There’s a good chance that even if you have lived in Kentucky all of your life, that you have never been to a little place called Nonesuch. In fact, there’s an equally good chance you have never even heard of the small community. Nestled in the countryside of the rural area is a little treasure of a boutique and restaurant called The Glitz at Irish Acre Gallery.
Fans of Irish Acres and The Glitz Restaurant are familiar with the efforts of Bonnie and Arch Hannigan and their daughters, Jane
DeLauter and Emilie McCauley, to offer the finest quality antiques and collectibles and the most innovative cuisine to their loyal customers. What most people may not be familiar with is the story behind the family behind the business.
When Bonnie Synder was only three years old, she declared to a neighbor that she wanted to be a “busyness” woman. Having that kind of ambition at an early age, Bonnie proved little girls with dreams become women with vision. In the 1950s, Bonnie, then in her mid-twenties, found herself the mother of three daughters, Anne, Jane, and Emilie, and the housewife of the Vice President of the Kentucky Electric Steel Company in Ashland. While most women were happy to play the role of June Cleaver, wearing high heels while they vacuumed with a smile, Bonnie still had that ‘busyness” woman inside her. That’s when Bonnie opened Tots and Teens, a boutique specializing in upscale fashions for children and teenagers. The three sisters were of course incorporated into Bonnie’s new business venture, serving as models on several occasions. Being a savvy thinker, Bonnie knew exactly how to garner attention for the store. Rather than using typical mannequins to show off the clothes, she persuaded local pageant winners like Miss Ashland to stand in her windows and live model the latest fashions. “Momma was ahead of her time,” says Emilie, “I can’t tell you the number of wrecks on Winchester Avenue caused by people staring at those beauty queens in the window.”
In 1971, now living in Rush, Kentucky, the Hannigan family’s idyllic existence received a jolt when Arch learned his company was relocating to Chicago. Bonnie, who was determined to raise her three daughters in a country setting began brainstorming. With their major resource now being 200 acres of land and a barn capable of housing 18 horses, Arch and Bonnie embarked on a new venture—a posh riding academy for girls. Like everything else with the Hannigans, the academy became a family affair. Arch built a lodge from the ground up, as well as a swimming pool, bathhouse, and concession stand. To publicize the camp, Bonnie naturally called upon her three daughters. Bonnie and the girls would stop by for a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken before hitting up their local library to dive into phone books all over the United States. Each daughter took a different area. “The librarian, who came to know us well, would have the next books stacked and waiting for us when we arrived after school,” recalls Jane.
Like her clothing store, Bonnie’s riding camp was an immediate success, all sixty spaces were filled in the first year of operation. The academy is also where Emilie’s culinary interest really took off. At only twelve years old she was already cooking three meals a day for girls accustomed to the very best.
While Emilie’s interest in food continued to grow, Bonnie was about to stumble on a new obsession of her own, thanks to a Flow Blue porcelain pitcher given to her by her father, Hoot, a former Montana rodeo champion. “When she would find herself within walking distance of a nearby town, she would take off and go antiquing.” says Jane. “She would buy everything she could carry back to the show grounds.”
Soon, there was no turning back. The horse camp academy was the past. Bonnie was now looking for a new challenge, and she sure had found it. Her eye for quality antiques led to the next chapter in the Hannigan’s adventures.
Antiques quickly took over Bonnie’s life. Literally selling furniture right out from under her family, though always making sure to replace it with something even more grand than what they had before. Arch gave
Bonnie her first “antique shop,” a single stall in the family’s horse barn. After one stall lead to two and so on, Arch quickly learned that the antiques were more profitable than horses. “Momma wasn’t going to be satisfied operating out of horse stalls for long,” says Emilie. “Her dream was to have an antique shop on par with those in New York and New Orleans.”
With her daughters gearing up for college and deciding to leave the nest, Bonnie decided to pitch another idea to her two youngest daughters. “Momma had a way of selling something to someone so that they thought it was their idea,” says Jane. This time Bonnie was selling both Jane and Emilie on design school, while horse lover Anna went on to study Animal Science in Tennessee.
In the summer of 1978 the girls were successfully talked into design school by Arch and Bonnie. “Today we are so grateful that our parents saw potential in us and invited us to join them on their journey.”
That fall, Jane and Emilie headed off to Atlanta and the Art Institute, where their individual talents would reach full potential. While Emilie continued to impress and shine in the culinary field, Jane blew her professors away with her knowledge of antiques. The sisters remained natural allies and friendly competitors. Both girls ended up co-valedictorians of their graduating class. While their friends took off to new places, Jane and Emilie knew where their destiny lay—back in Rush, KY joining the family business.
Once the girls returned home, Bonnie learned of the auction of an elementary school in Nonesuch, a town in rural Woodford County. Once more making use of her talent of persuasion, Bonnie convinced the new owner that he really wanted to sell the building… to her, of course! Bonnie couldn’t have been happier had she just been handed the papers to Harrod’s in London.
“It was a one-man renovation project,” says Jane about Arch, who usually was content with letting Bonnie run the show. During the second year of renovations, Bonnie and Jane stayed busy acquiring antiques, while Emilie pitched in with paint and wiring. The gallery had been up and running for two years before Bonnie’s thoughts turned to a restaurant. “She knew what she wanted, and it was someplace special where ladies, needing a respite from their shopping, could be seated and served a three-course meal, a place where they didn’t have to worry about whether or not they should order dessert,” says Emilie.
After a long search and numerous interviews for the perfect chef, Emilie, ever a dutiful daughter, offered to step in until the right chef came along. Bonnie decided, “She’s perfect. She’s had dishpan hands since she was eight.”
Today Irish Acres has grown to include two floors of world class merchandise and The Glitz has been called by reviewers “well worth the drive.”
Bonnie certainly reached her goal of becoming a “busyness” woman, and after her passing in 2001, her family has been determined to carry on the legacy. Arch and his wife Hope continue to travel the world in search of quality merchandise and high-end French antiques for the third floor “Upper Room,” evoking Marie Antionette’s salon.
In a true “Upstairs, Downstairs” scenario, Jane oversees the gallery operation, while Emilie has her own culinary kingdom on the lower level.
Visiting The Glitz has become both a friends and family affair for so many people across the Bluegrass state, including myself. I visit every holiday season with my Aunt and we always have the most magical of days. We love everything about The Glitz, from the extravagant Christmas decor that makes every woman feel like a little girl again, to the tasty delight of having one of Emilie’s signature “Nonesuch Kiss” confections.
The minute you walk through the gallery’s doors, you will feel like you have entered Wonderland, with so much to see and take in. The Glitz restaurant is just as charming. You will instantly feel like you have been transported to a twinkling night in Paris, even though it may be the middle of the afternoon. Emilie always offers a chic and savory seasonal menu with unique dishes you can replicate at home by picking up one of their in-store cookbooks.
The only thing more warm and inviting than the store itself are the sisters, Emilie and Jane, whose dedication shines through the moment you see them buzzing around the gallery. Irish Acres is a special place to be shared with special people. I encourage everyone to fall down the rabbit hole to Nonesuch and find out for themselves.