Orange You Glad
Orange Tree Imports is so much a part of the Madison retail landscape it’s hard to imagine Monroe Street without it. And in fact, many of us probably can’t, since it’s been there for a whopping thirty-five years. Carol “Orange” Schroeder originally opened her own home accessories store in 1974 after managing a branch of the Bord & Stol, a Scandinavian furnishings shop, and then renamed it Orange Tree Imports six months later.
Over the years the shop has expanded twice. Which is good for customers who just can’t get enough of all the home accessories, barware, kitchen utensils and gadgets, gourmet cooking supplies, cookware, gift wrap and kids’ toys. Schroeder says her store’s aesthetic was and is heavily influenced by Danish shops that she perused while studying at the University of Copenhagen.
“European retailing has always been good at customer service and has aesthetically pleasing displays,” says Schroeder, who co-owns Orange Tree with husband Dean. “I wanted to bring that to our area.”
Another first Schroeder brought to the area? A cooking school. Orange Tree’s cooking school celebrates its thirtieth anniversary in 2011. The classes are so in demand that there’s a lottery system just to get in. Teachers are local restaurant chefs and foodies.
Schroeder also reaches out to other small businesses—she’s head of the Monroe Street Merchant’s Association, has written a book on specialty retail and blogs about retail weekly.
“There really is a feeling that buying on Monroe Street is important. There is a feeling of cooperation, not competition.”
Schroeder’s thirty staff members get a say in hiring new employees, take ownership for various areas of the store and help in buying, too.
“We share what we know, and when you give something away, you get it back,” says Schroeder sagely.
Luckily with the store’s rich history, I think they’ll have a lot to give back—in high-quality home and kitchen items—for years to come.
Orange Tree Imports
Price range: $.25–$250
Owner’s Picks: Swiss Diamond non-stick fry pans, $49.98–$89.98; The Cheese Knife, $15.98; Madison lakes coasters, $16.98/four; Linnea Poster 2011 calendar, $27.98.
Editor’s Picks: Vacuvin instant marinator, $39.98; Rosy Rings vegetable wax candles, $5.98; Cypress Home aprons, $12.98; Animalhouse kitchen gadgets, $6.98–$20.98.
Verdict: For all things kitchen-related Orange Tree is a one-stop shop with highly affordable prices—but it’s also great for gifts and little luxury items for everyday.
• Orange Tree Imports, 1721 Monroe St. 255-8211. Orangetreeimports.com
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Shayna Miller is associate and style editor of Madison Magazine.