The Saga Continues + OMG Two Weeks + No Cream
Good Morning from New Glasgow, Prince Edward Island
I hope you had a good week, and thank you for allowing me into your space and time today.
If you have been following the last five weeks, this morning’s writing represents ‘Chapter 6.’
Here are the last few sentences of Chapter 5.
Not soon after, I had a new landlord. He offered two months’ rent back if I could move within a couple of weeks.
He wanted to tear the old house down and build a new office building.
I needed to find a new place and fast.
The vision was to take Prince Edward Island bottled fruit to the masses of people away. But, unfortunately, I didn’t think I could make a living selling to local shops.
Toronto seemed like the place. So I called and asked friends living there, “where should I sell my preserves?”
One store was consistently mentioned: Holt Renfrew.
So, set my sights on getting to Toronto and selling my treats to Holt Renfrew.
I borrowed a friend’s old Honda Civic. Headed to Froggies ( a used clothing store) and bought a ‘new to me’ zippered Mary Maxim sweater with a moose on it. And I found a pair of jeans that looked new and fit well.
Loaded the car, filled the tank and headed out on the road to Toronto. I never even thought about calling ahead.
Prince Edward Island had a ferry running between Borden and Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick. If you timed it right, nineteen hours of driving would get one to Toronto, with the help of six cans of Coca-Cola and six washroom breaks. One year I drove it ten times.
The first time I went to Holt Renfrew was memorable.
Standing at the front doors of Holts Renfrew flagship store on 50 Bloor Street was a big man. He greeted shoppers wearing a long wool coat with a lambswool collar, top hat and white gloves.
I thought, oh well, I am here now, no turning back and showing him the moose knitted on the back of my sweater.
I marched up with a box of preserves under my arm and asked him, “where can I find the gourmet food department?” He replied, “second floor.”
Entering the store, I notice a woman in a formal gown playing a grand piano.
Taking the escalator up and past the chandeliers, I found the gourmet food section.
I headed straight to the cash counter and asked for the manager. She said, “that would be me.”
“Hi, I am Bruce, and I just drove from Prince Edward Island. I make preserves would like to sell them in your store.”
Judy’s response was, “sorry, but everything we sell here is from Europe and very exclusive to us.”
I asked, “who does the buying for the store?” She said, “David.”
“Can I speak with him?”
Judy told me I had to make an appointment. “Ok, can I make an appointment to see him now?”
I stayed in the store looking at the product offering. Sure enough, everything was from Paris, Belgium, England, etc.
I noticed that all the preserves listed sugar as the first ingredient.
After an hour of hanging around the store in clothes that did not represent their customers’ fashion, Judy picked up the phone and made a call.
I wasn’t sure if she was calling security.
Two minutes later, David, the buyer, introduced himself and invited me to his office.
Sitting across his desk, I shared my goal of selling preserves in his store. He repeats the exact same words as Judy.
He spoke of everything being from Europe. And his customers had discerning tastes who appreciated exclusivity.
“Thank you, David, I understand, but what do you think of when I say, Prince Edward Island?”
He thought for a moment, then replied, "clean air, good food and nice people.”
I asked another question.
“Would you want your customers thinking the same thing?”
He stated emphatically, “but, we are very exclusive.”
I said, "David, I am very exclusive as well. My products are not available anywhere!”
He didn't know what to say.
“Here are three jars for you to try.”
- Strawberry Grand Marnier,
- Wild Blueberry Raspberry Champagne
- Raspberry Champagne
“I will leave them with you. Please keep my products in mind. I want to do business with you. I am driving back to the Island, and here is my phone number.”
Four days later, I get a phone call from David.
“Bruce, these are the best preserves I have ever tasted and wish to place an order.”
I wrote as he told me what he wanted. It was a lot.
“When do you need it, David?”
“Thank you, David.”
I hung up the phone and freaked. How am I going to do this?
Ok, now I have a severe problem. A large order, a need for a new place and need more money.
