A few weeks ago, I visited with Sid and Ann Mashburn, the husband-and-wife impresarios behind a beloved string of clothing shops in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Houston, Dallas and Los Angeles. Airy dens of style composed with equal parts all-American and global explorateur, the spaces feel like an honest extension of Sid and Ann. They are welcoming and personal and never boring, from the smart vinyl collections to pinboard curio on the walls to, most important, their master-crafted attire.
Sid and Ann first met in New York in the 1980s. He was learning the design trade via posts with Ralph Lauren, J.Crew and Tommy Hilfiger. She was working for Vogue and Glamour. Leading up to the launch of their first shop on the west side of Atlanta in 2007, and in the ten years since, travel has proven to be an inspiration and an escape for the two. Our conversation, in slightly edited form below, meanders down both paths and more. We hope you enjoy. - TB
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Sid and Ann Mashburn, June 2017
Taylor Bruce: What’s your earliest travel memory?
Ann Mashburn: I grew up Minneapolis, St. Could, and in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. So my memories are the lakes of Minnesota. Going on a family vacation on Cass Lake in the northern part of the state. It’s so beautiful in the summers. I remember painting driftwood and rocks. There’s nothing else to do!
Sid Mashburn: I remember a trip my family took to Pensacola Beach, which is actually known as the Redneck Riviera. Going to Spanish Fort around Mobile. It was awesome. The sand is like snow.
T: What is one place in America that you’ve never been?
A: I’m dying to go to Yellowstone. That’s a great one for me. To me, it reminds me of the Western version of my Minnesota memories.
S: The one place on both of our bucket lists is Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia. And Montana. I’ve never been.
T: If you’re taking a road trip, what’s the ultimate soundtrack? One album each.
A: Paul Simon.
A: Sid, what’s the name of that one?
A: That’s a good one.
T: What about the movies and travel? What cinema trip would you most like to have taken?
A: North by Northwest.
T: I haven’t seen it.
S: Spoiler alert.
A: Right? It starts out on a train in Penn Station and ends at Mount Rushmore. Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. Amazing movie. You have to watch it.
S: Radio is super important to me when I get into a place. In France, you’ve got the great radio station FIP, which is awesome.
A: We listen to it every weekend in Atlanta.
T: When you designed your first store in Atlanta, did you draw inspiration from shops around the world that you both loved?
A: We kind of started from scratch because it was a very modern, bare space. But I think we both had shops that we loved. It’s well known now, but Deyrolle in Paris was one.
S: For me, the mix of French antique and modern has always been our thing. Go to our house today and you see it. And that’s what the store felt like because it was mostly stuff from our house.
A: We’re attracted to great design everywhere.
S: The store my grandmother had when I was a kid was an old-school mercantile. Collier’s Cash and Carry, in Pelahatchie, Mississippi. They also had a hardware store, and a furniture store, and a farmer’s implement store along the way. But, for Ann and me, it was always the mix of things that we liked.
T: Has the love of French design come from travel to Paris?
S: We went on a trip to Paris early on, and Ann was sweet enough and loved me enough to let me walk from store to store. We probably walked thirty miles in that trip. I had a list of all the places I wanted to know, and she was like, “Great!”
T: Was that in the 90s?
S: That was the 80s. Ann, do you remember that trip?
A: I do. I just wasn’t sure which time. There have been many Paris trips since, and the list keeps getting longer. When we did that very first trip to Paris, we were lucky to get this little insider’s view from a friend of Sid’s from Lake Charles, Louisiana. His wife was French. She was the first person to turn me on to Monoprix. It’s like the French Target, only better.
S: It’s a catch-all, low-end, but everything is so beautifully designed.
A: Even a box of crackers at Monoprix feels special. Whenever we are in Paris, we definitely have places we always go. And we always find something new. There’s a store in Paris that we love, called Buly 1803, which is all soaps and fragrances.
S: It’s right off the river.
A: We also love our little romantic spots. We like to go to the Place de Vosges. We like to walk through the Tuileries.
S: The other thing about that is when you go on those trips, like when we go to Italy, or Paris, or anywhere, if we as the concierge or anyone, we’re like, “Where do the locals eat?” We don’t want to eat necessarily what’s in a guide book.
