Monday, March 31, 2008

'The Man' Tales - Moves

Ten years later, Danny is still present in my friend’s life. She hovers on the edge of every conversation and we have shared many wet faces over the years. Last year they moved to a new house and my friend had to pack up Danny’s room which had remained in the same condition as the day she had died. Her work schedule remained on her bed; her clothes hung neatly away, her makeup arranged on her dressing table. I don’t know how my friend managed, I didn’t want to ask, but I know it broke her heart. And ten years ago it helped in breaking mine.

Every time we met or talked on the phone brought a flood of tears and I was constantly wracked with grief. I was glad she was seeing a psychiatrist and going to meetings for parents who had lost their children. I felt so inadequate and at a loss to come up with words that might help. All I could do was offer my arms to wrap around her and hold her for brief moments of time. I hold tightly to my last vision of Danny, laughing with her friends in front of our store as they guiltily ate a box of chocolates. It is a precious memory for me.

Our store was in a large and popular mall in the big city and we had accepted the offer from the management to try out a poor location for a few years without a lease. It had proven to be a good idea and a good move from the downtown location where the store had been for 15 years. The mall management now approached my mother and I and talked to us about the plans the mall had. With the changes they had in mind, the large anchor store next to us would be moving and that space would be taken over by another large anchor store, but one that carried a much lower quality of merchandise. It meant that it would draw a different class of customer and one that wouldn’t be suitable to our higher class of merchandise.

You have to remember, my mother was a furrier and the business had originated as a fur store. Then PETA came along and put many furriers and trappers out of business and effectively wiped out many lives and livelihoods. We heard of many suicides in the fur industry. The business was in a quandary as sales of furs had slowed, and I was surprised when my parents listened to my suggestion of expanding our merchandise to include every type of coat made. That suggestion saved the business.

We carried a lovely selection of outerwear and insisted to our manufacturers that we would not carry the coats the large chains offered. And with that in mind, the mall management suggested a move to the other end of the mall where the higher-end anchor store was found. This move entailed an architect and a designer and we had to travel to Calgary to get the plans approved by the higher-ups who owned the mall. When the approval came, my mother turned to my brother and myself and told us to go and build it.

Normally, contractors are hired to do this work, but my mother would do anything to save money. My brother and I knew we needed more help and I insisted that D be part of the work crew and that he be paid. Then the three of us took possession of the keys to a vacated store, and we demolished it. Mall management expected us to move within 4 weeks, and we knew we were going to be pressed to our limits. But we didn’t know just how overextended we would become. We put in 18 hours every single day in an effort to build this store to the specifications, and four weeks stretched to six weeks before we had it completed. The three of us accomplished everything except for the electrical, the ceiling, and the front entrance. We called on our cousin to help with the flooring and a contractor built a beautiful curved counter and display case. D and I lived on cottage cheese and tuna on rice cakes for 6 weeks and our clothes hung on us when we were done. When my brother couldn’t eat that any longer, he headed down the mall and ate with Mom.

During the last days we ran everywhere in our attempt to get it all finished and the stock moved from one location to the other. Then we had to figure out how we were going to display it all and we rearranged the entire store multiple times.

Cut, bruised and exhausted, we opened the doors to a glorious reception.



(I'm sorry I do not have photos to show here - I looked everywhere for the four I know I have - but I couldn't find them. If I ever do - I'll post them.)

23 comments:

softinthehead said...

Sounds like D is hanging in there. I had been wondering how you had survived in the fur business, although here in Canada it is still fairly OK to wear fur, it is definitely considered not the done thing in the U.K. Well done you.

Joy T. said...

Ah yes, the life of a business owner. Where hours don't mean anything and a quick supper is all there is. Sounds like your guy was right there with you though!

david mcmahon said...

Well worth the amazing effort. I guess you didn't get much time to sleep during those four weeks.

Lane said...

One thing that always comes across in these posts is that you're a trooper Aims. Your work ethic is admirable.

