With Dawn Vereuck shelving the retail side of her Mountain Living business in Mammoth, Anne Marie Bergoff, owner of Anne Marie’s Home Boutique in Bishop, feels it’s time to introduce herself to Mono County residents who may not know about her 2,500-square foot kitchen store located next to Union Bank on Main Street in Bishop.
Anne Marie has been in business for 16 years, quite an accomplishment for a business everyone assured her would fail.
But before we get to the store, here’s the backstory.
Anne Marie and Brent Bergoff moved to the Eastern Sierra from Whittier in 1996 after a vacation in June Lake.
Brent grew up in Lee Vining and had always wanted to move back. Their two boys, then entering 7th and 9th grade respectively, had fallen in love with the place and wanted to move here, too.
It was Anne Marie, a suburban girl who had spent her entire life in Southern California, who needed a little bit of convincing.
As a compromise, as much for weather as anything else, the family settled on Bishop.
Anne Marie had worked in the medical profession down south as a C.N.A. and a medical office assistant. She had also just finished a course in transcribing and figured it would be a fairly easy transition to find a job in the medical field around here.
There were no jobs available, and the jobs that were out there were held by folks who felt lucky to have them and had no intention of leaving.
Brent, meanwhile, spent much of that first year commuting back and forth down south, where he was in the process of selling a trim & upholstery shop he owned. He was also teaching skiing at Mammoth Mountain.
As Anne Marie recalls, it was a long, long, hot, hot summer and a frigid winter. She isn’t an outdoors person and she started questioning herself.
“What the heck am I doing here?”
She said she begged God to help her find something.
Later that day, she drove a different way to school to pick up the kids and she passed what is now the motorcycle shop next to Mahogany Smoked Meats.
The building was for lease. It was cute and small (900-square feet). She knew very little about Bishop, retail business, etc. … but she’d always had a dream of opening a kitchen/bath type of store.
She and her husband dove in. She signed the lease and began working on the shop. She went to trade shows and chatted up sellers and vendors. In turn, they asked her about Bishop, and from what they could ascertain, they thought there was a niche in the market for someone carrying mid-range and high-end items that Kmart didn’t carry.
The curious would stop by the shop as the Bergoffs were getting it ready. “A flatlander?” “A kitchen store?”
“This will never work,” was the consensus.
It did work.
And it continues to work because of two loyal employees – Sarah Birkhimer, who has been with Anne Marie for eight years and manager for three, and Robin Hodges, who has worked at Anne Marie’s for five years.
Due to some physical ailments in recent years, Anne Marie has not been as active in store operations, so it has been Sarah and Robin who have kept the ship moving forward. Anne Marie says there have been talks of a succession plan.
Sarah is quick to dispel what is a popular belief in some corners that Anne Marie’s is strictly “high-end.”
“We’re known as high-end,” she says, “but really, we’ve got something for everyone. Our motto is ‘a kitchen store with so much more.’”
To illustrate, she points out a cowboy-themed section, a new baby section with bibs and bathroom toys, various signs throughout the store advising you to “kiss the cook” and the “Frasier Fir” line of candles Dawn Vereuck used to sell at Mountain Living.
Sheet: In essence, if you walk around in here long enough, you’re gonna find something.
Sheet: What about all the references to kissing the cook?
Sarah (shrugging): Kitchen folks like their signs.
The hottest item (maybe ever, says Sarah) in the store are the Lilypads – silicone lids that can be used in the oven and microwave … “you’ll never use Saran Wrap or foil ever again.”
Favorite product lines: Le Creuset, Oxo, Cuisinart.
Perks: free gift wrapping, layaway, bridal registries.
At one point as we walk around the store, Sarah explains very succinctly why cheap doesn’t necessarily save people any money.
“When people come in and say, ‘I bought this pan a month ago and it cost seven dollars and it fell apart,’ well, there you go.”
Sarah’s nickname for Kmart = Came Apart.
I come across more stuff – garlic presses, cookie cutters. Even I, a person who loathes shopping, finds something for my wife – though I’m not going to give it away here!
Anne Marie’s is open six days a week (seven during the peak holiday season). Call them @ 760.872.4433.
*As for the article’s title, pardon the obscure Dylan reference!