Many business people have come and gone on Main Street during the past 30 years, but Joan Jones has been and continues to be one of the mainstays.
Jones, who owns and operates popular gift shop Sweet Brier Boutique, was honoured with the Business of the Year Award from the Parrsboro and District Board of Trade at its annual meeting on March 17.
Jones, who plans to celebrate her third decade in business sometime this summer, said it was "quite an honour" to be recognized.
"I believe in Parrsboro, and the downtown area is so important," she said. "I would certainly like to see everything full... all the businesses. There is just no comparison when there are no vacancies on the street. There's much more buzz."
It all started in 1980, when Jones spotted a for sale sign in the window of the Parrsboro Flower Shop. From here originally but living away at the time, she started inquiring, and within two weeks the deal was done.
"It was just a very spur of the moment thing," she recalled.
She operated the flower shop for more than a decade, and then converted it to a gift shop during the mid-1990s, renaming it Sweet Brier Boutique.
"At that time, I had a customer come in and sort of introduce me to a couple of lines, and thought I had lots of room to start," said Jones. "So, I started going to the gift show in Toronto a few times a year, and it just grew from there."
Changing the name of the shop was not quite as easy it might seem. The registry rejected the name under its original spelling (Briar with an "a") because there was already a bookstore existing under that name. It was a former MLA for the area who advised her to change the spelling, thereby solving the problem.
"Guy Brown helped me change that within 10 minutes," she said, laughing. "It really was unbelievable."
She credits her longevity in business to the loyal patronage from customers both here and away.
"I have wonderful support, certainly local," said Jones. "And, on the weekend, most customers are from Moncton, Truro and Amherst. They're just here for the drive, and all eat in the general area as well. Some have cottages, and just become regular customers."
She changes her stock twice yearly, always attending gift shows to see what's new on the market and buying accordingly. Meanwhile, visitors to the store have grown accustomed to a high level of customer service from both Jones and her daughter and long-time co-worker Jill Horton, who offer things like free gift wrapping with all purchases.
That warm welcome and unique touch are a part of what has made Sweet Brier Boutique a bright spot in the local business community, according to Board of Trade president Karen Dickinson, who made the award presentation.
"Every shopping area has its mainstay store," said Dickinson. "Others come and go in shopping areas, malls, towns, but Joan has been a constant here, and has drawn people from all over the Maritimes. People come here specifically to come to her shop because of the quality of the products and good she has. She's one of the anchors in the town."
Dickinson also remarked on the flower boxes outside Jones' shop in the summer, adding to the appeal of the town landscape and naturally drawing people in to see what's there.
"Hopefully her longevity would be a sign to someone who might want to start a new business, to see someone has made it with unique ideas that Joan has had," she said. "We're proud to have her there."
Jones admitted that it has not always been easy to deal with economic downturns like at present, and compete with shopping opportunities in the cities, but that she would continue to work with others on efforts to improve the Main Street business district for the future.
"It's a struggle, but when you enjoy that you're doing, it's much easier," she said. "And I do deal in beautiful things."