Annie Oakley Perfumery Has the Smell of Success
Since opening its doors in 1980, Annie Oakley Perfumery has sold more than 2 million bottles of perfumes and body products. Thousands of visitors have traveled and toured the factory, and its products are distributed at more than 1,000 retailers both at home and abroad. While it may be tucked away in the small town of Ligonier, the perfumery isn’t much of a secret these days.
The Nose Knows
With the scope of the company’s success, it’s ironic that Renee Gabet, Annie Oakley’s founder and proprietor, didn’t start out making perfume at all. Gabet, a natural creative and entrepreneur, started out making jewelry in her 20s, which she sold to boutiques and art kiosks. Though she still loves jewelry design, the fragrance business is where her nose led her.
“My passion for perfume started out when my mom and grandmother took me to Wolf & Dessauer department store in Fort Wayne when I was 8 years old,” Gabet says. “They went to the lingerie department, and I took off to the perfume department to smell all the beautiful, natural perfumes from around the world.”
Even while traveling for work with her jewelry business, that early love of fragrance never left her.
“I would always inquire about perfumers and distilleries until one day I met a natural perfumer who mentored me, and then I created the first cowgirl fragrance in the world. I wanted to create with essential oils. At that time, no one really knew what essential oils were other than us, the perfumers.”
And so Annie Oakley was born. The early days were modest with Gabet, her husband, and their daughters hand-blending fragrances in the kitchen of their Ligonier home.
People often ask why she chose the name Annie Oakley. Born in Ohio in the mid-1800s, Annie Oakley was a sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. She was the first female to gain any notoriety in that previously male-dominated field. Gabet says what Oakley represented – the spirit of America, simplicity, freshness – represented her brand perfectly.
Fast forward 30 years, and the days of kitchen creations are over. Today, Annie Oakley carries hundreds of products for both women and men and operates a factory and retail store. The retail store is a delightful find with its classic French feel. It’s open and airy, with muted colors and natural lighting. Clean lines abound. Earthen scents greet visitors as they walk through the door.
The company offers tours of the facility, which start with a peek into the unique experience of how perfumes are blended and end with an opportunity to create your own personalized fragrance.
Gabet says the factory tours have been a success, and she feeds off the positive response from visitors.
“We are delighted tourists seek us out to visit our design studio. Our guests bring inspiration to us to create new products and push our products to even a higher level,” she says.
From the beginning, Gabet’s focus continues to be the use of natural and organic ingredients to create her fragrances. Elements such as citrus, honey and lavender form the foundations of many of the products. Annie Oakley offers everything from a men’s collection to essential oils (called Eclectic Remedies) and even horse-training aids. Gabet says her inspiration comes from many different sources, “…nature, American history, childhood memories and a simple lifestyle.”
As for the future, Gabet says she’s looking forward to designing new products and continuing to grow the company.
“We’re planning on creating more amazing natural perfume and skin-care products that are effective and bring happiness and wellness to the consumer,” Gabet says. “We will also launch new packaging of our premium pure essential oils. It’s a very exciting time at Annie Oakley.”
If You Go...
Annie Oakley Perfumery
300 Johnson St.
Ligonier, Indiana 46767
Public tours are available Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. year round. Private tours by request.