By Louise Bolger | sun staff writer

aboutusphoto3Individuals become legends when they inspire others, but can a non-human entity be a legend? Why not, especially if the entity is the inspired creation of an individual.

When Barbara and John Jaeger moved to Anna Maria from Wisconsin in 2000 after years of vacationing here, they never imagined that 11 years later they would be the owners of three retail stores plus an interior decorating business. With Barbara Jaeger providing the artistic inspiration and John Jaeger providing the organizational inspiration, they have built their business from the ground up offering everything from greeting cards to complete interior design services.

Helping the Jaegers manage their three shops and 13 employees, is their daughter Sue Hallenbeck who now spends most of her time on Anna Maria learning all aspects of the business with an eye toward an eventual permanent relocation with her family. Also keeping everyone on track relative to growth and management is their assistant Barbara Yost.

December of last year was the 10th anniversary of the original shop the Jaegers opened at the tip of Anna Maria. During those years they have established a customer base comprised of locals, visitors, builders and seasonal residents stretching from Anna Maria Island to Lakewood Ranch down to Sarasota and Venice. Barbara Jaeger says that the Egret shops have become an all day event for some shoppers, buzzing around from one to the other to get a glimpse of new merchandise, decorating ideas, gifts to take home and giving their three dogs a little scratch on the head along the way.

Although all three shops are distinctive on their own, they all have the thread of the coast running through them and Barbara Jaeger’s extraordinary taste. The White Egret in Anna Maria continues to offer home accessories including an exclusive line of C & F linens and bedding. You can also find glassware, dishes, servers, candles, lamps, pictures and small pieces of furniture.

If you’re looking for gifts and boutique items, you’ll find it right next door at The Egret’s Nest. Casual Island clothes by Not Your Daughter’s Jeans and Color Me Cotton as well as footwear, Mary Frances handbags, jewelry, greeting cards and great little items tucked away in all the corners of the shop.

The third shop in the Egret family is The Egret’s Landing in Holmes Beach which carries spectacular coastal home furnishings and offers complete interior decorating services. The decorating service has grown extensively over the last four years and their status as a dealer for both Stanley and Lexington furniture allows them to be competitive priced and also to obtain delivery in a timely manner. If you love the coastal look and Coastal Living Magazine you will be in heaven at The Egret’s Landing.

Barbara and John Jaeger and Sue Hallenbeck pride themselves on working closely with their clients and understanding their needs while offering a laid back shopping experience. They are continually educating themselves through attending eight to 10 markets a year to view and purchase new inventory, as well as reviewing literature and working with vendors who call on the store.

This is a family business and with the help of their staff a true team effort. All of the Egrets intend to be on Anna Maria for a long time providing services and merchandise to their customers who come back year after year. The possibility of Internet shopping is being looked into so that seasonal residents and visitors can have access to all three Egrets’ line of merchandise. The entire family and staff want to thank all of their customers and clients for supporting them for the past 10 years and helping to grow their business.

In addition to contributing to the American Red Cross and the American Cancer Society, Sue Hallenbeck in particular supports the 3/50 Project. The 3/50 Project encourages shoppers to support and do business with independently owned businesses helping to save local economies. She points out that for every $100 spent in independently owned stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures.

What can you say about a legend? After 10 years on Anna Maria, The White Egret and its two other offspring are without a doubt legendary in the community. Get that coastal feel by visiting all three locations for an eye popping experience plus a hearty dose of inspiration.