While the pandemic has negatively impacted several businesses, one local business has not only survived but grown.
The Cottage has added a second location, opening another retail store in downtown Annapolis at 149 Main Street. Appropriately named The Cottage on Main, the new boutique is located where Kokopelli previously resided, next to The Clay Bakers and conveniently within proximity to Noah Hillman Parking Garage.
In 1974, the first location opened as Dawson’s Country Cottage in the Carr building in Olde Severna Park before moving to Park Plaza in 1986 when Sue Gauthier took over. A rebrand to “The Cottage” came in 2006 with less focus on country styles. In 2017, the store moved a few more steps away and expanded into a space twice as large.
Store owners Gauthier and Sarah Bender go way back and have a mother/daughter-like rapport. Bender is the childhood best friend of Gauthier’s oldest daughter and practically grew up in The Cottage when her own mom used to work there. Before joining The Cottage, Bender admitted she didn’t know much about retail.
“Sue has taught me everything that I know,” said Bender, who officially joined the business in 2013, bringing a background in advertising, marketing and management. In conjunction with the new store opening, Bender was also promoted to Gauthier’s partner.
“Sarah is on the hunt all the time for something that you don’t see everywhere and that’s what makes us really different,” explained Gauthier. “The fun thing for us is we feature products from local talent, plus we have companies from all over the U.S. and world.”
Beloved by locals for its coastal and relaxed theme, Annapolis is a perfect home for the new store. A few popular brands offered include Kendra Scott, Spartina, Brighton, Hobo, Scout, Corkcicle and Sand Cloud.
The Cottage also supports many local artists like Kim Hovell, carrying her oyster prints, candles and more. Additionally, both stores carry Smith & Quinn, a clothing line created by Annapolis native Kaeli Smith Quinn when she was only 18 years old. Further, this writer knows firsthand the store’s support of local talent because the staff was generous in helping me fundraise to bring my first children’s book to life. The Cottage went on to be the first store to carry my book too.
“We both have such strong faiths, and we don’t make any decisions without asking God’s direction … With our decision to go into Annapolis, all the doors opened,” Gauthier said.
With the new location, the employee count is now over 20 with girls aged 16 to 60-plus.
“We have an amazing, positive team and that makes the difference,” gushed Gauthier, who also noted that her employees are like family to her.
“The thing I like best about Sue is that she’s always up for a challenge or risk,” Bender said.
While the pandemic brought many challenges, the partners and staff remained positive and creative, adding curbside pickup and delivery, launching a new website, offering engaging Instagram/Facebook Lives and adding the Annapolis location.
“Our success comes from our people, whether it’s our Cottage family or our customers who have supported us for over 30 years,” Bender said. “We wouldn’t be here without those two sets of people.”
The Cottage on Main held a soft opening on May 1 and the grand opening is planned for the weekend of June 18-19. To learn more about the growing boutique and its future events, visit www.shopthecottage.com or follow its Facebook or Instagram pages, @ShopTheCottageSP.