Our move to Whitewright was made possible by our family’s penny pinching habits. No cable, only basic cell phone service, second hand everything and two fairly well paying jobs allowed us to save up enough money that we felt comfortable moving to a location before finding employment there.
In the city my husband owned a lawn care company and he had a long list of customers that he routinely took care of. In an ideal world we would have moved closer to the metroplex in order to keep that already established business. However, we felt we could do the next best thing…. relocate the business to wherever we moved. We learned quickly that there were a few hitches in that giddy up though. 1. There is no code enforcement in small towns and therefore there is no motivation to keep your yard up. 2. Barb wire and other farm instruments can cause havoc on lawn equipment and 3. Everything a mower can do can be done quicker and easier with a tractor…. which we do not own. After 6 months of valiant effort, my husband called his three regular paying customers and told them that he was retiring from the business.
In the interim, I grew restless. Country life was eating at me. I missed civilization. I missed choices. I missed people. I loved my family and all of my pets but I was tired of looking out and only seeing them day in and day out. So one day, Nick and I decided to drive to the small town of Denison. There I fell in love. While Denison, Tx. has approximately half the population that Sherman, Tx. does, it is by far cuter. We strolled the historic downtown area and were amazed by all of the art galleries and studio lofts. There were fabulous antique stores with wonderful prices and just a fun sense of ambiance and history rolled together. I was smitten.
The next week, I found myself looking at a real estate guide for Grayson County. (I sometimes love to look at the booklets and dream of having a little more money, a little more land, and a warmer house.) What I noticed as I perused this issue, though, were not the grander single family homes but, instead, the commercial buildings for sale in downtown Denison. Specifically, a building called The Tucker that was listed for $20,000 and contained almost 8,000 square feet. I called a realtor and made an appointment immediately. Until then, I hadn’t ever thought I could own so much history at such a low price.The Tucker Building ended up being more of a diamond in the rough than I could afford though. However, with two elegant and leaking skylights, original flooring, a crumbling stone wall, outdated electric and plumbing, I was hooked. I searched out another building to buy and elevate my title to real estate tycoon.
So with the backing of my mother and my family we bought a building in Denison. Everything seemed to scream out profit. We were buying when the prices of property were extremely low. It sat across from the Rialto Theater and several other prominent businesses. It had a business already located downstairs with an income of $700 a month. That would take care of mortgage and taxes, plus some. Then with a loft upstairs we could rent it out and make enough to supplement our income. Win. Win. Win. Except, immediately after signing the paperwork the business owner downstairs became gravely ill and needed to close up shop. After that, the Rialto Theatre was foreclosed on. Then another across from me was foreclosed on, and a month later, the building directly beside me was foreclosed on. I brought death to downtown Denison.
What immediately became apparent was that I could NOT have another empty building in downtown Denison. The space would NEVER rent with so many other properties on the market and a lack of foot traffic on the street. So, with the blessing of the previous owners I took over their business…. an art gallery.
I can not sugar coat this…. in 2010 art does not sell.
Nick hit the pavement…. or rather, the computer, to find a job. What seems like it should have been so obvious to us wasn’t… small town businesses only hire family and friends. Well, of course they do. I would too. However, this meant that Nick’s employer would have to be a minimum of half an hour away. (There was definitely a moment or two in this transition that I seriously questioned our wisdom in moving out of the city.)
To make a long process sound short, Nick was hired in the Bakery department of Walmart.
My husband, is not a typical ego driven person. He worked there and he worked hard and he never thought down on the experience. A job is a job. He is nothing like my friend, Lindsay, or I. She took a job at McDonalds, in a small town in Wyoming, calling it a “socioeconomic experiment”. I worked at the restaurant in the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and compared myself to Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting. “Will” and I were both geniuses who worked menial jobs in buildings that were congruent with our talents. Nick, though, worked at Walmart because they paid him.
He came home daily rattling off his experiences with the corporation which is Walmart and the slaves which are their employees and their customers. Now, my husband is great beyond measure. I could easily tie up every love song, in the world, with a big pink bow and place them in my heart just for him. With that said, he is not without fault. 90% of the time he chooses forgiveness but 10% of the time frustration or anger gets the better of him… and Nick does not do passive aggressive. He does retaliation. What is amazing, is that somehow the gods shine down on this, lining up the stars, and clearing the way in order to make events line up so it is possible. My favorite story of his stint at Walmart was this: A night manager made his job difficult. Everyday, Nick would go to him for a pricing gun. Everyday the manager would say, “Give me a minute. I will get back to you.” I would hear the same story, constantly, the only element to change being Nick’s response to it. One day the manager responded, “Give me a minute and I will get back to you.” Nick decided to sit down on the floor and just wait, people passing him as he silently protested. Another time, he heard, “Give me a minute. I will get back to you.” and Nick decided to interrupt a conversation between he and another manager saying, “can we not talk and walk at the same time?” Then one day the gods shined down, the stars lined up, and the way was cleared for events to line up…. This manager was in a store room moving things around with a forklift. It was a small room and before he knew it he had boxed himself in with all of the crates he had been moving. At that moment, Nick walked in. The manager asked, “Could you please get a pallet jack and help me get out of here? I am trapped.” What was Nick’s response? “Give me a minute. I will get back to you” and he left him.
Wednesday- Saturday I would drive in to Denison and sit at my desk, staring at the vacant buildings around me and wishing for customers that never set foot through my door. One day, after visiting a Lowes Home Improvement store it dawned on me. To flourish, Lowes diversified. They sold pet supplies. They sold childrens outdoor toys. They sold books. On my drive in to work, daily, I saw small business that served multiple functions in order to stay afloat.
At that moment I decided to add furniture to the store. It was a leap to get from fine art to second hand furniture but, honestly, there was little choice. Thus, Et Cetera was created…
After Christmas, Walmart tries to recoup the extra money that it paid it’s employees for the holiday work. In doing so, the majority of people have their hours cut in half. At that moment, Nick and I decided to “burn the ships” in reference to the historic conquest of Cortez. He quit his job and we set off to do whatever it would take to make this business a success. It is advice I would give anyone. Try. You won’t drown, you won’t die.
We incorporated furniture in with the art in May (8 months ago). Sales have been great. It is an interesting blend of retro pieces, shabby painted furniture, and of course, fine art. If you are ever in Denison, Tx, stop in. I can point out all of the new businesses that have sprung up around me and the great deals still available on buildings here. If nothing else, we can gripe about Walmart together. 🙂 Either way, I guarantee that you will be just as smitten with the history and ambiance as I was.