And I'm so glad your friend got some help and had your support.

Living the Dream said...

You are so lucky to have the confidence in yourself, you want to do something and it is done. Please write more soon.

Potty Mummy said...

It would be lovely to see those photos - keep looking, Aims!

A Mother's Place is in the Wrong said...

Pushing yourself to the limit again Aims - and D. I do hope good things are coming... M xx

dawn said...

That is a crazy schedule, I wouldn't have managed. Amazing you got it done.

CrazyCath said...

I bet it was worth it - the sense of achieving that mammoth feat with just the three of you!
But 18 hours a day for SIX WEEKS?!

No wonder you were thinner and bruised! It's a wonder you were fit to open up and serve to the public. Well done! And well done on the idea that saved the business!

Sweet Irene said...

My God, woman, your mother does have very urealistic expectations of people, doesn't she? Somehow you all seem to live up to them, it's amazing. I felt the stress just reading this.

I Beatrice said...

That's what I call stout colonial spirit, Aims! I guess we all inherited it from our forebears, who went to new countries and had to start by cutting down a tree to make a house.

Not that I have much of it left now myself, mind - but you seem to have it still in spades!

D must have recovered from his long illness by then, to be able to put in those kinds of hours...?

Mima said...

What an amazing feat to have achieved, and in such a short space of time. Your friend is so lucky to have you around, it must have been awful for her packing up that room. Glad that D is still around and feeling better.

aims said...

SITH - I wear my furs with pride - they are biodegradeable - as opposed to that manmade stuff that will still be in the dump 500 years from now...but PETA never mentions that - do they?

Joy - Spoken from years of experience right?

David - What was sleep? It became more like pass-out time really. Then back into the same dirty work clothes and routine.

Lane - I've always attacked a project instead of sidled up to it.

Hazel - And today I found out why you said this...you shouldn't be so lacking in confidence my friend. You have no reason to be like that you know....

Potty Mum - coming up!!

Margot - It is something I always do - and always pay for in the end.

Dawn - Well - we didn't have a choice you see..

Crazycath - A very difficult weight-loss plan indeed...

Irene - Yes - she certainly cracked the whip over that and everything else! But one thing I haven't said about Mom - she worked just as hard herself - I guess that is why she expected so much out of us.

Dearest B - He was much better by this time or else he wouldn't have been able to work like that. I know he looked terrible when we were finally finished but I didn't have the time to think about his health during all of this.

Mima - I still haven't asked her how she managed - it will be too heartbreaking to know the answer.

Tina said...

Aims my lovely, I'm sorry I've been away for so long, but I just have to do a bit of back reading to catch up & then I'm back. You have a remarkable story & you write it so well.

aims said...

Tina! So good to see you again...I do hope you have a few hours to spare with all the catch up you have to do...now where have you been?

John-Michael said...

Your resume' is becoming something of a wonder! I can see possibilities in several consulting and advising roles that would be in demand.

(So I want you OUT of that incarceration that binds you!) Who said that?!

aims said...

JM - Who did say that?? I don't know about my resume - I've been out of the work force really for a number of years now...could I work from home and write at the same time?

travelling, but not in love said...

Well, I hope you didn;t give D too hard a time while he was busy working his guts out for you!

That poor boy - you giving him a hard time at home and only cottage cheese for lunch!

Daryl E said...

Late to post .. but you know I have had my own construction issues here .. wish I had you, D and your brother HERE now .. :-D

San said...

I've sometimes felt bad about the stresses our own children have experienced, growing up in a family that runs a small business. But we never put them to building out a location!

That is simply amazing. I am glad you lived to tell the story.

lisa marie said...

What a lotta work that was! I'm impressed. :)

dulwichmum said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
dulwichmum said...

Gosh Aims, I am such an air head, I realise now that you are asking me am I serious about the house swap! Doh!!! Believe me, my house is a dump! I had a cooment during the week from a blog chum asking me if I am for real, and I started to worry...