The Town Duck keeps on giving

By Posted on Oct 19 2018 | By

Four decades on Main Street and still thriving

The characteristics of ducks mirror one of Warrenton’s favorite shops: both paddle hard beneath the surface but one only sees calm and friendly faces.

Working hard while projecting serenity is the heart of a shop Fauquier County citizens know well. The Town Duck is the go-to place for gifts, jewelry, cheese, wine, gourmet foods and the freshest of fish.

The eclectic range of merchandise and down-home hospitality offered by the retail legend is why generations of shoppers have awarded it a long and fruitful life.

Founded by Robin Payne in the late 1970s, Bibi de Heller purchased it in 1986 and hired Annette Johnson a year later to help her run the shop. In 1993, de Heller moved to Switzerland and Johnson purchased the business.

de Heller returned to the states a year later and the partnership reunited and has been in play ever since. The winning team works flawlessly together and are still the best of friends.

Image result for the town duck warrenton vaAnnette Johnson recalls with clarity her first impression of the shop. “I was not in retail and it was absolutely the last thing I thought I would do. But the minute I walked into that shop I loved it. There was such a sense of community there.

“My late husband was in the horse world and he fox hunted so I already knew many people in the county,” said Johnson.

Later, after Johnson purchased the business she moved it to 215 Main Street. The new location tripled the size of the original shop and business jumped dramatically. “There were days we could fill a USP truck with all the outgoing shipments.”

In 2008, the owner of the building did not want to renew the lease and the shop moved to its current location at 100 Main Street. “We’ve been here 10 years. How time flies.”

Today, de Heller focuses on the financial side of the shop, including bookkeeping. Owner Johnson manages the staff and merchandise.

So how did the shop get its name? There was no “Aha!” moment that struck original owner Payne. “She simply made the name up and then had a logo designed of a cute duck going shopping with a purse under its wing,” said Johnson.

The shop has hundreds of items for sale; “perhaps thousands,” if you include all the various soaps and jewelry items. Products range in price from $5 for a simple piece of jewelry to over $100 for a bottle of fine wine.

They have something for everybody, including a bridal registry. But the busiest day of the week is Friday…fish day.

Johnson had been selling fish for years but wanted to expand her selection and offer unusual items such as Shad Roe which run in the spring.

Today, over 500 people are on the shop’s email notification list that is posted every Wednesday. It describes what fish will be available on Friday. Customers place their order and pick up their fish on delivery day.

“We use J.J. McDonald from Md. who is one of the best fish purveyors in the business. We get a variety of fresh water and ocean fish each week.”

The selections are impressive: seasonal availability of Shad Roe, sea scallops, farmed Atlantic Salmon, Mahi Mahi, Arctic Char, Norwegian Cod, Flounder, Swordfish, Lane Snapper, Rockfish, Monk fillet Bronzini, Salmon, Bluefish, PEI Mussels, and Tuna loin.

If the finest bounty of the sea is your passion, be sure cast your line into The Town Duck’s pond.

Premium seafood calls for premium wine pairings and again the shop does not fail. Dozens of selections of high-quality wines are available. The depth of choice is so deep The Washington Post wine critic, Dave McIntyre, often lists the shop as a source for wines he has recommended to his readers.

While the satisfaction of providing Warrenton with quality merchandise, wines and fish is rewarding, Johnson is most proud of the employment opportunities she has provided to over 50 young staffers over the years.

“These young people have gone on to enjoy great careers—huge careers—and they still come back to see us. They’re now married and have children. It’s very gratifying. They loved working in the shop. We were like second mothers to them,” said Johnson.

Characteristically, Johnson goes on to say the success of the shop is centered on her staff. Two of her long-time loyal and experienced employees are Anne Schalestock and Robbi Ryan. “They keep the shop looking great and customers love them.”

In her closing thoughts, Johnson opines that, “I wish people would realize that in supporting not just my business, but any local business, what they’re helping to accomplish. The money stays in the community. I am a great believer in Main Street.

“I turned 76 this fall and I’m still here because I believe in it. I’m still soldering on. It’s a great shop; it’s been the greatest experience of my life.”

American poet Maya Angelou once said, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

The philosophy perfectly matches Johnson’s world view.

For a digital peek inside the world of Annette Johnson’s playground, visit http://www.townduck.com/


Published in the October 15, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.      

Categories : HAGARTY TALES