Wow! Can you believe it has been a whole year since I decided to take the plunge? Last August, I decided to throw caution to the wind and buy a home decor and women’s fashions store in the tiny town of Bentley, Alberta. Evan and I had moved to the area full time the year before and I needed something to do outside of my living room (I was talking to Cooper WAY TOO MUCH).
Going into the store, which was a mix of new products and antiques, made my heart happy. While the sale and beginning of owning was a bit bumpy as I realized all the things I didn’t know (and weren’t shared with me in the sale), I quickly realized those were just details that would work themselves out.
Even better were the PEOPLE. Two lovely ladies decided to stay with the store when I took over and I couldn’t have done it without them. Terry and Sue kept me between the ditches and showed me the ropes. As word got out that there was a new owner, the local Bentley townspeople welcomed me with open arms. I love knowing that people liked me enough and felt comfortable enough to just stop by and chat (even if they weren’t planning on buying something that day).
It became more and more clear that I HAD to make the change of ownership more clear. Merry’s Mercantile was born. A new name, a new sign and a new life for the store. Just saying the name makes me smile. A big shout out to my friend Mitch who thought of the name and pushed me to find my happy (and he knew a store was something that would do that).
One of the hardest things to get my brain wrapped around was the flow of the business. I took over at the very tail end of the busy season so sales slowed down right after I took over. There were many moments of “Is it me?” and “Did I make a mistake” at 3 am when I couldn’t sleep. Instead of giving in to doubt, I decided to just keep swimming.
As we were coming out of the long winter slump, Covid-19 hit. It was hard to know what to do. Customers were dwindling and the unknown loomed. We decided to shut down the store because I didn’t feel all that safe and customer traffic had dwindled. Just days later, all non-essential businesses were ordered to shut their doors.
During the Covid shutdown, I got to work putting Merry’s Mercantile at least partially online. Our store is a huge mash-up of new and old with a gazillion one-off products. Putting it online was (and is) not easy. I did just enough to allow for online sales with curbside pickup for the two months we were closed. (Note that it is not currently up to date. You’ll see why in a few paragraphs. Updates coming soon!)
We re-opened on May 15th and it has been a whirlwind since. People have love the small town charm (and safety) of Bentley. Shopping in a small store has definite appeal these days and we are so happy to help.
Though the lockdowns have come and gone, Covid still affects our business. We do loads of extra cleaning and sanitizing to keep our customers safe as well as controlling the flow of customers. At times, it feels like we are part traffic cop. I say “The flow of the store is to your right” about 1000 times a day.
It has been such a journey but definitely a happy one. I’ve gained so much knowledge in the year under my belt. I am getting the feel of what will work and what will not (even though at times I couldn’t tell you why). I’ve bested my knee-jerk “don’t spend” mentality. I’ve also realized that my customers want to see ME in the clothes I sell. Who knew?
I have a constant tape of my friend, Randa, saying “Scared money doesn’t make money” in my head to remind me that if I don’t buy it, I can’t sell it. Another voice constantly in my head is my business mentor and coach Brandi. I am surrounded by people who help me be successful.
I’ve made some amazing friends among the business owners in Bentley. Big shout outs to The Drop Coffee and Tea, Earthy Accents, The Boho Apothecary and Bentley Cycle! Going to work feels like going to hang out with friends. There are times I don’t want to get out of bed but I never don’t want to go to work.
Oh, and a big shout out to my family for being supportive of my new endeavour. It has definitely changed my hours at home and my willingness to be in charge of “all the things”. We’ve figured out ways to make it work and keep everyone mostly non-cranky (except Cooper who misses his mama).
Going forward, we are working on moving our store onto Shopify for online and in-person sales. It is a huge amount of work and Dewey is helping me figure it out. I think we both dream about Shopify these days. I’m still tweaking the new products that I buy and when. My friends Samantha, Shawn and Heather help me source cool antique and vintage items for the store.
I can’t wait to give you an update again this time next year (if not before). My new career definitely fills my cup in ways that my past jobs have not. I have learned so many things and let go of other things that were not serving me. I am trying to make sure this blog is not one of the things I let go. Thank you, dear readers, for giving me the time and space to do both.