met, they would have been best friends.”
The day she met with Mariner was also her grandfather’s birthday.
“This was my destiny all along.”
Love Letters is the only shop open full time at Mariners Country Down. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. There are other special artisans on the property, including Goat Plum Tree Farm, which offers mushroom foraging classes on the property and Randy Hofman, who has established an orchard on the site.
To check out Mellinger’s shop and her evolving collection, visit https://lovelettersoc.com
Mariner’s Country Down is available for events, including weddings. Visit its website at https://www.marinerscountrydown.com.