By Karen Callaway • Photography Courtesy of Fezziwig’s Marketplace
In Lebanon, Illinois, a husband and wife blend their talents to create a jolly good business.
Just a jaunt from St. Louis, Missouri, lies the charming town of Lebanon, Illinois. At this festive time of year, the historic downtown area glitters and glows in its Christmas finery, and tucked along one brick-lined street is an amazing emporium that bears the endearing moniker Fezziwig’s Marketplace.
Owners Tim Moore and Ellen Leaf-Moore met through work some years ago in Atlanta. When they decided to marry, Ellen moved to Tim’s adopted hometown of Lebanon and managed Pottery Barn’s Plaza Frontenac store in nearby St. Louis. With her retail and management expertise and Tim’s background in marketing, advertising, and sales, it’s no wonder the two harbored the dream of opening their own business one day.
That day arrived in June 2007. Tim called his wife and asked, “Are you ready to start our own gourmet foods, tea, and wine shop?” A coveted location on West Saint Louis Street in downtown Lebanon had opened up, and it was perfect for the “someday dream” that was about to be realized sooner than expected.
The original plan was for Ellen to run the business while Tim continued his job as vice president of marketing for a men’s apparel firm, but that quickly changed. He joined the staff at Fezziwig’s soon after it opened to handle the financial end of the business, as well as the web design, newsletter, and social media. Ellen takes care of the buying and merchandising, as well as the recruiting, hiring, training, and development of Fezziwig’s crackerjack team of workers.
As a nod to Lebanon’s most famous visitor, Charles Dickens, who had stayed in town during an 1842 tour of the Midwest, they christened the venture Fezziwig’s Marketplace after the generous and jovial character in the author’s novel A Christmas Carol. The exterior is painted in traditional Old English burgundy with dark green trim, and bay windows frame the second-floor apartments above. The blossoms in the flower boxes in front are switched out seasonally to coordinate with the ever-changing window displays that Ellen has dubbed their “24-hour-a-day calling card.” Come Christmastime, the facade sports bright red–ribboned wreaths, and crowds commonly gather around the window to peek at the extravagant holiday-themed scenes.
When patrons step inside, they are greeted with a hearty “Hello, and welcome to Fezziwig’s!” Buttery yellow walls lend warmth to the cozy space, where a great “Wall of Tea” features approximately 125 loose-leaf teas and tisanes. European antique tables throughout the shop are used to display an amazing array of tabletop wares and entertaining gifts and for serving samples of gourmet goodies.
Tim and Ellen’s commitment to excellence is truly evident in their products, many of which are exclusive to their store. Ellen and other team members painstakingly cup every tea sample and choose only the best of the best. It isn’t unusual for them to try 100 teas and for only 5 or 10 of those to make the grade. And Ellen knows her tea! She attended the Specialty Tea Institute and is one of just over 100 Level 3 graduates and among only a handful to achieve Level 4 professional status. It’s no wonder she has been a guest speaker at the World Tea Expo for the past few years and often talks on a variety of tea topics in the St. Louis area.
The same high standards apply to Fezziwig’s other offerings. Ellen and teammate Julia create recipes with the olive oils, balsamics, and other gourmet food products, with Tim acting as “master recipe taster,” a job he relishes. They also hold demonstrations, seminars, and workshops throughout the year to share their expertise with appreciative customers.
As the holidays approach, Tim, Ellen, and their devoted staff are gearing up for the merriment—and busyness—of the season. The town goes all out with a step-back-in-time Victorian Holiday Weekend and a four-performance run of A Christmas Carol by the local Looking Glass Playhouse. In addition to their year-round inventory, the shop will serve and sell two of their own popular blends—a rich black tea spiced with cranberry, orange, and cinnamon called Holiday Wassail and a sweet, nutty blend of many different ingredients aptly named Full of the Dickens. But perhaps more importantly, they are embracing the idea of giving to those in need and spreading the spirit of A Christmas Carol by partnering with their customers to make donations to the local food bank.
Old Fezziwig would be so proud.
Fezziwig’s Marketplace is located at 220–222 West St. Louis Street. For more information, call 618-537-8422, or go to fezziwigsmarket.com. To learn more about the Specialty Tea Institute, go to teausa.com.
Karen Callaway is a former magazine editor who writes on a variety of topics from her home in Birmingham, Alabama.