Finally, this website brings it all together: The Kerri-Lee Mayland Company____________________________________________________
A journalist is not used to being the one answering the questions, but that's exactly what I did for Dawn Zavalishin; a woman who has a way of tackling any task and getting big things done. She's a mover and a shaker, and if you are on a board or committee with her, consider yourself lucky.
Fun fact-- it turns out she's a great interviewer too.
A quick bit of history: Dawn dreamed a dream back in 2019 of a little European Christmas Market in our town center, and then the pandemic hit. She watched a movie by Hallmark screenwriter Julie Sherman Wolfe in 2021, (Julie also lives in our town now) called "Taking a Shot at Love." The ratings blockbuster was based on a fictitious version of Avon, Connecticut, and featured a hockey player rehabbing an injury at Avon Ballet as the company prepared for a performance at a festival called "Winterfest."
That was the AHA moment for Dawn!
She decided to resurrect her dream and eventually the two of us connected, no doubt thanks to a little Hallmark magic, when we realized we both had the same hopes and dreams for our little town center. Everyone's favorite European coffee shop in town, Dom's, owned by Asta and Andrius Plankis-- well, they were dreaming the same dream too. Soon, a committee formed with several other dreamers in town, that Dawn headed up, and many others joined the pack along the way and together, Bottoms Up Avon Winterfest Fundraising Event was made into a reality!
Dawn Zavalishin: "Walking into The Kerri-Lee Mayland Company is an experience, especially during the holiday season. I was warmly greeted by Kerri-Lee, along with some of her employees - Erica and Mia. Kerri-Lee had contacted me earlier in the week to offer to have lunch upon my arrival. Holiday music was playing in the background, soft white lights enveloped the cozy cottage, and no less than five trees were being decorated for one of her clients. The holiday season was in full swing!
We sat down to a wonderful lunch, complete with lovely dish ware, linen napkins, and delicious food from some of our amazing local restaurants. It was great to sit together and enjoy conversation with these lovely women.
After lunch, I was able to sit with Kerri-Lee, one on one, and I’ll admit – interviewing her made me nervous. I mean after all she’s an Emmy-award winning NBC anchor woman, entrepreneur extraordinaire, talented, kind and generous individual. She’s done hundreds of interviews! I took a deep breath and began."
Tell me about the Kerri-Lee Mayland Company as well as your four additional brands.
Kerri-Lee: Of course, with this being near the holidays, let me start with my newest venture, Mayland Christmas Tree Farm. My husband Kirt knows me so very well and he had acquired this piece of land to use for sustainable energy (solar) and at the time, I was doing a master’s gardening program at UCONN. Kirt brought me to this magical property in Winchester, CT and my mouth dropped open. It has those lovely, old stone walls from the early settlers’ days when they’d mark their land to show ownership and a huge, towering oak at the entrance.
“It’s been all cleared of invasive plants, so native species can grow and shade the pond nearby, where I envision families coming to ice skate in the winter. Can you imagine? Outdoor skating surrounded by clusters of Christmas trees! I just can’t wait for our opening season in 2022!”
Sail and Roseby Boutique started all due to my daughter’s imagination. She would always draw these two characters, a boy and a girl holding hands, and she called them Sail and Roseby. I remember looking up the names, thinking she must have seen them or heard of them somewhere, but they didn’t exist. I loved seeing her creative iterations of them in various scenarios, and thought— wouldn’t it be great someday to use their names for a business? Well, fast forward and meet the Sail and Roseby boutique, which focuses on gathered styles and eclectic pieces that are curated and carefully chosen to become the perfect styling pieces for one’s home, all at budget-friendly prices.
Marsh Rock Seascape is a very modern, new, beach townhome in Westbrook, CT overlooking the Long Island Sound. It sits next to a nationally protected marsh, showcasing spectacular shoreline birding. This seascape is ideal for longer, cozy getaways that will certainly leave you relaxed and rejuvenated and REFRESHed.
REFRESH – Speaking of, REFRESH is her design business that believes “Design should be for everyone.” That means all budgets, all styles— Kerri-Lee believes everyone has a right to feel comfortable and happy in the space they are in. All budgets are welcome and whether her team is gathering items from antique stores or estate sales, or shopping high-end options at your urging, Kerri-Lee and her team can take what you have or replace it entirely and leave you feeling REFRESHED and renewed in your beautiful new surroundings.
Let’s shift gears and tell me more on a personal level about you!
Kerri-Lee: I was married in the early 2000’s, and at the time, my husband Kirt had just left Wall Street for a simpler, more purposeful life that took him to the Berkshires, not far from where he went to high school at Hotchkiss, in Lakeville, CT. He eventually bought s cottage next door to his grandparent’s home— several acres away, and a tempting investment property. Kirt was living in Massachusetts when I met him and it wasn’t long before he introduced me to his Connecticut cottage and I literally fell in love at first sight with both of them. Kirt AND his cottage. Ok, it needed some work, but I had longed for an opportunity to makeover a cottage like this all my life. (Full disclosure: I have always had a “cottage thing” and I blame Julie Andrew’s book, “Mandy.” Read it and you will understand me more than you ever possibly could). The cottage in the country made me literally quit my main anchor gig in Philly and opt for a new life with my new husband in a place that has become home— Connecticut. Initially I thought we would raise our family in Litchfield County but the drive from the cottage to NBC Connecticut wasn’t easy and the 90 minutes on farm roads behind tractors wasn’t going to be sustainable.
