In the beginning of the movie Out of Africa, Meryl Streep says “I had a farm in Africa. I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills.” This sentence was the sum of what Karen Blixen thought was the greatest achievement of her life.
I think about those lines sometimes when I think about my store. I had a shop. I had a shop for 22 years.
Yes I ran a store for 22 years – for 1/3 of my life. I ran it the way I wanted to and created a shop the way I think stores should be. A little shop I was proud of.
But I am getting ahead of myself. I have no business background or training, except for the part time jobs supporting myself through school. I worked in the government for many years. But I knew I wanted a place I could be me – quirky, friendly and with opinions and moods. So I bought a struggling business and made it into my own.
I wanted a store where there was no hype for buying, a place women felt safe, where there was friendly honest advice and where customers were inspired to cook. Oh, and where men were picked on.
Along the way I also gave out movie advice, discussed lake life, complained about things and talked about life with those going through difficult times like I did.
When asked what my title was, even on legal documents, I always listed myself, not as Owner or President, but as Shopkeeper. That is all I wanted to be. I had chances to open other stores and to franchise the business, but I turned them all down, because that is not what I wanted my life to be. I didn’t want the pigeon approach to owning a business – flying in and shitting over everything and leaving. I wanted to run a shop, not own a store.
So I ran a shop for 22 years, the way I wanted and wanted to be treated. And from the many email and words from you, the way you wanted to be treated too.
There are a few ugly memories, but there are waaaay more good ones with kind people I have talked and laughed and joked with. Memories of those who were kind to me when my husband died and I struggled to find a new footing. And the support I received for my decision to sell the building, close the shop and find a new life. Lots and lots of nice people, who carried my burden when I was faltering and propped me up to go onward.
Yes I ran a shop for 22 years, and now I move on to a different life. A bit less stress, and more time for me.
I am too young and too energetic to be retired, and I want my brain to be busy, so after a summer in that ugly bathing suit at the lake, I am going to find a job and start a new career. I have lots of education and experience and hope to make use of it for many years.
I had a shop for 22 years, and it will always be part of me – its who I am.
P.S. Did you notice there were never pink linens? That is because I hate the colour and refused to buy any for the store, even if pink was deemed trendy. That is my quirky part!
P.P.S. Did you notice the size of the bathrooms in the building? When the store was being designed I was told the bathrooms had to be 6×6′. I said no way, I once saw a man with 3 kids and a stroller go in the 4×4′ bathroom and can imagine how crowded it was. So my bathrooms are 8×8′, and colourful and kid friendly. Like a bathroom at home! And with soft toilet paper!
P.P.P.S. Once, a little boy came into the store and hollered and ran to the toy area. His mother told me they used to live in Winnipeg, and were back visiting family. When they asked the boy where he wanted to go he said the toy store. So they took him to every toy store they could think of, but that was not where he wanted to go. Then they were driving down Grant Avenue and he yelled there’s the toy store. Yes it was Scoop N’ Weigh. All he wanted to do was play with the toys.
P.P.P.P.S. One final memory. I remember one Christmas, a little girl was hanging onto her father and standing at the edge of the toys. You could see she wanted to play, but there were five boisterous boys jumping around and hollering in the area and she was hesitant. So I walked over, told the boys those were my toys and they had to stay on one side of the area and let the girl play on the other side. So they gave me a look then moved to the side.
The little girl began to play and after a short time one of the boys came over and stood too close to her and her hesitation returned. In a stern voice I said, get back to the other side. One of the fathers of the boys came running and sat down on the bench and said he would watch the situation. And the little girl did what all women do, she kept making supper.