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Pickity Place, Mason’s cultural gem

  • The Walter Family circa 1989, when the family still ran Pickity Place. From left to right is Michael, David, Wendy, Andrew, Judith and Shelly. —Courtesy photo

  • Pickity Place, circa 1990, is known for its picturesque visage and quiet atmosphere. —Courtesy photo

  • Wendy Walter of Brookline, author of "Being 'Pickity'" on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, May 10, 2018 4:29PM

Pickity Place has been part of the fabric of Mason since the mid-1970s. For many, it serves as a cultural touchstone of the town – the one spot they must visit when they’re back in town, or a special-occasion tradition.

For Wendy Walter, Pickity Place is even more intrinsic to her story – her parents founded the business, and as a child, she lived in the colonial house, which has since been completely devoted to the business.

Walter has recently published a book, “Being ‘Pickity,’” detailing the story of the shop-turned-restaurant – which she said, is really the story of her parents, Judith and David Walter.

Judith and David were sometimes affectionately referred to as “the Picks” as a silly, non-sensical nickname, and things they felt fit into their sensibility became known as “pickity” – a joke that pre-dated their days as owners of Pickity Place.

Judith had been growing herbs, after buying the gardens, herb recipes and craft ideas from a friend, and had grown her gardens to a point where she began searching for a home for her business – what would become Pickity Place.

The story, as it was, she said, started with her mother, who wanted to open a small shop. The family searched for years for a suitable property before stumbling upon a property in Mason that seemed perfectly suited to her vision – so picturesque that it had once been used by author and illustrator and Mason resident Elizabeth Orton Jones to depict grandma’s house in her rendition of “Little Red Riding Hood” for Golden Books.

Walter began to feel almost compelled to write the book telling the story of Pickity – which started with her mother and would eventually envelope the entire family – seven years ago.

“I felt this pressure to honor these people,” said Walter. “I was having dreams about Pickity – almost endlessly.”

At first, she thought, the book would be about her own experiences. But it evolved the more she researched and the more she wrote. 

“It turned out very differently from how I imagined it,” said Walter, of her book. “It was originally was going to be my voice, but as I wrote it, I took myself out of it, because it’s not my story.”

But it was a story that still deserved to be told, said Walter. Since the publication of her book earlier this year, many people have told her that they’ve been curious for years about the evolution of Pickity Place, which remains for many people a fixture of their life in Mason. 

“It’s almost magical,” said Walter. “The woods, the nature, the gardens. It’s meditative.”

While the shop was originally her mother’s dream, within a few years, it had grown enough that her father joined her in the venture. He had the planning ability and ambition to see the business grow, said Walter, and her mother had the creativity, making them a perfect team. 

Originally, the family used what once were the little house’s outbuildings, the barn and carriage house, for their shop, while the family lived in the house. But the business began to grow. 

In the early 1980s, the family transformed some of the rooms of the home into “Grandmother’s Room and Teahouse”. Grandmother’s room was actually her parent’s room, sporting a facsimile wolf in the bed in grandmother’s bed. Her parents would simply take out the wolf to go to bed at night, said Walter. Lunch would be held in the family’s dining room.

The business taking over her home was never an issue, said Walter, not even for the family’s four children, who contributed in their own ways, including sewing herb bags for a penny a piece and assisting in the restaurant.

“It was kind of like who we were as a family,” said Walter. “In fact, when we eventually moved, I was really sad. I felt so connected to the woods and the property.”

By the late 1990s, the business was running smoothly, said Walter, and her parents started to think about selling it and retiring. In 2000, they sold Pickity Place to their chef, Keith Grimes, who kept the name and business model, continuing the reputation of Pickity Place as a Mason cultural gem. 

Walter and her parents will be discussing the book and Walter will be signing them at the Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough on May 26 at 2 p.m.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.