hickory leaves unfurling

Shagbark Hickory leaves unfurling

Note:  This Blog starts out gloomy, but has a happy ending. 

The New Adventure Begins

Spring 2020 has not unfurled the way we had anticipated.  It is now the end of May and we are just opening.  However, our business is not the same as we planned in March. Over the winter, I splurged on new benches and tables for our patio deck, new shelving for the store, refinished the wood floors and wooden counter tops, repainted our cafe tables and started booking new product lines.  After seven years of operation, we had a pretty good handle on how to operate our little gem in Palmyra.  With a small but talented and dedicated staff we had created a cafe that featured handmade luncheons; a store with a unique combination of retail products that we served many tastes; a garden that delighted throughout the seasons.

And don’t forget the buttertarts.  We make fabulous tarts.  And last year, our customers agreed.  They helped us sell our 50,000th tart, just before we closed for the winter.

That’s how things used to be.

Now times are different.

The struggle for small businesses in this time of COVID-19 is real and the uncertainty can take its toll. Manfred and I talk about this every day, sometimes it feels like all day.

How long can we hang on?

Should we hang on?

Will it be better than ever?

What will it look like when people can come to restaurants again?

How will they shop?

In the past, we enjoyed being a stop on daytrips that included shops from Kingsville to Sparta and beyond.  We loved being a place where local residents brought their family and friends from around the world.  There was always excitement when cross-continent bicyclists pulled up to the bike racks.  Our guest books are bursting with signatures from guests from many of the corners of our planet.

Now times are different.

This year, we are encouraging our local customers to return to our new way of serving them.  Also, we plan to encourage other local residents who may not have had a chance to visit, to take time to enjoy the sites and stores in their own backyard.

In my quest to be upbeat, I’ve come to realize that we no longer “do more”. Not more meals, more buttertarts, more inventory, more work, more staff, more attendance, more events. In this recalibration, we’re tasked with the job of figuring out how to “do authentic”. How do we build and sustain a business with less customers who may or may not have less income? How do we continue to create rural experiences in a climate with less tourism, likely for years to come?

Well, we are up for the challenge. We plan to develop new products to showcase our garden, encourage more reading and writing, and focus on the beauty of living rurally.

This week, we take step one:

On Thursday, May 28 Crazy 8 Barn & Garden will open for the 2020 season.  At this point, we will welcome our local customers inside the store Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm.  We have reconfigured our shop to make safe distancing possible.  We have lots of product in stock and hope to be receiving more products as our suppliers start operating their warehouses and completing our spring orders.  There are some nice new garden items, bird feeders, ladies clothing and jewellery, food products and decor to excite our shoppers. Our online shop is available 24/7 and we are adding more products every day. Curbside pickup is available for your convenience.  Call us at 519-674-2888 to make that happen or choose local pick-up on our website and we will follow up with you to arrange a convenient time.

The cafe will not be open. We will have buttertarts, in limited quantities, hot and cold drinks for take out only. And yes, our ice cream freezer will be filled with Shaw’s ice cream so cups, cones, sundaes and milkshakes will be available.

Strolling through our gardens is encouraged but please physically distance.

Entrance to the barn will be limited and you are asked to wear face masks for your protection and ours.

So Thursday, our new adventure begins.  Please join us.  We’ve missed you.