Who doesn’t love the precision of a Henkel’s knife or the impeccable even cooking surface of an All Clad pan? Are you looking for the perfect cocktail party solution or looking for the largest Vera Bradley collection in the area? Do you vote with your dollar shopping for American products? Look no further then to the ’s Suzanne Lane.
A true Renaissance woman, Lane, owner of , and , grew up with an appreciation for the local artisan and developed a staunch and deliberate ethic to support U.S. made products, which she feels, sustains and strengthens the local community.
“I worked retail as a high school student, my father was a professional photographer and my mother besides raising six children was extremely creative and artistic—they were into the culinary, the painting and master gardening.” Lane said. “I have inherited those characteristics and am using everything from upbringing and education combined.”
Originally from Higganum, Connecticut with an Bachelor of Arts in graphic arts and an M.A. in adult education, Lane left her position at University of Connecticut in the early 80’s and started an American handcrafts catalogue—Elizabeth & Harriet. In 1986, the business flourished into a retail space in the Village and was the first to bring Vera Bradley merchandise to Connecticut.
“We sold some gourmet New England foods at Elizabeth & Harriet,” Lane said. “I saw a niche which needed to be filled and with a culinary background, it was a no brainer so, I opened [Gray Goose Cookery] in 1995 and in less than a year, we needed more space.”
Lane’s retail trilogy covers all bases: gifts, clothing, kitchen, bar, culinary education, entertainment, hobby and home. Lane’s keen eye, strong marketing skills, ingenuity and customer service wisdom has landed her three solid retail venues with a committed customer base, but she’s concerned about the effects of the Asian market on American made products.
“In the schools, they’re not telling kids, your future is in American products,” Lane said. “It will be up to the current college age generation to make that switch happen. You can’t always shop for the cheap item but you have to think of the chain of events which leads to the item on the shelf.”
Concerns aside, she loves what she does and is active in her vocation and community. As one of the top independent kitchen stores owners in New England, Lane has had the opportunity to meet celebrity chefs such as Julia Child, Jaques Pepin, Emeril, Jamie Oliver and Paula Dean. She attended a private lunch at the HGTV Bobby Flay set kitchen were she met then upcoming chef Guy Fieri.
On a local level, Lane initiated the garlic festival to support local farmers and promotes small local companies such as Wit Davis’s cornmeal, Ellen’s Pesto and Ariston olive oil. She also recently participated in Stonington’s Economic Roundtable—a brainstorming event with other business owners to boost local economy.
“We’re a part of the fiber of the community, so you learn to support each other,” Lane said. “I’ll refer someone to a local resource before considering any of the chains. Small business is the biggest segment of the market in the U.S.—the more we all pull together the better off we are all going to be.”