Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store Marks 10 Years in Business

Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store Marks 10 Years in Business

PARK SLOPE – Independent businesses are a staple of Brooklyn life, and Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store is among the most noted. The Park Slope business, located at 232 5th Avenue, will be celebrating its 10th anniversary during the first week of October, and its owner, Ann Cantrell, could not be more thrilled.

“I just take one day at a time,” she says. When asked if she thought her store would be around for ten years, she smiles, “No, but I hope to be around for another ten. Brooklyn is such a great place for independent businesses. It’s a great community here.”

That community was born initially in Boerum Hill on the corner of State and Bond. There, Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store flourished, but after six years, Cantrell wanted for more space. She learned about available space in Park Slope through one of the representatives of her store’s products.

“It’s been wonderful,” Cantrell says. “We’ve more than doubled our space. We also have basement storage for our online orders.” Online orders are a major part of the store’s business.

“I wanted a modern edge, or a city edge to it,” Cantrell explains.  “This is great for city living where there are a lot of small spaces. It’s just what a city person would need.”

That includes various gifts for people of all ages, cards, candy, party pieces, beauty products for women and grooming products for men. There are also containers of water and soap that people would need for their apartments.

How does Cantrell choose her merchandise, most of them from independent businesses and vendors?

“We evaluate,” she explains. “Does it catch your eye? Is it fun and functional? Is it something that customers are looking for?”

“We try to find the best option,” she adds. “We also try to have fun with everything.  We have a sense of humor, and try not take everything seriously.”

That could be the secret to the store’s success. Walking into Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store means being welcomed with colorful, shiny products, exuding delight just by their mere presence. All merchandise is neatly arranged, and Cantrell and her team regularly straighten the products to look more presentable. But it is done with joy rather than obligation.

“I think that’s the main gist of it,” Cantrell says. “We’re enjoying ourselves and it shines through. Customers see it, and it makes for a good time here.”

The philosophy at Annie’s is fun, but in a thoughtful way. So is listening to the customer.

“We’re always changing the merchandise,” Cantrell says. “We listen to our customers and we try to keep the basics, but we also like to introduce customers to new things.”

Annie’s Blue Ribbon success extends beyond Brooklyn. It has drawn shoppers from Manhattan, as well as tourists from all over the world.

Ann Cantrell, owner (in the center) with Jessica Rall, general manager, and Jennifer Holley, marketing manager. Photo Megan McGibney/BKLYNER

“Brooklyn is the tourist attraction” Cantrell smiles. “We’re just part of it, and we’re happy to oblige.”

Even though she has a lot to celebrate and be proud of, Cantrell admits running a small business in Brooklyn is not easy, especially with the high rents.

“It’s definitely an issue,” she says. “But we’ve been lucky with ours.”

Next Wednesday, October 4th, there will be a party at Annie’s where friends, family and all those who have supported and worked with the store all these years will gather. There will be an auction fundraiser with the hopes of raising 10K for charity. Next Saturday, October 7th, there will be giveaways all day, along with morning mimosas, just like any other first Saturday of the month at Annie’s.

“It’s a way to have fun and give back along the way.”

With this success, what can Cantrell give advice to anyone looking to start their own business in Brooklyn?

“Do a lot of planning,” she smiles. “Save your money. Be passionate and go for it.”


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