Boutique owner seeks to share positivity in Norwich |
Norwich native Kirstin Vidler-Mackey traded molars for mementos.
Vidler-Mackey, 37, launched Ashby Ann, named for her grandmothers Joan Ashby Vidler and Beverly Ann Streichert, at 24 Broad St. in Norwich in late April.
“I’d been doing dental assisting for 10 years, and I was fine for 10 years, until this year, when I had my daughter,” Vidler-Mackey said. “My son is 13 and my daughter is 16 months now, and I was like, ‘You know what? I want to spend more time with my kids.’ I missed a lot with my son, and I was a single mom and … I (realized) I don’t want to miss any more. I wanted to spend more time with my kids and my family, and I didn’t want a boss anymore; I wanted to call my own shots … and keep things simple.
“This has always been my dream,” she continued. “Dental (work) was my passion and I love playing with teeth, but this was a dream and I kept it as a dream. Then, one day, my sister jokingly said, ‘Why don’t you just do it? Why don’t you open a shop?’ I went and looked at prices and this place took a ton (of work); we completely remodeled, ripped everything out … all down to the bare bones and painted everything and refurbished the old tin tile ceiling. It took about a month and a half to redo the entire store … and it was literally a labor of love.”
Ashby Ann, Vidler-Mackey said, features unique children’s items, artisanal accessories, home decor pieces and men’s goods.
“I offer a variety of children’s clothing and I have a couple lines that are exclusive to me in New York,” she said. “I have wooden toys — I love wooden toys and think we’re getting our children too much into video games and TV, so I want to bring it back to what it was and enhance their imaginations; I have a beautiful line of stuffed animals and books, (including) Bunnies by the Bay; I carry decor, with a farmhouse, industrial-chic contemporary kind of feel; I carry a lot of artisans from around here, (including) a woman that throws pottery, a couple that makes signs … and I have a gentleman that makes cutting boards out of Oxford and he does custom orders and engraves them; I have a ton of men’s stuff — beard care, lotions, cookbooks, seasonings … and a lot of leather stuff (such as) belts, wallets, hats; tons of soaps, because I love organic, no-additive soaps; and I sell Kelly Cross Jasmine Moon jewelry with the most amazing crystals.”
The jewelry and Spearmint Baby organic clothing line, Vidler-Mackey said, are top-sellers. The latter, she said, is exclusive to Ashby Ann in New York and “people will travel from Syracuse for that.”
But it’s Ashby Ann’s book selection, Vidler-Mackey said, that she curates most carefully.
“The books I carry, I try to keep with a good moral and a story you can learn from,” she said. “We’re introducing reading groups, sing-alongs and read-alongs and I have authors coming. Suzanne Bloom (will be here) in July. I want to teach kids that reading is cool again and have it in a nice, relaxing environment where moms can mingle and talk and it’s a good way for moms to meet other moms.”
Such events, Vidler-Mackey said, further her vision for the store and its community.
“Brian Doliver, our mayor, did our first reading, and I have a huge lineup of people wanting to read and jump in … because there’s just not enough stuff for kids to do,” she said. “I’m going to be introducing moms’ and girls’ nights out, with refreshments and shopping and hanging out with your girlfriends. and I have some outreach programs and mental health people coming in, because I’m trying to offer more than just a store; I’m trying to push positive back into Norwich. There’s a lot of bad stuff going on, but there’s so much good stuff still in Norwich that we just need to bring back out. I really want to get people out of their houses and comfortable with their neighbors again and to not be afraid to say, ‘Hi.’ It used to be like that, but now it’s not. I want to push kids in a positive way to learn and to love and to meet people. If it takes a little store like Ashby Ann to do it, then let’s push it forward.”
The community, Vidler-Mackey said, is embracing her approach.
“Every time someone comes in, they’re like, ‘I love it, the music is inviting, it’s not stuffy,’” she said. “I just want it to feel like home. I want you to be comfortable to be here, because that’s going to make you want to come back. It’s been very positive … and (people) are super excited.”
Customers, Vidley-Mackey said, represent “a wide range.”
“It doesn’t matter what financial bracket you come from or social bracket; I’ve seen from very low to very high come in here … and love something and have to get it,” she said. “I have a lot of out-of-towners come, a ton. and I have over 2,000 followers on Facebook … so it’s really blowing up.”
Vidler-Mackey said she hopes to expand children’s activities and events, with plans for a collaborative downtown “shop hop” around the holidays. She also offers private shopping sessions by appointment.
Ashby Ann is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
For more information, find “Ashby Ann” on Facebook or follow @ashbyannboutique on Instagram.