Read about Annette on page 26 of the Discovery Magazine!
(5/2013 Edition)

Here's a snip of the article...







Warrenton's Best 2010

Best Specialty Store


Town Duck Still Flying

Fauquier Times Democrat - 11/14/01 - by George Rowand

Walking into the Town Duck in Warrenton is always an adventure in discovery.  Just what will they have in there now?

Annette Johnson bought the Old Town landmark eight years ago, but as near as she and the previous owner, Madeleine "Bibi" de Heller, can tell, the store was started 25 years ago.

"We have upscale gifts right down to inexpensive gifts," Johnson said.  "You can really come in here and get something nice for $5, or you can buy a $300 salad bowl."

Asked if that didn't seem a little steep for a salad bowl, Johnson demonstrated why it cost so much.  The bowl is carved out of one piece of maple wood and painted inside and out.

"We make a conscious effort to feature artists who are local," Johnson explained.  "We do a lot of custom work.  We can have a stool painted for a baby, a piggybank...everything can be customized."

What the Customer Wants

Johnson said that several members of her staff started out as customers.  She summarized her approach to customer service in one simple sentence: 
"If we don't have it, we'll make every effort to find it," she said.

Right now the store is packed with items ranging from the aforementioned $300 hand-carved salad bow to whimsical - and hootingly funny - cards, to a vast selection of wines.

"I read every trade magazine known to man," Johnson said, "and if I find something I like, I bring it into the store."

Currently the fastest-selling item is the half-dog, a small statue of a terrier with its head in he ground, surely rooting for something interesting.  "We've sold 51 of those," she said.

"We get letters from all the corners of the globe," she said, while showing off the ginger jars that have turned into lamps.  "We have a lot of Italian stuff."

That was true as well as she showed off the trays and platters with dried fruits and flowers between two pieces of acrylic.

There are soaps of all kinds, including some from a French company, Rance, that has been in business since 1795.

"I attended trade shows, gift shows, and there is a food show in New York in July," she said.  "And I deal with (sales) reps who can show me the new things."

And Johnson make sit easy for customers by creating gift baskets that can be shipped directly to gift recipients.

"Baskets are a major part of our business.  We do a huge gift basket business.  There are days when we'll do 60 or 80 in one day...a lot of corporate orders.  We've been known to ship 150 orders in one day at Christmas."

Something Different

The Town Duck's gourmet room features foods like fat-free meringue candies, nuts, shortbread, peanut butter straws, lemon straws and key lime straws to cooking thermometers and lamb chop frills.

Wines play a large part of the business at the Town Duck.

"We have wines from just about every corner of the world," Johnson said, "and if we don't have it, we'll do our best to find it.  We have real experts coming in to do wine tastings every Saturday before Christmas."

What about a recommendation for a wine for the Thanksgiving dinner?

"There are wonderful reds for Thanksgiving," she said.  "I know people say that you have to drink white wine with poultry, but you should try some of these reds.  They are quite good."

"Our business is to find value for your money, from the $375 a bottle down to $6 a bottle.  There are some good wines from Spain or Chile and Argentina or South Africa.  These are not your grocery store wines."

Johnson said that she gives a 10-percent discount for a case of wine, even on a mixed case.

She's devoted to Old Town.  "I'd like to see more stores come in," she said.  "But it isn't easy.  I work seven days a week.  I'm doing research in all aspects of this business."

The store is bustling throughout the year, but it really hits its stride when Christmas comes into view.

Going into the store seems to put people in the Christmas spirit.  Why is that, one wonders?  Johnson thinks she has the answer.

"It's not stuffy and everybody comes through the door.  People bring us presents for Christmas."

And then there's that personal touch that a small town establishment can give.  Johnson gave an example, which may also be one of the reasons why the store is still standing all these years later.

"A little old lady calls us every year and says, 'This is my Christmas list, will you pick out gifts for them?' and we do it and bill her."

The Town Duck is located at 15 100 Main Street in Old Town Warrenton.  The phone number is 540.347.7237