So! We set up camp in Avon, CT and went all in and more than a decade later everyone is thriving and the Lakeville cottage is a robust Airbnb. We ended up calling it Fern Rock Cottage because of the ferns growing enthusiastically over the rock garden in the front yard. Of course I didn’t realize at the time that the name was in my subconscious after years in Philly—Fern Rock is a part of the city. Now it was a part of my “country life” too.
Author’s note: It’s amazing that Kerri-Lee did all of this while being a full-time co-anchor!
How did you end up with a studio in Avon?
Kerri-Lee: "During COVID I watched a lot of Hallmark movies and all of them had towns and greens and these wonderful festivals during the holidays. I watched, “Taking a Shot at Love” in 2021 partly because I heard the screenwriter lived in Avon, and based the movie on our little town. I loved it! My Canadian roots came out and I loved the hockey story line mixed with the dancer interaction (former dancer), and then of course, the fact that it was in AVON! That movie also featured something called, “Winterfest” and I watched with envy, thinking, Why don’t we ever do anything like that in our town? So many other towns nearby do, what about us? I was determined to see if it could even be a possibility, so I turned off Route 44 after dropping my daughter off at school, and eyed the gazebo area. I was wondering what a Winterfest would actually look like and I kind of felt the wind leave my sails, I just wasn’t sure where to begin or how to rally support for my dream."
She tried to turn around to leave the town center when her headlights hit the cottages on Waterside Court.
“I saw one cottage and was in awe, then placed my headlights on the tiniest cottage next door and loved it even more! I got out of the car on the snowy, freezing January day, looked into the window and saw that it was empty. I couldn’t breathe. I wasn’t sure what I would do there exactly, but I was certain I had to have it, and given that I was on medical leave from my job as a TV news anchor because of chronic Lyme disease, I was at a cross roads. Health wasn’t going to allow me to go back full-time at the time, and my heart really was ready to soar in the world of design. So there it was. A moment, an opportunity and an unexpected change I had no idea I was about to make. It was because of the movie, that turn, that time in my life that I found myself with a design company in the heart of the town of Avon."
Tell us some of your favorite traditions this time of year?
Kerri-Lee: "This time of year is truly magical. For me, It’s always been a time to celebrate my Christian faith, while also enjoying the commercial side of the holiday too: Hallmark, the decor, all the feels: that bring tradition, beliefs, and family and friends together. It’s all about love for me, and being loved by the people that matter to me most. I also love gathering around a great meal, laughing with friends and family, or making it fancy by slipping on a favorite Christmas dress and celebrating with the good china and the dim lights. But I’m not going to kid you, I love slipping on cozy PJs (usually matching with my 10 year old daughter) just as much, and sinking into the sofa, watching a feel good movie while a fire crackles nearby, and a warm little Yorkie sleeps soundly on my lap. As for Christmas’ past— I have to say the mad mayhem of opening presents with my 3 siblings was a pretty epic memory. The mess, the screams of delight, the happy smiles on my parent’s faces as they watched it all— I wouldn’t trade Christmas morning as.a kid for anything! A Canadian tradition that I have adopted from those days comes in the form of something called the “Christmas Morning Wife Saver” casserole. I now do what my mum did for all those years, and that’s prep the breakfast dish for Christmas morning the night. If you time it just right, it can marinate and blend the egg soaked crust-free bread, Canadian bacon (ham) seasoning, LOTS of cheese and butter and corn flakes on the top and WOW. Pop that puppy into the oven while you open gifts and by the time the last wrapping is pried away, the oven timer is going off and breakfast is served. Mom gets a break, the kids are fed, the kitchens smells amazing and another Christmas morning is in the books. The last year has been tricky to continue some of our traditions because the border was closed and my international relatives couldn’t visit, nor could we get to them. But thank you Zoom! Because of you, my parent’s were able to sit and watch the chaos in my living room and laugh at some of the reactions, enjoy others, and we all knew it wasn’t the same but we were doing the best that we could. What the global pandemic couldn’t take away was my firm belief in HOPE. LOVE. FAITH. And even in those scary times, I tried my darnedest to find joy… it might have taken me until Christmas of 2020 to really claim that, given all that was happening in the world and my own life, but it was there. I felt it, celebrated it, and haven’t looked back. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Best wishes this season to EVERYONE!!!"
To learn more about the Kerri-Lee Mayland Company and her brand, please visit: https://www.kerri-leemayland.com.
May the magic of Christmas Joy and Love fill your hearts Kerri-Lee! Best wishes as we all celebrate our dreams together in our Avon town, at the gazebo and green, and live within a real Hallmark moment!
Happy New Year to you and your family, from all of us at Avon Winterfest!