With a new owner, The Town Duck continues to offer their long established quality of goods with a few new twists.
Good News! Town Duck on Main Street is alive and well. New owner Jeanne-Marie Tufts proudly says its “same duck—different waddle”. Ms. Tufts emphasizes that since she bought the Town Duck in March, she is working hard to continue the same impressive customer service and close relationship with the community as that of her predecessor, Kathleen Annette Johnson, who operated the shop for more than four decades.
Town Duck has been a mainstay in town for its extensive wine selections, cheeses, and specialty foods, and its wide variety of quality gifts, including its specially prepared gift baskets. The shop is where I have always gone for something special to present to my host or hostess for dinner, a gift for my wife when I had exhausted my ideas, or a unique Christmas gift. I was never disappointed.
As Jeanne-Marie acquired the shop during the early phase of COVID pandemic, she was often asked “why now?” She had long been interested in starting a business of her own, and knew Johnson had wanted to retire for some time. In March, they both agreed the time was right. As Town Duck sold food, it was deemed essential and was able to stay open when most shops were required to close. As customer activity was slow, Jeanne-Marie was able to focus on her inventory, decide what to keep and what to add—the “different waddle.”
Jeanne-Marie grew up in Warrenton and feels quite at home here after moving back in 2016 from Norfork, where she worked in her profession as a physical therapist. And, she has kept the business all in the family. Her mother, Anne Schalestock, who worked with Ms. Johnson for years, has stayed on, sharing with her daughter her personal experience and insights. As being a small business owner is new for her, she has sought the assistance of her husband Max, who has an M.BA degree and business expertise. She also calls on her three ten-year-old girls to help on occasion. Yes, they are triplets! As if there were not enough to keep her busy, she also teaches Yoga on the side.
Since taking over the business, Jeanne-Marie has updated her website where she posts something that is special every day. One of the first additions she has made is her Fish Friday. Based on customer requests, she orders a wide variety of fish and seafood from Baltimore each week. One week, she says she sold about 200 pounds of fish; she averages about 100 pounds per week. Some popular requests have included Toki salmon, halibut, mussels, and crabmeat.
She also has expanded her stationery inventory, along with cards and journals, and has added baby clothing after doing lots of research with various vendors and soliciting advice from customers. Jeanne-Marie mentioned that she recently met with a designer of baby clothing to learn more about what is new and creative in that genre. Following her predecessor’s example, she is particularly interested in supporting local vendors, including seeking sources of local herbs and spices.
Customer traffic has been slowly increasing, giving her the opportunity to learn more about customer needs and interests. Every day, she says she is excited to go to work, in part because running a small business is what she has always wanted and also because she loves meeting and learning to know more folks.
“Come check us out” is the message Jeanne-Marie wants locals to hear, whether they loved the wine, cheese, and unique gifts of the Town Duck before, or are curious about the new offerings of baby clothing, stationery or Fish Friday. Remember, it’s still the Town Duck you always loved, just with the addition of Jeanne-Marie’s energy and unique creativity.