niece had to celebrate her 13th birthday, which coincides with the 13th anniversary of the WOOL-TYME Kingston later this month. (For those of you who didn't get the newsletter, sign up to the right).
It's funny to think that I've had the store longer than I've had any other job in my life. I guess there comes a time when we have so much of ourselves invested in a project, we can't imagine any other life.
I was a teacher who had moved with my family to Kingston 2 years before and was discouraged that although I could get a teaching job with my French qualifications, it was nearly impossible to establish oneself being at the bottom of the seniority pile, and at 42 years of age it just seemed way too much like scary work to be starting all over again as a new teacher every year. I wanted to leave that craziness to the 25 year-olds who would have the time to enjoy it once they got established.
So after being laid off yet again, I decided that I would take the advice that I had given my Grade 8 students for years: Look at your strengths and talents, and be flexible in what you can do with your life. I took a 6 week evening course in Entrepreneurship at St Lawrence College and found an ad in the Whig saying that WOOL-Mart in Ottawa was looking to offer a franchise here in Kingston.
Some of you may remember the WOOL-Mart vs Wall Mart situation, when Wall Mart first came to Canada and objected to the use of the name WOOL-Mart by this independently owned yarn store and its franchises. A legal battle ensued and it was all eventually settled - after some terrific publicity for WOOL-Mart- by changing the name of all 11 franchises to WOOL-TYME. And the name change just happened to coincide with the opening of our store at 751 Gardiners Rd (2 doors from Boston Pizza). This announcement made national news and put us on the front page of the Whig. You can't buy publicity like that.
Isabelle Turner was not a library in those days but was the Mayor of Kingston Township. She joined us for the ribbon cutting ceremony on our opening day, and Carlolyn Dunn, the reporter we frequently see reporting for CBC from Afghanistan, was there to tell the city about it through the CKWS. It was all very exciting.
My 19 year-old daughter was in grade 1 when the store opened. We were reminiscing the other day how she and her sister would take the school bus to the store and hang out in the back room where they could do their homework, crafts and watch TVO - I think that the kids felt that Polkaroo was one of the family, they watched him so much.
On our 5th anniversary, we had a big sale during that whole week which began on Sept. 11th (2001). It was a crazy day with people congregating around the 12" TV to get the latest news as the tragic events of that day unfolded.
Year 6 was the dawning of the eyelash yarn frenzy and the role of the Internet began to really show its value by providing information and support to knitters (and the rest of the world too, I guess.) The knitting world had changed forever.
Before the 7th anniversary, the location at 725 Gardiners Rd became available and with the help of wonderful friends and customers, the move went as smoothly as one can imagine.
A few years after I opened the store, I wrote a piece (which I can't find for the life of me) that likened the first few years of a business to the process of parenting a young child. It was published in a few locations and seemed to strike a chord with other shop owners who had lived through those first lean years of any business, where all acts of kindness and all words of encouragement from customers, friends, family and staff are about the only thing that helps you keep your head up. I think back to that piece now and can only hope that my store's teen years will be pleasant and gentle ones, where we get to enjoy each other and grow together.
I'm way to old to be wrestling with a headstrong teen at this stage of my life.