About every 30 seconds or so on Friday, a woman entered the Paddington Jewel Box, a new tiffany-colored boutique on Main Street.
Each one was greeted by a cheery saleswoman who offered her a free rhinestone headband, a gift to those who visit the store during its grand opening through Sunday.
Looking around, it's easy to see that there is nothing here for men, except opportunities to buy for women.
Cuddly pink PJs, flirty dresses and chic, waist-length coats hang from racks along the walls.
Sparkly jewelry, fragrant lotions and Paris-inspired mementos are displayed on Versailles-style gilded dressers, crackled-painted curio cabinet shelves and vanity tables underneath curlicue framed mirrors and crystal chandeliers.
Everything inside the shop is girly-girl: from the $15 hair accessories — some that look like mini feathered hats from the 1940s — to Vera Bradley's floral fabric $10 notebooks, $50 handbags and $100 travel bags.
The one manly oasis: A brown leather couch is pressed up against an antique oak panel with a mail slot once used by a post office. Males are supposed to feel comfortable sitting here, but there isn't a man in sight.
Outside on the sidewalk, standing in front of the Jewel Box, which is between the Varsity Theatre and the Ashland Springs Hotel, Jonathan King of Portland is tapping his feet and waiting for his wife, Barbra, to finish shopping inside for their three grown daughters.
"It felt kind of lonely being a guy in there," says the retired Oregon State University business professor, his arms clutching a FlowerThyme-logoed shopping bag that contained an apron his wife bought in the Plaza store.
The couple were in town for their twice-annual Ashland trip to see theater performances and peruse the downtown's gift, clothing and accessory stores. They didn't plan to attend the Jewel Box's grand opening.
And he didn't plan to be outside.
He says he gladly goes into fabric shops with his wife. But when he was inside this new store, he saw the brown couch and then the ribbony teal pillow propped against its back, and that made him think it was for sale or part of the display.
"I would have felt nervous sitting on it," he says.
He left the store before he could notice that on the coffee table in front of the couch was a tiny blue book titled, "Don'ts for Husbands," written in 1913.
"We don't have stuff for the boys," says Kelly Jean Hammond, the mastermind behind the Jewel Box. "We do have a sofa for them to sit on. But that's it." But, she says assuredly, gesturing with a hand with a bedazzling ring, everyone's welcome to look at the boutique's offerings.
That's especially true of men in search of an anniversary present, she suggests, tilting her head and exposing pearl earrings that match the pearl-adorned photo frames resting on a sleek black étagère shelf.
Her parents, Pam and Don Hammond, have owned Paddington Station, the three-story house wares and gift shop on the other side of Main Street, since 1994.
If Paddington Station is a mini department store, then the Jewel Box is the boutique version with less inventory, more high-end pieces and six saleswomen with the time to explain the origin and materials, says Kelly Jean Hammond.
The 24-year-old grew up in retail. Her first job was folding gift boxes in the stockroom at her parents' store. After she graduated from Notre Dame de Namur University in the Bay Area with a music degree, she became the trend jewelry and bath buyer at Paddington Station.
Today, she's minding the new store, explaining that although Paddington Station has 8,000 square feet of retail space, there wasn't enough room to display specialty items such as handmade $20 bracelets and $239 necklaces with crystals, antique lace and dangling Dresden doll heads.
"We didn't know if Ashland was ready for the doll-head jewelry, but we have already had to reorder," she says, gently placing the palm-size piece back behind the cabinet's glass door.
For the Jewel Box to open, the interior of a former florist shop was renovated and walls were removed to expand the floor space. Outside, balloons and signs that say "party" are now tethered to elevated black flower boxes shaded by a black-and-white awning.
On Friday, Amanda Epp of Ashland wandered into the store with her parents, sister and 3-week-old baby, and she found sunglasses, rings and a blanket. "It's a great addition to the stores we already have," she says.
Minutes later, Brigid Dunn Dalton left the store carrying a vintage-looking Jeanne Simmons' headband that a saleswoman had wrapped in blue tissue paper and put inside a shopping bag along with a Crabtree and Evelyn lotion sample.
"I bought the headband for myself to wear at work," says the Oregon Shakespeare Festival employee. "At $15, it was affordable."
And about that couch: Still vacant.
Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or email@example.com