Editor’s note: My Buckhannon’s newest columnist Tyler Hall wrote the following piece about his experience at a hidden gem — the Mountaintop Music Shop in Belington. Enjoy!
Tucked away in the woods between Belington and Audra State Park, there exists a rare music store – a partially hidden one, filled with years of history and knowledge, and only open for half the year.
This impressive find takes the idea of a mom-and-pop shop and embraces it fully. The same can be said for the way Cindy and Skip Mason, owners and operators of the Mountaintop Music Shop, approach life. The couple open up shop in early May and run it through mid-October when the temperatures drop. That’s when Cindy and Skip head down to Florida to begin gigging, restocking, and enjoying the perpetual summer they follow.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to talk to Skip Mason about what all the Mountaintop Music Shop had to offer.
“We’ve been in business for about 33 years now,” Skip began. “Originally, we were Mirage Sounds.”
Mirage Sounds was a business in north-central West Virginia that served as a professional sound and lighting company. The idea to expand the scope of the business was, in part, due to the demand of equipment repairs.
“I was being brought everything to fix,” Skip continued, “so, we opened the store as a sideline to Mirage Sounds in the early 90s.”
Up until four years ago, the shop was located in Grafton, at which point Cindy and Skip decided to move the store to Belington, an area that had served the couple as a summer home-away-from-home.
The area upon which the store now sits is roughly two acres of land, owned and operated by Skip and Cindy. The greater space afforded the business new opportunities, such as the capability to provide a stage and land on which live musicians come together once a month and play.
“We call the event the Music Market and hold it once a month. Dates of the event are posted on the website and Facebook,” Skip said. “The get-togethers are for all ages and skill levels.”
“The whole event is very family-friendly,” he added. “We even rent a bouncy castle for the young kids to enjoy. The entire event is free except for what food and drink you may buy from the vendors.”
As Skip continued to relay the services and fun held at the monthly concerts, I began to better understand the operations of the small music shop. This gem in the woods is not just a repair shop, or a record store, or even a public venue: it is one and all of these things.
My interest waxed as I wondered about the business model of such an interesting store and what kept the ship afloat, exactly.
“The main sales are tie-dye and vinyl,” Skip revealed. “There is a large demand for tie-dye and records, but not very many shops meeting the demand.”
I continued to question Skip with earnest curiosity.
“My wife makes all of the custom tie-dye and prices them below what you’d find at a festival, and I bring home around 500 records each year we return from Florida,” Skip said. “Collectors are knocking on my door May 1st. I often have some vintage Beatles, Led Zeppelin, or Rush that someone wants.”
“We also still play music live,” he added. “Before the pandemic, my wife and I played over 200 shows a year. Even during the pandemic, we were able to play over 90 shows.”
Amazed at the sheer number of shows the couple were able to perform during the pandemic, I questioned what the year 2020 brought to the duo. Skip admitted that year had taken its toll on him and Cindy, along with the business, but his overall demeanor was filled with an infectious optimism I could not help but mirror. Instead of focusing on the darker moments of their year, Skip focused on the good: the couple was still able to play live music, make it down to Florida, and maybe most exciting of all, complete a home recording studio.
Upon packing my recording gear up and readying to leave, I finally realized how enchanting my time had been at the Mountaintop Music Shop. Having first arrived believing that the entire business consisted of one prefab building, I was genuinely amazed upon my departure at the scope of work and service that one small business could provide. Not only is this a repair shop, a vinyl store, and a clothing line, but the store is also a source of entertainment for the community, and the land serves as summer home to the wonderful couple.
If you are a music lover, or maybe you would just like to experience the loving energy that this unique business has to offer, I strongly urge you to take a trip to 25 Oriole Lane in Belington. While you’re there, say hi to Skip and Cindy for me.
Tyler Hall is a Buckhannon local whose enthusiastic interests include, but are not limited to music, gaming, public service, and literature.