Thistle & Bess, a newly opened store in Ann Arbor (right in Kerrytown). Owned and operated by Diana, she strives to create an aesthetic that is welcoming and lighthearted. It's the type of shop that you could spend an afternoon in. Near Zingerman's this shop is in the perfect location to stop by during a day trip to Ann Arbor or the nearby Farmer's Market.
Hello! Can you tell our readers about yourself?
I am an Ann Arbor-area native and a University of Michigan graduate. After college I moved to Brooklyn, NY to teach elementary school science. After teaching in the NYC Public School System for 11 years, I decided to take a huge leap and move back home to open my dream boutique!
What is your background in? Why did you choose to open Thistle & Bess?
Although I received an education degree from U of M, I have always had a passion for fashion and design. I am also a history buff and antique collector. I started collecting antique jewelry and charms and making my own pieces out of them. I got so many compliments on my jewelry that I decided to open an Etsy Shop. The jewelry line Thistle & Bess then began to morph and grow into the the idea for the eclectic shop that I eventually opened. I had always dreamed of opening my own boutique and when I saw a small storefront for rent in Kerrytown, Ann Arbor, I knew it was time to take the plunge and realize my dream.
How do you choose the brands you carry?
I am constantly looking for new products and brands. First, I start with the things that I would want to purchase myself! I look to carry artists and brands that are obviously well-made, but also a bit quirky and different. Because I lived in Brooklyn for so long I decided to bring a few of my favorite Brooklyn brands to Ann Arbor. I am also very excited to carry some amazing brands (including Douglas & Co!) that are made in Michigan. Detroit, especially, has so many talented designers and artists. I am super excited to bring some of that to Ann Arbor.
Since opening just a few weeks ago, what type of advice do you have for someone who may be in the process, or thinking about opening a store?
Follow your gut and your instinct. If you are opening a brick and mortar store, take the time to make the physical space exactly what you want. Be passionate about what you are doing! Your enthusiasm will rub off on others. Collaborate with other businesses and brands who you admire. Reaching out to others for advice and help was crucial while I was planning my store. Finally, take deep breaths and be patient. Opening a store is a complicated process with a lot of moving pieces. Stick with your vision. It is so worth it in the end!
Why Ann Arbor, why not Brooklyn or somewhere in New York?
Ann Arbor is home. I adored living in Brooklyn and was sad to leave my amazing friends and neighborhood, but Michigan is where my family is. I also noticed that a lot of fantastic new businesses, many of which that were owned by young entrepreneurs, were opening in Ann Arbor. I wanted to be a part of that. It feels great to be home.
Do you feel the customer is more willing to shop in a small store at this point in time?
For sure. I think that customers want to shop in small, local stores. They want to support shops that are bringing something new and different to the community.
What are your future plans with your shop? (if any at this point)
Of course I am constantly looking for new and interesting brands and designers to carry in the store. I am also really interested in hosting community events and artist showcases. I carry some pretty special items in my store and no one can explain them better than the talented artists who are making them! Being able to actually meet the designer and hear about the process that went into making each item makes the products even more special.
What has been your favorite part of opening Thistle & Bess so far?
Seeing my completed vision is pretty amazing. The store turned out exactly as I had imagined it. I have also adored meeting so many new people at the shop! Everyone has been so warm and welcoming. Ann Arbor is such a fantastic community and I am really excited to be a part of it.
Visit the Shop : 222 N. 4th Avenue Ann Arbor MI Monday 11-7pm, Wednesday-Saturday 11-7pm & Sunday 11-5pm