November 2006

Willows Too - Where a Bit of the World Comes Home

Author: Linda Hopkins

When Marie Mabry’s husband retired from the Air Force and applied for a position as a commercial pilot in Saudi Arabia, Marie was ready to go. When they asked why she wanted to live in a place where she couldn’t drive a car and had to wear a long dress, she said, “My husband has been in the Air Force for 20 years, and he’s done all the shopping. It’s my turn now!”

The Mabrys spent seven years in Saudi Arabia. “I never knew what freedom meant,” said Marie, recounting a situation where airport officials forgot to stamp their passports. Upon return, she and her sons, ages 12 and 14, were put under house arrest. “It’s a different mindset in that part of the world,” she said. “Every time I landed in New York City and saw the Statue of Liberty, I would realize what freedom means and how safe we are in our country,” she added.

From Saudi Arabia, the Mabrys moved to Japan. “The two countries are like night and day,” said Marie, citing one example: Drinking was forbidden in Saudi Arabia, she said. In Japan, alcohol was available in vending machines.

Marie moved back to the States in 1984. She lived in Summerville, near Charleston, eventually settling on Hilton Head Island and opening a home accessories store called Willows, in Savannah. After commuting from Sea Pines for 12 years, when the 9/11 disaster slowed down the economy, Marie finally closed the doors.

But retirement wasn’t in the cards for Marie. Just this past April, she decided to revive Willows under the new name, Willows, Too, opening for business in the Fresh Market Shoppes. “I felt there was a niche here for a home accessory store with a different spin,” said Marie.

Because of her overseas travel, Marie is able to bring the world to her customers. “When I go to market, I find things that are used in other countries that are very familiar to me,” she said, describing the eclectic nature of her merchandise. “You’ll find a lot of different looks, but nothing looks out of place,” she explained.

Another aspect of her business that differentiates her from the competition is the variety of staples she carries. Instead of just furniture, art and big ticket items, she offers table furnishings and linens, flowers, candles and other everyday items. She also supplies a good selection of affordable giftware. “Most people here don’t need anything for their homes,” she said, “but they are often looking for a hostess gift or a gift for a friend.”

In addition to housewares, Marie is currently offering a magnificent selection of jewelry, handpicked from her recent trip to Hong Kong. “All my jewelry is real,” she said, pointing out the variety of pieces featuring fresh water pearls, semi-precious stones, jade, turquoise, topaz and quartz.

The joy of her job is meeting customers and making them happy, Marie said. So stop by for a visit and take home a bit of the world.

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