T: Home or away, what’s the best meal you’ve had in the last year?
A: Can we go eighteen months? Sid and I went to Capri, on an unexpected, off-shoot trip after a fabric show, and we randomly found a hotel.
S: The night before there was the most elaborate fireworks show you’ve ever seen.
A: We had this teeny room that wasn’t very expensive, though it was a fancy hotel. And we sat by the pool and had wine and cheese. That was the meal. It was amazing because I was just pinching myself that I was in that place.
S: Mine would be lunch at L’Entrecôte in Paris. You can only order steak. You have to tell them how you want it, and that’s it. And you have to wait in line outside.
T: I can’t write the equation to, or the recipe for those magical moments, but you know it when you they arrive.
A: I know what you mean. It’s hard to tell someone.
S: One of the greatest meals I’ve ever had was at one of the fabric shows in Milan. The room was completely devoid of any charm. We were visiting with some Scottish folks who specialized in Harris Tweed. And they asked, “We’re going to have some lunch. Do you like salmon?” And I’m like, “Yeah!” They’d picked up baguettes that morning, and brought them out. They had all this smoked salmon they brought down from Scotland. And Guinness Stout. They had paper cups. And they weren’t slicing the salmon, they were lopping it off. You’d get a piece that was thick and they’d put it between two pieces of bread and hand it to you. And I remember it. That was it.
T: This is a question about keepsakes and mementos. Things you’ve picked up along your travels. What’s your most treasured item from a trip?
A: When I first met Sid, I was living in New York City, and I went to the beach. Not beautiful Hamptons, but Long Beach, where you take the train out for the day. And I saw Sid on the beach and he was wearing beads. They were Mardi Gras beads. That’s where we met. And I still have those beads.
S: I have two. One was from one of our first trips together. It was a tiny sketchbook, where I drew the room we were in.
T: Where was the sketch book from?
A: Well, it was a birthday present from his old girlfriend that he hadn’t quite broken up with. [Laughs.]
S: We’d already split! The other thing was the blanket that Ann brought along on that trip, which was like a serape Navajo blanket.
A: That was your blanket.
S: I thought it was yours.
A: No! It was your blanket.
S: When I think about that trip, I think about that blanket.
A: Wow, okay then, I’ll take credit for it. [Laughs again.]
T: When you travel, do you prefer early mornings or late nights?
A: Usually both. Because we’re working.
S: Late night. Because we have the freedom to just go to do whatever we want. We’re not bound by the time.
A: We went to Spain two years ago. It was the best trip. We’d never been before, and that culture stays up until 2. We love that.
T: In a word, one word, what do you hope for most with traveling?
A: I’d say peace. There you go. Peace.
S: Time that really recharges us, that regenerates us. That’s travel for me. We don’t have to have inspiration when we travel. That’s what’s interesting about traveling, a lot of people feel like you have to go to an extravagance, but you don’t have to go to a fancy place. One of the best trips we ever took was to Albany, Georgia.
A: It was travel because it was exotic. It was Georgia, but it was like I’d never seen this landscape before. It was kind of like Savannah, but a little different.
S: Pinewoods in the fall, the way the light comes through those needles. And the massive amount of Spanish moss.
A: I was seeing something new and fresh, that I hadn’t seen before, even though it was Georgia. And I was in a city where we didn’t really know anybody. Just me and Sid. That for me is what’s important.
S: When you travel, the coolest thing is that your brain opens up.
T: On those long work trips, do you all try to schedule time, just for you two, on the back end?
A: No, we usually do it on the front end. The Capri trip was at the back end, but it just depends. I think it’s probably better on the front end.
S: Actually it’d be better if it was on both.
A: We’ll have to do that.
S: Let’s try that next time.
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Interview location: State of Grace in Houston, Texas. Thank you to sommelier Matt Crawford for the master wine selections.
If you'd like to learn more about Sid and Ann, there's no better way than to stop by one of their five shops, coast to coast. Find specific locations here. Also, of you're into soulful tunes, stream Sid's vinyl-only radio show here. We're hoping he has listeners in Paris.