My earliest recollection of an event that spurred my creative spirit was a short trip that I took across our back yard to a friend's house when I was 5 years old. Playing in her basement, I discovered a passion for, of all things, stocking shelves! My friend had an amazing “play kitchen” in her basement filled with all kinds of miniatures -- child-sized appliances, rows of tidy shelves, beautiful glass jars and small colorful boxes of play food -- I was totally captivated. I remember feeling devastated when she moved away, but my love of shelves stocked with pretty things remained.
When I was 10 years old, My Auntie Dahlia took me to visit the hospital where she worked and it was there that I decided on my first career...a Medical Technologist. The hospital was run by women, an order of Swiss nuns called the Holy Cross Sisters. We visited Aunt Dahlia's friend, Sister Mary Francis, who ran the laboratory and I was completely fascinated by the beautiful shapes of glass, colorful liquids bubbling on burners, even the cages of rabbits (obviously, quite a time ago). Once again I was entranced by the colors, textures and glass design.
(I never really gave these experiences much thought until recently, when I started putting things down on paper. Now I can see the threads and consistencies -- how the influences all fit together.)
For 14 years, I enjoyed my years in the medical laboratory. I learned what hard work was all about, how to be very particular and diligent. As it turns my lab expertise turned out to be a great asset in roasting coffee to just the right color and texture.
My parents are my biggest inspiration on work and work ethic. My father was an entrepreneur who started a millwork business that grew to be a great success. My mother played a huge roll in doing the accounting and supporting the daily flow of the office and the family.I had the opportunity in my early years to work in the office and be a part of the business where I learned a debit from a credit.
After working in the laboratory for 14 years, I felt an urge to do something new. I talked with my brother Bill about my passion to start a business of my own. He simply said, “Just do it.” That little nudge was all I needed. I took a class in small business management and started down an exciting new path in fine coffees, teas and gifts. In August 1989, I opened the doors of Ann Marie's and welcomed my first customer.
Every day was a new adventure. As my fledgling business grew, I learned so much about growing, buying, roasting, brewing and tasting coffee. I experimented with new products such as home-baked scones and specialty foods. I loved picking wild blackberries on my way to work and baking them into our fresh morning scones. Customers became friends, introduced us to their friends, and all became members of our expanding “Ann Marie family”. In the 1990's, we shifted the emphasis of Ann Marie's from a coffee house to focus on coffee roasting and importing pottery and European-inspired gifts. My web business began and what grew to be today's annmarie.com.
Saving the best for last…I met my wonderful husband in 1992. He is from Switzerland, and through him, I have learned so much about business, world travel and how Europeans enjoy life. Stephan has given me the courage to take chances and the support to make Ann Marie's a success. He is a big part of who we are today and has been my ultimate inspiration. We are so happy that our beautiful family is now involved in the business. We hope our Ann Marie's story continues to grow, like it began...with family.