A sense of place, of home

By Terry Fries — Terry Fries and Laurie Weir are co-owners of Barn Owl Gifts in Summerland.

Real-world truths meet idealistic entrepreneurs 

The real-estate adage “location, location, location” is one that has served business people well for almost as long as businesses have existed.

Today, the phrase has become a tired cliché, but you ignore it at your peril.

As my wife, Laurie, and I began our tottering first steps to establishing our business, it was a thought we never strayed far from while developing our plans.

We used that saying as our litmus test when started looking at which types of  businesses we might be interested in purchasing.

We never intended to be starting our own business this quickly. We started searching locations as an exercise to help us discover truths about ourselves — our likes and dislikes, our individual and collective skill sets, and the type of lifestyle we were looking for. It would help us define our long-term goals.

That is exactly what happened. The search clarified many of our hopes, dreams and goals as a couple. It laid them out in stark notepad scribbles and spreadsheets.

It forced us to ask important questions about each other and ourselves and it has drawn us together like never before.

We are inextricably dependent on one another now. No longer do we wake up and go off to separate jobs. We no longer have separate paycheques, separate work friends and separate work lives.

There are aspects to managing our store on which I am completely dependent on Laurie to accomplish. For example, we worked well together in the earlier phases of developing the right vision and atmosphere for the store, but product selection fell entirely to her good tastes.

Trust me when I say that nobody is interested in shopping for the things I like. Let’s just say my tastes are more “special” and leave it at that.

If nothing else comes of it, I believe we are better people for just having gone through the process of setting up this venture.

Our goal initially was to shop for existing businesses that suited our lifestyles, or rather what we saw as the life we wanted 10 years down the road.

We started in Kimberley, in the East Kootenays, because I used to live there and love its quaint charm and rugged terrain. But with all respect to Kimberley, its location off the main highway makes it more difficult for a retail to be successful.

It can be done, however, so we kept the option floating around in the backs of our minds for a couple of years.

We also explored starting a concierge service/motel in Haida Gwaii and several locations on Vancouver Island in the Campbell River area

Kaslo was also a strong candidate for its calming beauty and the lure of the deep dark woods, but it was tough to get affordable housing and to figure out what sort of shop or business could make a go of it.

Powell River was promising for a while too. There, we thought of taking over a gym, but ultimately, the call to do that just wasn’t strong enough for us to drop everything and jump in right away. It had good promise for down the road though.

We looked at West Kelowna, but those opportunities never seemed quite right. Sure, we would be close to a critical mass of customers, which we needed, but we also wanted to move to a quieter place, not jump back into the hectic pace after just leaving one.

Then, Summerland came up and ticked all the boxes. It is a quieter place, but one with promise of being able to earn a decent living. The population of the community, its growth and its demographics all played into our decision.

But what cemented our decision was the people we met when we first arrived to scout out the possibilities.

From the people at the Chamber of Commerce, to the real-estate agents, to the people working in the store at the location we would ultimately choose, to the woman who served us our burger and beer at the end of a trying day of touring and number crunching.

Every one of them were not just polite and welcoming, but they seemed enthusiastically eager to help. They seemed genuinely interested in our plans.

Just as the most vital part of any business is the people who run it, the most vital part of any community is the people who work to make it better.

And that’s why we’re here now, instead of five years from now. We just couldn’t wait to get started.






This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


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