Annie Oakley Perfumery Studio Not Slowing Down After 40 Years
Writer / Amy Lant-Wenger
Photographer / Kari Lipscomb
History has chronicled, at length, the workings of a renowned music producer who created a concept known as the “Wall of Sound.”
By comparison, it can very easily be said that Renee Gabet pioneered the ‘wall of fragrance.”
Just beyond the downtown thoroughfares of Ligonier, guests can step into the studio where Gabet launched the Annie Oakley Perfumery Studio. A few steps through the entrance is a transformative experience for the senses. The facility itself is colorful and classy, and the atmosphere is aromatic with the essences of naturally inspired sources. For Gabet, Annie Oakley was truly born as a labor of love, as she steadfastly believes that her calling is about so much more than just developing captivating aromas.
“Perfumery is a lost art,” she says.
The history of Annie Oakley Perfumery dates back more than 40 years, when Gabet launched the business in 1980. Prior to that time, she was traveling the art fair circuit to sell her handmade jewelry. Yet, there was a lingering wonder that she harbored about her lifelong interest in natural perfume. Could she parlay that passion into a career?
She enlisted the assistance of a mentor that could offer guidance and advice that was aligned with her vision of offering high end elements, which she calls ‘the finest raw materials.’ During this entrepreneurial journey, she was inspired to create a cologne that was marketed for women as something of a companion scent for the popular Stetson brand. This creation was called Stampede, one of Gabet’s earliest commercial successes.
“From there, it really took off,” she says. “We were out there working with essential oils before people even knew what essential oils were.”
Gabet was very committed to learning everything she could about the art of fragrance, and she went to extraordinary lengths to accomplish her goals. She has literally traveled the world in search of top tier chemists, distilleries, herbalists and bottle designers to ensure that her products not only delivered quality ingredients, but had a sleek, aesthetically dazzling appearance as well.
As a result, her studio carries a diverse inventory of home fragrance, aromatherapies, perfumes, colognes and therapies derived from essential oil blends. Gabet is happy to demonstrate how customizing mixtures of various scents can elicit sensory experiences, from serenity and balancing to energizing and euphoria. With a dab, a spritz or a drop of her oils, customers can infuse their own unique creations with limitless choices of oil. Gabet can share suggestions as to what scents work well together, like frankincense for grounding, lavender for calming and peppermint for reviving.
Gabet smiles when she speaks of her store. “To smell beauty is to be happy,” Gabet says.
One of Annie Oakley’s top sellers is a line called BreathePure, which includes peppermint, eucalyptus and basil and is said to work well for relieving sinus issues. There is also a line of skincare products that feature anti-aging properties and natural emollients. Another popular creation that is found in studio is tea tree oil, which is cultivated from Australia. When used in very small proportions, one-half of 1% to be exact, it can be used to ward off germs and bacterial growth, including E. coli.
One specific warning that Gabet shares with her clients is to never ingest essential oils. “It can kill both good and bad bacteria,” she says. Additionally, the oils can cause corrosion to the esophagus. To illustrate this point, Gabet takes an eye dropper and squeezes a few droplets into a Styrofoam cup. Minutes later, she holds up the cup to show how the bottom of the cup is riddled with holes. It’s a demonstration that further shows how invested she is in the satisfaction and safety of her patrons.
So why did Gabet choose to call her business Annie Oakley? She explains that she was drawn to the strength and independence that Annie Oakley exuded in her time. One of her newer series of fragrances is the Wild West Line, which features decanters with a triangle shape, “like stirrups,” she explains. As part of her commitment to maintaining Annie Oakley as a small family business, her son Charlie is the print model for the Wild West promotional materials.
Annie Oakley Perfumery is also proud to host sensory tours, designed to accommodate tourists and smaller groups. There is also a gift shop on the premises and the studio was recently lauded as a Top 15 Destination along the historic U.S. Route 6 by renowned travel writer Malarie Yolen-Cohen, a contributor for National Geographic Traveler and Newsday, among others.
Annie Oakley Perfumery Studio is located at 300 Johnson Street in Ligonier. To arrange for a tour or to hear their hours of operation, call (260) 894-7219 or visit www.AnnieOakley.com.