Not only as husband and wife but also as business partners in a unique Downtown Truro operation, the Nova Scotian Emporium and Fireside Tearoom.
They haven’t always been business partners. Brenda notes she was on her own for the first seven or eight years she was in business, while Clarence ran a dairy farm in Upper Stewiacke.
She started with a shop called Totally Nova Scotian in Bible Hill, then relocated to Truro Mall before they purchased the building they currently occupy on the corner of Prince and Outram streets.
With two large floors of retail space at the new location, as well as plans for an onsite tearoom, Brenda felt it was just too much for her to manage alone. The timing was perfect, since Clarence had begun developing allergies that meant operating a dairy farm was no longer a good idea.
“I had always liked having my own retail store,” said Brenda. “So this move to downtown where we could own the building and expand was a natural progression for me.”
Clarence, on the other hand, said, “I just sort of fell into it.”
At first, his main connection to the shop was managing the line of quality furniture they decided to introduce. But it wasn’t long before he was running the tearoom and expanding the bill of fare to a full restaurant menu.
“I’ve always liked to cook and especially to bake, but didn’t have a lot of time for it on the farm, aside from preparing Sunday dinners,” Clarence said. “But I love offering good food and good service and making customers happy.”
He notes that, in hindsight, using the term ‘tearoom’ was probably a misnomer, “because it tends to make people think we only offer snack items like muffins and cookies, whereas in reality we now have a full menu with everything from salads and chowders to lasagnas and fish cakes, plus a variety of delectable desserts and a whole lot of other freshly prepared items for breakfast or lunch.”
In fact, the tearoom has expanded twice and a bakery has also been added.
“The combination of the emporium with the tearoom is really what has made the business viable” said Brenda.
“The emporium has continued to evolve over the years, too. As the name ‘emporium’ suggests, we carry a wide variety of items and are always adding new lines. We have everything from giftware to kitchen items, bedding to baby products, linens, jewelry, purses, high quality chocolates....and the list goes on. We’ve even introduced a ladies consignment clothing section upstairs. There’s something of interest here for almost everyone.”
Brenda notes it’s a unique environment for downtown shoppers.
“People like having an opportunity to see what’s new in the emporium when they stop in for lunch, or being able to stop for a relaxing cup of tea or coffee and a fresh-baked treat after they’ve browsed through the gift shop. Moving downtown to this location has definitely proven to be a wise decision.”
The couple likes the building so much they now even live in it.
“When we first moved to Truro, we lived in a heritage home downtown, but a few years ago we created a condo on the third floor of the business and we now live upstairs. It’s so convenient – we love it,” said Brenda.
What do they like most about their business partnership?
“You can get your spouse to do jobs you might not ask an employee to do,” Brenda laughed.
“We don’t have a problem working together,” Clarence added. “There’s a lot of give and take.”
They agree that a commitment to offering excellent service is key to survival in the retail/service industry.
“We have nine faithful employees we rely on to help us achieve that goal,” Brenda said. “And having the opportunity to chat with our customers is what makes coming to work a pleasure every day.”
Grace Murray is the promotions and marketing director for the Downtown Truro Partnership. Her column features downtown businesses and appears monthly in the Truro Daily News.