The Willow Tree: From Willow Plates To Tea Cup Tussies

5-3-2013 2-05-09 PMTen years ago, Mary Box and Heather Sandusky met and found they had a number of things in common: they loved antiques, beautiful crafts, silk flowers, and most of all, finding ways to bless other people through creativity.

Then, one day in 2012, they were sitting around a table and half-jokingly said, “Let’s open a shop.” They both hail from the Shoals, where they felt there were too many of the type of shop they wished to open, and found Athens to be a perfect fit for their new endeavor. In February they opened The Willow Tree, located at 611 Hobbs Street, next to Dr. Charles Hall’s chiropractic clinic. And, I might add, they joined the ever growing list of Athens Now clients who have bravely struck out on their personal journey of becoming entrepreneurs in the middle of a recession. Hats off to you, ladies!

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The shop is named in honor of Heather’s “Nanny,” whose name is Willow, and Ms. Willow is “tickled to death.” She has a granddaughter named Willow as well, and together they call from time to time to see how “their” shop is doing.

Heather had been involved in creating silk arrangements for about 4 years, and Mary had been in the antique business for around 12, and found that joining forces empowered them to do what Mary describes without hesitation as “living the dream.”

Mary gained her knowledge of and love for antiques from her father, who was a clock smith. She grew up appreciating the fine workmanship of clocks and other antiques, and some of her father’s clocks are on display at the shop. She also loves to do needlepoint, and several of the seats on antique chairs were carefully created by Mary. Another play on the word “Willow” comes from the fact that Mary loves the blue and white of “willow plates,” and several are available at the store. She has genuine “willow ware,” authentic delft pieces from Holland, and Blue Danube, amongst others. “The blue and whites are my favorites, and are what I am most proud of,” she told me. She also makes refrigerator magnets from antique buttons, called “pom pom magnets,” and will do custom work. Talk about making your fridge look elegant!

5-3-2013 2-06-05 PMHeather takes great pride in the care with which she creates her silk arrangements, and mentioned that “even the ferns are silk.” Their saddles start at $32.99, and vases start at $22.99. Everything is crafted in the store. They work with local funeral homes with delivery of arrangements, blankets and stands, and clients can come in and choose every flower at no extra charge. Heather has a heart for people who have just experienced loss, and wants to do all she can to meet their needs in a time of such difficulty.

But not all of her work is with the bereaved, as important as that is. Together with Mary they came up with the shop specialty, which is known as the “tea cup tussies.” The tea cup tussie is a throwback to the Victorian era when “tussie mussies,” (which are small nosegay type bouquets,) were both a fashion accessory as well as a way to secretly communicate through what is known as “the language of flowers.” The Willow Tree version is when you want to get something that is what Heather calls a “little happy” that only costs 12 dollars, including the cup. You pick your cup and your silk, and have a custom made permanent arrangement for a very reasonable price that says, “I thought of you today.” They also have several that are available in the store, and they are beautiful.

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The Willow Tree carries the Brownstone line of candles. They are soy, so they don’t emit hydrocarbons, and have lovely scents such as lemon verbena, and cappuccino hazelnut. For the men there is leather as well as cigar. Brownstone is a family owned company, and is based in Kentucky. They will also be introducing a French line this spring that are much more “girly girl,” and come in pink boxes, perfect for bridal showers.

May marks the arrival of a locally made custom jewelry line called “Jenny’s Jewels,” which ranges in price from 20 to 50 dollars. There are hand stamped monogrammed pieces, pretty leather cuffs, and necklaces made from antique keys.

Willow Tree also features the work of an elderly woman who lives on a fixed income in Birmingham. She makes wreaths out of burlap bags, and you need to see them to believe how beautiful they are. Her painstaking handiwork is a thing of the past, and with re-purposing being the current trend everywhere in home décor, they are a real find. That and so much more is available at The Willow Tree, and we hope you’ll come see for yourself.

The Willow Tree
611 Hobbs Rd. Athens, AL
Phone: 256-777-8912
Hours: Wed 10-4, Thu-Sat 10-5
Facebook: The Willow Tree Athens AL
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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