Wanser’s adds new element steeped in tradition
To augment her vision for Wanser’s Market on Route 27 in Boothbay, owner Kate Winslow wanted to add something holistic and steeped in tradition. With this in mind, she partnered with Mary Norwood of Merry Auld Tea Company and the eclectic apothecary shop began a new chapter. Norwood is a longtime tea aficionado who cut her teeth with Nancy Hilton from the now defunct MacNab’s Tea Room in Boothbay Harbor. After Hilton died in 2014, Norwood felt a nudge from Hilton’s spirit urging her to carry on the tradition.
“We had talked about doing something new with tea but separate from MacNab’s,” said Norwood.
The company was launched later that year from Norwood’s home, where she began creating her unique blends through trial and error. She found an eager customer base still clinging to blends created by MacNab’s. One customer in Pennsylvania mailed her a sample of her favorite tea and asked Norwood to recreate it.
“It was like being in a lab with a microscope,” said Norwood. “I was able to pinpoint many of the herbs and make a blend.”
So far Norwood has made a custom blend for this year’s Harbor Fest, most notably. With demand high for the tea, Norwood made a connection with Winslow through a mutual friend and was able to secure a traditional bricks and mortar location.
“It was perfect,” said Winslow. “It’s an element I’d always wanted to add.”
Norwood offers everything from traditional black tea to medicinal remedies created for whatever may ail a customer. In fact, the store is meant to be a safe, open environment in which people can have a candid conversation. “It’s important to have that dialogue with people,” said Winslow. “We want to cultivate a warm and welcoming environment. It helps us help other people.”
The market itself is a carefully curated hodgepodge of locally sourced food, organic provisions and practical goods. Winslow — a Boothbay Harbor native — opened Wanser’s three years ago after negotiating a lease with photographer Robert Mitchell and his wife Susan Endicott. “They were both on board with this concept and supportive,” said Winslow. “The town needed another option and it just wasn’t here.”
The goal is to provide what’s wanted and what’s needed with an eye toward longevity. “I don’t want to sacrifice my original vision,” said Winslow. “I’ll only bend so far. I won’t be selling cigarettes and soda anytime soon.”
Winslow goes to great lengths to provide for her customers by personally sourcing the products. She now offers over 40 New England-based options.
“I might spend part of the weekend driving to a local farm to get six containers of yogurt,” she said. “Or it may be getting farm fresh eggs.”
The Merry Auld Tea Company dovetails nicely with Winslow’s business goals and more importantly her ethics. This summer, the pair hatched an unconventional marketing campaign with a series of messages on their street level sign.
“One sign said ‘friends never say goodbye, they say see you soon’,” said Norwood. “It meant see you tomorrow, not that we’re closing. Eventually we just ran with it because people were coming in.”
Both Winslow and Norwood measure their success incrementally. They want to retain a personal touch, high level of service and the deeper connection within the community without growing too fast.
“What Mary does with her tea is amazing and it gives me great satisfaction that our customers know where our products are coming from,” said Winslow.