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A new St. Louis area store is designed like a home, to make you feel at home

Daniel Neman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Fashion Daily News

LADUE, Mo. — A couple came into the Hearth and Soul store in Tallahassee, Florida. They liked the way the family-room showroom looked, so they bought it.

They bought it all: couches, tables, chairs, rug, chandelier, art, display cases, accent pieces — all of it.

The couple took some of it home that day — the actual pieces from the showroom. The rest followed later in the week.

Hearth & Soul opened its third store on Wednesday in Ladue. Everything in the store can be taken home when purchased, even the jewelry stands.

Like its sister stores in Tallahassee and Austin, the new store is set up like a home. Each room on the 3,600-square-foot sales floor sells items that would be found in that room.

The room displaying women's clothes resembles a large, walk-in, custom closet. The room with men's clothes resembles a smaller custom-made closet. The dining room, to the right of the entrance, has tables, chairs, place settings and accessories to make a family meal more pleasant.

The bed and bath section has fragrances, lotions and robes. The library is full of books, bookshelves, tables and puzzles. The bar offers glassware, nut bowls and luxurious maraschino cherries for the perfect Manhattan.

A pet corner — at one point, they sold a Hawaiian shirt for dogs — is to the left of the entrance in the mudroom. Patio furniture is available on the patio outside.

Hearth & Soul is the brainchild of Susie Busch Transou, whose taste is apparent in all of the store's merchandise.

Busch Transou, 57, is the daughter of August Busch III, the former president and CEO of Anheuser-Busch. She attended what was then Mary Institute ("I was cheerleader at Country Day, but went to Mary Institute," she said) and Duke University, where she met her former football-player husband Tripp.

After she received the equivalent of an MBA at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, she worked at Anheuser-Busch before moving to Tallahassee to run a beer distributorship.

Eight years ago, she attended a birthday retreat for two good friends from Duke. As part of the festivities, each of the participants spent an hour with a life coach, the Rev. Catherine Paretti. Paretti asked each one what she loves and what makes her happy in her life.

For Busch Transou, the answer was her home, which she calls her "peaceful place," her community, her business, her family and her friends. At the end of the session, Paretti said, "I see a storefront in your future."

At the time, Busch Transou was nearing 50. She had raised three children, co-owned a successful business and was involved in charitable and community work. But she asked her friends at the retreat how they had answered the question about what they loved, and their answers were all the same — their homes, their families, their community.

The similarity of their answers, and the storefront in her future, led her to create Hearth & Soul.

People cherish their homes, so she designed the stores like a comfortable home where shoppers can relax and feel at peace. And they cherish their communities, so she makes the stores a place for community.

 

That's not just an abstract notion or a marketing slogan.

Every month, the stores partner with a local charity (this month it's Mercy Kids Development and Therapy Center), which chooses a candle that the company sells. Throughout the month, all of the proceeds from that candle's sales goes to the charity; the store also hosts a party for the charity.

In addition, every month the stores bring in a local health and wellness professional (this month it's B3 Yoga) to hold yoga classes or workshops about healthy eating and exercise. The store also holds fireside chats about various topics by the hearth in the family room and occasional wine tastings in the foyer.

Every quarter, the stores feature the artwork of a local artist for sale, too. Jessica Hitchcock's colorful acrylics will be available through September, with the handcrafted wooden furniture of Martin Goebel sold for three months beginning in October.

Busch Transou's philosophy of management is derived largely from the book "Fish! A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results," by Steven Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen. The book, which she insists all her sales associates read, presents four core principles of success in business:

— Have fun with the customers, but not at their expense.

— Be present, not distracted. Busch Transou said that one way her staff remains present is by welcoming customers with "How are you today?" rather than "How can I help you?" The emphasis is on the customer, not on making the sale.

— Make the customer's day. "If somebody comes in and we can make them smile, that's everything to me," Busch Transou said.

— Choose your attitude and, specifically, choose to be positive. "You cannot come in here and make somebody's day if you are negative," she said.

Much of the merchandise sold at the stores tends to be on the higher end of the price spectrum, but the stores intentionally also offer smaller items and gifts that match a less extravagant budget.

Note cards are just a few dollars apiece. Greeting cards ("I'm suffering an extreme case of not being Beyoncé") are $6. Stoneware coasters are $6 apiece; leather coasters are $46 for a set of four. Fragrant candles start at $28. On the other hand, they go up to several hundred dollars apiece.

The single item that Busch Transou is perhaps most excited about is AABIII Steak Seasoning (a 1.1 ounce jar, which is quite a lot of steak seasoning, is $15). The name refers to her father, August Anheuser Busch III, who personally created the seasoning himself from pepper, garlic and salt while on a trip to Italy.

Hearth & Soul has an online presence, of course, but the company's heart and soul are its brick-and-mortar stores. COVID, which ravaged businesses as well as families, has been a challenge, she said.

But "we're doing well," she said. Well enough to bring her store home to St. Louis.

(c)2022 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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