Many years ago, Lee Gaede found herself stuck in an office job on Wilshire Boulevard in central Los Angeles. She felt trapped and longed for something different. One weekend, she and a girlfriend took off to spend the weekend on nearby Catalina Island. She stayed for the next 26 years.
“I started out taking any job I could get, from waitressing to packing lobster,” said Gaede. “Then I landed a part-time job in a retail store.”
The world of retail suited Gaede, and when the store she worked in closed, she opened her own store.
“I built my little store out of an old waitress station in the middle of a courtyard,” she said. “I really enjoyed it, but after 26 years I was ready to get off the island.”
One year, Gaede and her husband, Bob — whom she met on Catalina — decided to celebrate their anniversary in Nevada City. They had always loved the Gold Country and booked a room at the Emma Nevada House on Broad Street. While conversing with local residents, they learned that a business was for a sale inside the historic New York Hotel, which houses a cluster of shops on the first floor.
Needless to say, they bought the business, and Gaede opened the doors of “Mary, Mary …” in 2001.
The focus of Gaede’s shop is primarily American and handmade nature-themed items for the home, garden and children.
The works of at least five Nevada County artists are routinely featured on the shelves.
“Local artists come to me; they’re very talented,” she said. “I’ve also collected countless sources from around the country for the past 26 years. The reps know my taste.”
Felt bird’s nests, French soaps, scented candles, vintage flour sack towels, pillows, journals, jewelry boxes, lavender sachets, pet accessories and handmade tapestry bags are just a sampling of the eclectic inventory. Two popular items are women’s tops designed by Katina Marie and Venetian glass jewelry made in Pacific Grove. Also in demand are unique greeting cards made by Nevada City artists.
“Our cards are handmade, not mass-produced,” said Gaede. “When it come to the things I have in the store, I won’t carry what everybody else has. I also do special orders.”
Many customers come back again and again for the Idaho-made, all-cotton children’s clothing, with sizes ranging from newborn to size 4. Because of its popularity, Gaede has been selling the clothing line for more than 20 years, dating back to her business on Catalina.
Tucked into the back of the New York Hotel, Mary, Mary’s décor is accented with a Victorian baby stroller, an antique treadle sewing machine and a wood stove. Gaede’s 6-year-old pocket beagle, Cub, keeps her company daily. Her husband Bob now owns Karl’s Smog in Grass Valley.
“The most rewarding part about owning this store is the chance to be creative. I’m surrounded by beautiful things,” said Gaede.
“And my regular customers have really become friends.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.