The lure of the grandchildren is too much for Judy Russell.
After 23 years as a business operator in downtown Vernon, the affable owner of Good Gracious Contemporary Gifts on 30th Avenue (her husband Dave runs the Practical Kitchen next door) is turning her store over to an unnamed foreign investor.
“We still have the desire, we both really love it, and we have all these good ideas that we think are good ideas but the ambition isn’t there,” said Russell of her decision to sell.
“We don’t have the stamina to carry it through, and we have grandkids in Turkey and Vancouver that we want to spend time with and we want to travel.”
Arriving in Vernon after four years in Calgary, Russell opened up Maggie and Doodles, a gift shop, in an old house on 30th Street near Civic Arena in 1992.
Russell named her first store after her grandparents (Douglas was Russell’s grandfather’s given name but a sister referred to him as Doodles).
That enterprise stayed on 30th Street until the late 1990s.
That’s when she closed Maggie and Doodles and opened Good Gracious, named after a teddy bear, in its current location beside CIBC downtown.
Asked what makes her store successful in downtown, where many businesses over the years have opened and closed, Russell answers with a combination of factors.
“We really care, we listen to our customers, and we give the best customer service,” she said.
“Everything is gift-wrapped when it goes out of the store. We try to have a very good merchandise selection. It’s an event when people come in, not just a shopping experience. People have fun here.”
Part of the fun is the people Russell has working for her.
When she opened, Russell was the store’s one unpaid employee. Now, she has nine part-time workers, which grows to about a dozen or so at Christmas.
And the good news for Good Gracious’ loyal customer base is nothing is changing even with new ownership.
“The women in the store now are all staying and are going to operate it,” said Russell.
“They’ll do the buying, go to the shows. Everything stay the same. That’s what the new owner wants. He recognizes that it’s successful.”