Taking a cue from that classic film “You’ve Got Mail”, I would like to start this letter as if we are in the middle of a conversation. As though we were sitting at a corner table together, sipping foam from the top of perfectly poured lattes, and talking about the intricacies of our lives.
The thing is, I’d like to tell you a bit more about the Ann Marie who is behind Ann Marie’s. That is, me. The girl whose vivacious Italian family and love for beautiful shapes and colors grew into a three decade romance with all things European and a little shop in the deep woods of Wisconsin.
My adoration for shapes and colors and textures began when I was a young girl playing with rows of canning jars in my grandmother’s pantry. Canning was a serious business in our family, and the light shining through green and blue hued glass always brought me into a sort of reverie. I used to imagine that pantry was my own little shop with shelf after shelf attracting the attention of lovely ladies from far away places. This sort of day dreaming only seemed to last as long as it took for my older brother to discover my haven, pull my hair, and tease me for dawdling. The vision never truly faded. My first European experience then set the tone for the rest of my life.
I can only describe those few weeks in Scotland as the first time I have ever truly connected with the warm feelings from my childhood. Kathryn, a friend from college, and I would wake each morning and walk across cobblestone streets and bridges, experiencing all the incredible spaces Edinburgh had to offer. Our trips to the many tea rooms with our Scottish friend Christine were an absolute dream. We spent our days exploring every inch of the city we could afford to get to, drinking loose leaf tea out of porcelain teacups and scones off of beautiful cake trays. There’s nothing in the world better than a perfectly steeped tea poured from a fine teapot, except perhaps the smooth feel of fine china on your lips. We would sit and watch the Edinburgh castle light up every night, take the train up to the highlands and the Isle of Skye, and find the absolute best sweaters and water color paintings and, of course, more tea, and pottery.
My first visit to Europe left a lasting impression on my senses. I knew it wouldn’t be my last.
It wasn’t long after being back amongst the long green shadows, the fragrance of pine, and the ghostly white of birch trees of Wisconsin that my mind was transported back to my Scottish days, and the wonderful conversations over tea. I decided then to recreate the warmth of that European adventure in the woods of Wisconsin. I decided then to create, “Ann Marie’s”.
Ann Marie’s began in the late 1980’s as a tiny coffee and tea house in a garden in Minocqua, Wisconsin, run by that same lively, curly-headed italian, now a young woman, with a lot of determination. Ann Marie’s takes me back to the cobblestone streets of Europe in search of new items to bring back to my shop – French linens, Irish pottery, Dutch toys, or Scottish capes, among other things. I have had ridiculous adventures, found the loveliest little places, made the very best of friends, and had a lot of luck. Today, Ann Marie’s has grown to two beautiful locations. Our original Garden Shop with lush outside spaces filled with flowers and aromatic herbs, a bounty of fresh organic vegetables in the kitchen, tables laden with hand-painted European pottery from such exquist, and huge vases of fragrant blooms throughout. And our new Chalet Shop – built in the traditional style of a Swiss Chalet - filled with amazing natural light and the very best of the things I’ve found during my travels. Our loyal customers come back each year updating us of their own personal adventures in Europe and about, sharing their amazing finds, and enjoying all the things we’ve added into our Ann Marie’s collection. Throughout the years we’ve cultivated a keen eye for exceptional European pottery, developed the very best European style coffee, imported beautifully blended teas, and curated extensive collections from the finest brands including Emma Bridgewater Pottery, Nicholas Mosse and Burleigh. In the last decade, we have taken the uniquely intimate experience of Ann Marie’s stores nationwide through our website making our products available to our customers worldwide via our online shop. So there you have it. A glimpse into the tenacious and wonderful beginning of my dear little shop in Northern Wisconsin. Through these letters, I hope we can continue to share our uniquely adventurous lives together. Continuing on the journey.