First things first.
Get the order done.
After my late night waiting on tables work, I would visit the favourite watering holes of friends on my way home. Then, finding capable friends, I put forward an invitation to come back to my place to make jam.
It worked. The order shipped on time.
~ R. Buckminster Fuller
Driving by a faded yellow building near the airports’ approach lights, I noticed a for rent sign in the window. I pulled in, wrote down the number.
The next day, I met with Roy Birt, and we struck a deal. I could rent the small space to make preserves. It had a back door, a front door, and a window. In the same building was their convenience store. The back door was for receiving. The store had sizeable walk-in pop fridges; fortunately, they let me put the fresh berries in them there.
This week, I was sad to read that Roy’s brother Roger, the engine behind R. Birts and Associates, had passed away. He was a real go-getter with a true entrepreneurial spirit. Anything is possible type guy.
Not long after becoming a tenant of Roger’s, I shared a story with him.
It was about me seeing one of Charlottetown’s largest landlords collecting bottles at the side of the road. And it was not for Island beauty’s sake.
I mentioned it seemed foolish a man of such wealth would be doing something like this. Roger scolded my attitude. Rightfully so. He told me empty collected bottles helped begin his own entrepreneurial journey.
And shared, “you do what you need to do.”
"Judgements prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances." ~ Wayne Dyer
This lovely humble gentleman Roger and I spoke of lived through the Depression-era. He formed habits necessary to survive. The practice of a penny saved is a penny earned that served him and his family well.
"Human beings have the remarkable ability to turn nothing into something. They can turn weeds into gardens and pennies into fortunes." ~ Jim Rohn
I shipped the products to Holt Renfrew with our label.
Prince Edward Island Preserve Company had arrived.
Eventually, we private labelled products for them and became their ninth best selling item in their store.
Other stores took notice, and more orders started coming in.
One lady was so impressed she ordered twenty-five thousand dollars worth. She built lovely baskets and sold them to Bowring’s.
Forty-five days later, I can't find her to get payment; I called Bowrings to see if they could pay me directly.
Too late, they paid her. She bankrupted her company.
We did not see five cents.
Friends and acquaintances invested money, enabling the business to continue.
Paul Madden from Sandwich, Massachusetts, was an antique dealer. He drove a Mercedes 500SEL.
He walked into where I was making preserves one day. He had an empty jar with our label on it in his hand. He’s 6'4," and 350 weight size was intimidating.
"Holding up the empty jar, bellows I am looking for the maker of this."
"That would be me, sir."
"Jam is a hobby of mine," he said.
"I have tasted a lot (and with his size, I believed), and these are the best I have ever tasted."
"I want to buy six cases."
"Thank you, sir, but I only sell to stores. I had told stores I wouldn't compete with them."
He starred at me, thought for a second, and then banged his fist on the counter.
"Young man, I want to buy six cases now, and I want to pay you the full price."
I thought, ok, I will sell them to him at the same price the store sells them for.
If you make listening and observation your occupation you will gain much more than you can by talk. ~ Robert Baden Powell
After loading the six cases into his car, having the money in my hand, I thought, this is the answer to cash flow.
I need to find a place where instead of chasing the world to make a living, I can invite the world to our place and make a life.
So the hunt begins for the right place.
A tiny ad in the local paper leads me to it.
NEW GLASGOW here we come.
Thank you for reading and staying with me on this writing journey. I am learning and appreciate grammatical correction. So don't be shy. Please comment.
I hope you have a wonderful weekend.
If in New Glasgow, visit our new Espresso bar. The Garden Cafe located beside our main building.
With love from Prince Edward Island,
Bruce + Millie
ps. Your Morning Smile
Jean-Paul Sartre is sitting at a French cafe, revising his draft of Being and Nothingness. He says to the waitress, "I'd like a cup of coffee, please, with no cream."
The waitress replies, "I'm sorry, Monsieur, but we're out of cream. How about with no milk?"