Welcome to the Empressive Gift Shop . . . a one stop shopping opportunity deep in the Canadian Badlands. Drop in when you're in the neighborhood! Everybody else does. The gallery is great, the food is awesome and the locals will be happy to make your acquaintance because they love fresh meat.
Bring your wallet when you come because I'm wanting to sell you:
From the photograph, you probably guessed that my gift shop and cafe are housed in an old bank building, and you're right. See the history here.
Although ‘the bank’ is no longer a chartered money laundering institution I'm set up to accept your hard earned dollars. Whether it be part of a legitimate transaction (art in exchange for dollars, for example) or you just feel sorry for me and want to make a contribution to my financial well being, I've kept the vault in operational order so that I can take your deposit. I don't do withdrawals.
The coffee is always on, the kettle on the boil and there's a constant stream of friendly faces to greet you and ask personal questions. That's because over the years the gallery has become a bit of a hang-out and in a small community like this one everyone just assumes that whoever walks in the door is in need of a friend.
It all starts at six in the morning. The photo at the top would have been taken earlier than that because there are no cars parked out front and the sun in the east is low on the horizon. Look closely and you can see the long shadow from a telephone pole stretching across the road. You can also see peonies in bloom so the picture must have been taken in June.
There's a line-up for coffee when the doors open if there happens to be a pipeline or drilling crew in town. Shortly after the crews leave in the morning, a few old timers and locals on their way to work begin to straggle in. They gather to re-hash last nights news, catch up on local happenings, and comment on whatever takes their fancy. At eight o'clock they all stand up and go home for breakfast each leaving $1.50 on the table for their bottomless cup of coffee.
Another group starts coming in about nine o'clock...ranchers who have already fed their stock, housewives, or travelers who have stopped for fuel (next gas station is 120 kilometres down the road). The circle repeats again mid-afternoon when our next door neighbor. Russ, (that's him on the left) takes his tea break. Do you notice the open vault door?
Despite our remote location ... 12 kilometres off the nearest secondary highway ...folks find us. Sometimes because they're desperate for gas. But many, many times people make a point of finding our gift shop because of word of mouth advertising.
I once had a young man open the door and say, "Hi! You must be Pat."
"That's me, "I said. "Where are you from?"
"California. My neighbour shopped here last year and told me that if I was ever in the area to come in and say hi!"
Can you imagine what a banker would have said ten years ago if I had knocked on his door asking for a business loan to set up a gift shop in a decaying prairie village? He would never have believed that I was going to be so damn good that I'd attract word of mouth customers from California.
Me neither. Lucky I didn't need his money or my little gift shop and I wouldn't be doing what we do now!