TRURO – Justin Wells is looking forward to spending more time at Young Street Variety.
Clients with the Colchester Community Workshops, from left, Patricia Alkema, Justin Wells and Jenna Elliott, are the first clients to have paid positions at Young Street Variety. The store opened a year ago and is celebrating its anniversary this weekend. Raissa Tetanish – Truro Daily News
Wells, 22, is a client at the Colchester Community Workshops (CCW) and one of three clients now being paid to work part-time at the store that’s celebrating its first anniversary this weekend.
“I really like the people and just doing stuff around the store,” said the Hilden man, who has volunteered and trained at the store since February. “The customers are very friendly and I see a lot of the same faces.”
While he’s in the process of learning cash, Wells and other clients, whether they are paid employees or are training at the store, also stock and clean shelves, bake, make subs, and scoop ice cream.
“It’s helped me grow as a person,” he said. “And I really do like being a paid employee. I’m a spender.”
The store helps the CCW’s mandate to work with clients with intellectual and physical disabilities while working on inclusion in the community.
“Not everyone comes into the workshops to shop at our New To You store or our café, but everyone drops into variety stores,” said Kelly Herron-Jacobs, the financial manager with CCW.
Starting the store from scratch, Herron-Jacobs said it is around the break-even mark after its first year, which pleases those with the CCW.
“We’re hoping our customers from the summer continue in over the fall. It isn’t about making money, it’s about offering employment for our clients and giving them more inclusion.
“A profit is nice, but that’s not what we’re driven by. We’re going to continue (with the store), we’re going in the right direction.”
As the community employment instructor with CCW, Kelly Atwater is in the store at least once a week.
“Watching the clients working in there for the past year, their skill sets have increased tremendously and their self-esteem has increased as well. We’re very happy that it has turned into a competitive wage for them.”
With 75 clients within the CCW, Herron-Jacobs said some are isolated within other programs and don’t always deal with the public but have the chance to now.
“This also gives them the self-confidence to deal in the world,” she said.
When it comes to feedback over the past year, CCW executive director Don Hoadley said he’s heard nothing negative.
“We’ve had nothing but positive feedback and support,” he said. “We’re also making some good links with the youth in our community. We want the youth, and everyone, to know that it’s a safe place to come and not be judged.”
Hoadley said the United Way of Colchester County was a huge factor in helping get the store up and running with some equipment, and the CCW was able to secure some grants for various places, such as the province’s Department of Community Services.
The grants allowed them to bring 12 clients into the store to go through training periods.
“That was really important to us – we didn’t have the extra money and that allowed us to train them. Now we’re paying them out of our own funds,” said Herron-Jacobs.
“This was a risky venture for us,” said Hoadley. “It costs a lot to open a business, but we’ve been lucky so far. Well, it’s not luck. It’s a lot of hard work by everyone involved.”
While the store offers everything a variety store would typically offer, there is much more available to its customers, including antiques.
“We have everything from axe handles to birdhouses to ice cream,” said Hoadley, adding there are weekly food specials, such as chili and fish cakes, that the store is looking to expand upon.
“Our clients are now making things like banana bread. There are extra skills we can now teach our clients they can take elsewhere,” he said.
The store also offers numerous draws for products, such as a turkey for Thanksgiving and now a movie night, that Hoadley thinks customers appreciate.
“We don’t just want to serve the community, we want to be a part of it,” he said.
WHAT: Young Street Variety, a portal of the Colchester Community Workshops
WHERE: 96 Young St., Truro (corner of Young and Charles streets)
HOURS: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week
CELEBRATION: Saturday, Oct. 26 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.: first anniversary of opening; activities include a barbecue, petting zoo, entertainment, games and ice cream