by Cameron M. Lucie | March 18, 2016
Made In FLA: Boutique of a Different Brew
A beer mogul pours her heart into a new lifestyle space, offering clothes, lattes, furniture and friendship under one roof
Susie Busch-Transou (née Busch, as in Anheuser Busch), has helmed a beer distribution company with her husband, Tripp, for the last 19 years, but recently, the spunky, bright-eyed Tallahassee influencer had an unlikely entrepreneurial call to heart, or hearth, that is.
Hearth & Soul, a fresh retail concept, was launched in September 2015. Although the storefront might appear along a hodgepodge of strip mall facades in a winding complex, its alluring entryway, clad in sleek wood and flanked by glowing gas lanterns, hints that this space bucks the traditions of most Tallahassee boutiques.
Even to call Hearth & Soul a mere “shop” undercuts its innovative layout, loosely arranged like a house, each room fully outfitted with buyable merchandise. The light-filled foyer gives way to a living room equipped with comfy sofas, cowhide rugs and a fireplace. Opposite the living room, an open kitchen space with a vast quartz-top island serves as the gathering point for tastings and cooking demos. There are shelves of fine larder products, like Kentuckyaki (a teriyaki sauce infused with bourbon) and Squirrel Brand nuts; a mudroom with yarn-wrapped balls for pups; a dining room with coffee service; both an enviable women’s closet and men’s closet stocked with seasonal must-wears by top contemporary labels like Vince, Chan Luu and True Grit.
Back near the fitting rooms, plush towels and luxurious pillow-tops fill out a bed and bath section. Outside on the patio (yep, there’s an outdoor space too), Palecek furniture is clustered around fire pits, which get moved aside to make room for yoga and Pilates classes.
“We want people to gather here,” says Busch-Transou, who holds an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and has spent most of her career in hospitality. “We’ve taken the same principles of hospitality and applied them to retail. In the beer business we say, ‘Making friends is our business.’ It’s the same here.”
Of course, plenty of locals are glad for the instant gratification that comes with having high-end offerings at the ready, but Hearth & Soul fills many community voids beyond retail.
Open at 8 a.m. on weekdays, it’s an inviting spot for coffee in lieu of the routine Starbucks. Inside the space, garden and book clubs meet, philanthropies circle up, brainstorming runs wild. And Busch-Transou doesn’t simply shutter the store’s doors at the end of the day. She frequently hosts gatherings at night too.
In the spirit of altruism, Hearth & Soul sponsors a non-profit each month by selling candles (symbolically “shining a light”) and donating the net profit proceeds to a chosen cause. True to its gathering ethos, Hearth & Soul then hosts a get-together for the organization on the shop’s premises.
The impetus for Hearth & Soul came about when Busch-Transou and other guests were invited for a celebratory girls’ weekend at a friend’s Georgia plantation. As part of the festivities, the Reverend Catherine Paretti provided life-coaching sessions to attendees.
When she asked Busch-Transou, “What feeds your soul?,” the beer chief dwelled on the question, ultimately determining that what mattered to her most was family, home, friends, and connecting people to help them solve problems and uncover opportunities. Reverend Paretti suggested that a storefront could be in Busch-Transou’s future, a big idea that combined all the things that fed her soul. On a recent afternoon at Hearth & Soul, Busch-Transou buzzed from room to room, inviting customers to linger a little longer. Her father, August Busch III, would soon fire up his Budweiser shrimp dish in the kitchen, and serve it with malt beverage pairings, naturally. Soon enough, friends and family would be gathering around the hearth—the tangible, visible sign of home.
Through it all is Busch-Transou with her playful laugh, her fun energy, her undeniable charm and a tough-to-pinpoint magnetism that no single word can convey. Or maybe it’s just soul.
Hearth & Soul is located at 1410 Market Street in Tallahassee, hearthandsoul.com