Annebeth Bunker started her unique business on Maryland Avenue in 1998, after working as a server at the Chart House. “I was tired of working for other people, waiting tables,” she recalls. “I wanted to open up my own place."
That place, the snug, 600-square-foot shop just a few doors down from State Circle, started out with an emphasis on video rentals. Annebeth specialized in nostalgic classic and foreign films. "People would come in, get their movies, some snacks and some wine or beer" for a cozy evening at home, she explains.
Now, in the post-Blockbuster era of stream-able video, that part of her business has gone. "We just sold them all off last year," she says. But movies have been replaced by an charming mix of "gifts pertaining to entertaining." Some come from around the world, but most are made in Maryland.
She still has an enticing and unique selection of cookies and snacks, and "chocolates are a big segment for us," she notes with a smile. "We're always looking for new vendors," she says. "I've searched through farmers' markets and food shows -- fortunately, the biggest food show for the past few years has been right in Washington, D.C. I also check out other stores nearby to make sure we're coinciding. Other merchants have come in here to check us out, too."
Annebeth likes her products to "coincide," not compete. For instance, she doesn't offer coffee as a good-neighbor nod to the City Dock Coffee shop next door. "It's mainly out of courtesy, but also to keep us unique," she explains. "People come in here looking for something special."
And indeed, as we chat by the counter, a woman comes in out of the cold looking for a gift. Annebeth helps her select a small bottle of pepper sauce, a locally craft-brewed porter, a cute bottle opener and some other items, wraps them in a festively printed paper and arranges them in a brightly colored gift bag. The lady leaves with a happy smile on her frosty cheeks.
Gift bags are another specialty item for Annebeth's. "We were approached by Historic Inns of Annapolis to create 'amenity bags' for their guests. We also make them for conferences and a few weddings."
Her latest introduction has been one of the most popular. There's a big basket filled with boules of freshly baked bread. "This great, crusty artisan bread is something people have asked us for years to have here," she says.
Annebeth has three part-time employees who staff the shop when she's not there. She and her husband live in Anchorage, a community near Bay Ridge just a few miles away. They have 4-1/2-year-old twins, a boy and a girl.
As if that weren't enough to fill her day, Annebeth also serves as the treasurer of the Maryland Avenue/State Circle Association, an organization representing the dozens of businesses in the neighborhood, from gift shops, antique stores and art galleries to restaurants, clothing and accessories stores and jewelers, not to mention the Annapolis Book Store on one block and the Smoke Shop on another. For the history buff, Maryland Avenue is a pleasurable stroll from the State House on one end to the Hammond-Harwood House in the middle to Gate 3 of the Naval Academy at the other end.
As we chat, another woman, a regular customer, comes in looking for a recommendation for a bottle of wine to take as a gift to a dinner party. They look among the whites and Annabeth helps her select one from a local winery. Even that's gift-wrapped in a special bag. "Let me know how you like it!" Annebeth says with a smile.
For the future, Annebeth hopes to find more Maryland-made products, though it will be a puzzle where to put them all. "People are in awe of the vast assortment of products we've got packed into such a small space," she admits.
75 Maryland AvenueAnnapolis, Maryland 21401
Monday-Thursday 12 - 10 pm.
Friday & Saturday 12 - 11 p.m.
Sunday 12 - 8 p.m.
Beer Tasting Saturday 1 - 4 p.m. Try "Sweet Baby Jesus," a peanut butter porter and other brews by Duclaw Beer from Baltimore.