What began as a small bag and purse-making operation in a modest seafarer’s home more than sixty years ago, is now ‘Albury’s Sail Shop’; a notable landmark and viable business on Man-O-War Cay. Travelers who enjoy visiting places with character or appreciate owning original products that are not mass produced need to add this shopping find to your things-to-do list, if they are ever in the Out Islands of the Bahamas.
Miss Annie, the warm and affable matriarch who runs the family-owned business, has an endearing “Come Home to Mama” personality that envelopes you as soon as you enter the store. A third-generation seamstress, she invokes feelings of happy gatherings around the dinner table and triggers an unexplainable desire to run around giving random bear hugs to every third or fourth person you meet.
Albury’s Sail shop uses sturdy canvas – material that is integral to the production of boat sails – to make colorful hats, bags and other products that are one-of-a kind. The shop’s extensive line is impressive in its own right but even more so given its history. Miss Annie’s ancestors started the cottage industry by making small draw-string bags from leftover scraps of canvas.
The best part is, the shop’s open floor plan allows you to stand inside, lean against a wall outside, or perch beneath a jalousie-style window and watch the production process unfold. I was pleasantly surprised that the items are all reasonably priced in spite of the labor-intensive process.
The machine Miss Annie uses was owned by her grandmother before her. Like a trusted horse that knows every foothold of a cliff because it has gone that way before, three antique but well-oiled and functional sewing machines lead the seamstresses through the ropes. The only difference was rather than the clicking sound generated by trotting hoofs, the room was filled with staccato bursts akin to whirring hums.
I encourage you to stand still for a few minutes and watch the ladies work. Then I implore you to let the gentle island breezes lift you up and transport you back to a simpler time.
There is no way for me to verify this but I’ve read that celebrities like Robert Redford, Perry Como, Kenny Rogers, Andy Garcia, Kenny Chesney, Derek Jeeter, Beyonce, Jay Z and Leonardo DiCaprio have all crossed Miss Annie’s threshold. You should visit with her too.
I stayed at the Abaco Beach Resort when I was in The Abacos.