Life transitions can be quite alarming, but for Annie, it was life-saving. She is no stranger to adaptions, a revered skillset within the food and beverage industry. Out of the ashes of a burnt-out culinary career, she now holds the title of Charleson’s affable “cookie dealer.”
Her colorful cookies reflect her vivid outfits and, most importantly, her personality. Her two-story cafe is popping with vibrant colors of animals, flowers, coffee, and of course, cookies- all the essentials of life, so expressive one can taste the walls.
“We’re Annie O’Love, that’s who we are. One person told me that she felt God in the building. I thought those are some big shoes to fill!”
“Love and good intention” was something Annie never experienced before in her 24 years of cooking professionally. And as a business owner, it needed to become the cafe’s motto.
“I’ve had a lot of bad things happen to me in kitchens, and it bred me to be an asshole. So for a long time, that’s the only way I knew how to do things. The negative thoughts do creep up still, but I take a step back and tell myself that I am not that person anymore. That’s not me anyway, that’s all my ego.
It’s hard to generally have patience in addition to how fast-paced the F&B industry is naturally. With that said, I still get fearful that the ego will come out in full force. Regardless, I want to come here with a positive attitude every day.”
Annie sheds some gratitude to the wonderful women that she works with and her newly found level of headspace. The notion that the ladies want to be there and help be apart of her brand moves her.
Just two years prior, she began her granola-cookie journey, setting up a small base at local farmer’s markets. She expresses that she never imagined selling granola; which, gave her a mental break from the restaurant business.
Almost a year before her market adventures, she designed granola for a then up-and-coming restaurant that was outsourcing them. After nine months, Annie’s talents were “overqualified” for her position.
“It was just the way it worked out. That batch is still my OG granola that I work with and sell. It’s in everything. My vision now is to expand the kitchen and open more stores locally. I’ve already had franchise offers. It’s overwhelming to think that this whole place is mine. A fellow business owner expressed it best: in the long run, it’s just a job. I can get it done one day at a time.”
Ever since her early days of grinding granola, Annie views food not only as a source of income but also as a health source. Her choice in a vegan lifestyle has dramatically uplifted her spirits. Moreover, she’s able to blend her knowledge into the baking business.
“When the cafe first opened, I was stressed, couldn’t sleep, and hitting a hard space. That’s when I started taking reishi mushroom supplements, and all of a sudden, I was able to sleep. I was better able to process all the stressful things that were going on in my head. That same week I started hiking in the woods where I found reishi mushrooms growing wild. I heard that when you need a specific medicine, it becomes available for you.”
Mushrooms are now a feature among her panini pressed “sammies,” as well as her latest cookie creation, “The Immortal Summer.” Before mushrooms, turmeric became her miracle of choice. It’s a staple ingredient in her creations, including granola blends, dessert floats, and the “Happy Healer” cookie.
Expanding Charleston’s palates is natural for Annie. Foraging is second nature and a reliable origin of comfort in her life. The woodlands are a safety zone and a way to stay rooted in herself. Her gravitation towards the wilderness is also a past-time she fondly spent with her father.
“Most people don’t know that I grew up on 12 acres of James Island; they think I’m from somewhere else. The land has been in my family since the pre-Civil War era. My dad and I would walk together in the woods, and he would explain all the benefits of the food around us. What’s funny now is that my dad comes to me for identification.”
Beyond the trees, balancing the branches of her life is a reminder that one is human. At the height of her struggles with stress, the world began shutting down due to COVID. She took full opportunity to temporarily close up shop and focus on herself.
The need to feel grounded is not an exaggeration. She’s up before the sun rises, most days, running, collecting, and capturing the best of what the Lowcountry has to offer. She’s a true Charlestonian and the heart of hospitality from the first bite to the last.
“I have to have a spiritual connection so that I can gain inspiration for the job. It’s also my will to get up in the morning. Without it, I’m just a person running around working all the time. That’s not what I’m here to do. I’m here to inspire people and bring them healthy treats.”