Friday, April 8, 2016

It's been a long time friends!

It’s been a loooong time since I’ve written one of these, maybe even like two years long so 
here goes, might get a little windy! I don't mean gassy, you get what I mean! Ha! 
I actually really miss writing almost everyday. When I first opened 7 years ago there was ample time for blogging and the Coriander Bits, but not so much anymore. This week having been bed ridden with the ol' plague, I've got time!  

So, what’s new?! 
For those of you who know me, you know I don’t stay idle for long. Apparently, I like a challenge, the bigger the risk the greater the reward and so I run face first at it!
Coriander Girl has been the single most challenging/rewarding entity in my life that nothing prior could have ever prepared me for, a steep uphill climb is an understatement but I always felt the wind at my back and a village cheering me on. 

Do you know the story? I like to tell it as often as possible because it reminds me of all the beauty in this world. I was that wide eyed child of 30 claiming that if we could build it, they would come. It didn’t matter that I signed a lease with only $50 to my name, I had heart and I knew if I could just get the doors open the rest would fall into place. Why was I so broke at the time? My bartending job at the ACC was seasonal and I hadn't had an acting gig in quite some time so the funds were dangerously low. Sometimes those moments of desperation help spur major change. It was either find a new job or make something happen. The women I admired most were out there taking names! It was my turn to step up or settle in to someone else's plan. 
So there I went, I wrote a wildly optimistic business plan and approached my Nana for a loan, that was after every bank in Ontario laughed me out the door. With my face held tight in her hands and tears in our eyes she looked intense, “how much do you need?!” 
I could have said anything I suppose, but I asked to borrow ten grand. I guess I really do like a challenge. After a meeting with Dad to discuss the reno we were flying. 'Coriander Dad,' as you know, has a way of making anything feel achievable. With all hands on deck we opened the doors a month later, Nana helped cut the ribbon.  

When I think back on those early days, I’m amazed we got through it, Tyler and I. 
We sacrificed a lot after we were married. We slept on the shop floor for a time, endless late nights for me. Always the last shop to lock up for the night and the first one there in the morning. Being a lady boss is full of impossible expectations and you just have to soldier through because you believe in it and because...well…you have no other choice. Ultimately, I believed that one day things would get easier and the strife would be worth it. I’m not going to lie, there were days I felt like a scared little mole in the dark, (some of you will appreciate this reference;) Each new experience as a business owner helping guide future choices, mostly not wanting to make the same mistake twice but sometimes you do anyway. With the addition of incredible lady crew members, Tellie Hunt, Amira Shabason we've turned a corner. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned in business is letting go, let good people do what they do best and I'm not allowed to set the prices. Apparently in another life I ran a very charitable organization. This was a revelation, getting out of my employees way so they could do their jobs. I also encourage their own identities within the company. I’m sure there are a million schools of thought against this idea but I’ve got to listen to my gut on this one.  
As we grow, we’ve had good folks come and go from the crew, I learned a lot from my experiences with our employees.  Our team has settled in now like a well worn pair of jeans and we’ve got good reliable freelancers on the side to help when needed. At some point over the last 7 years floristry became really cool and so we’re blessed to have such an incredible resource of talented designers to choose from.  

After giving birth to our daughter 2 years ago this June, I thought I was slowing down by moving to the county, but remember when I said I don’t stay idle for long? It only took 2 months of pushing a stroller along main street to find a place just begging for Coriander Girl PEC. 
The thing is, believe it or not, the drive in me comes from a deep desire to simplify. I know my actions might seem like a contradiction but trust me, there is a method to what seems like total and utter madness. 
And that brings us to Water Road in Sophiasburgh, Prince Edward County. 
We saw this property on MLS almost 3 years ago. I literally gasped and quite possibly cried tears as I shouted to Tyler from another room, “I found our house!! It has a church on the property!!!” I dreamt of how this could be the evolution of Coriander Girl, hosting small ceremonies and workshops. I imagined us raising our family there, riding our bikes along the county roads, late night fires with friends. Truly a dream because our reality could not afford it and so I had to put it out of my mind…well sort of. 
A few years later, a baby, a newly opened Coriander PEC and a flourishing Coriander Toronto, we were just barely in a position to look at Water Road but it was still available! I probably had no business looking at it, but remember that thing I mentioned about heading face first into a challenge?
We saw the property on a very crisp day last February. John Brisley, darling owner and preservationist, met us in the lane and he walked us through sharing stories along the way of the incredible move and rebuild. Both the home and church are from different parts of Ontario! The Brisley’s are serious preservationists and have devoted their lives to restoration. I cried tears again as I approached the front door, “It’s our house,” I whispered. We left and we knew we had to try, but this deal was going to take a miracle of sorts. I’m a firm believer in Karma, and if there ever was a time I needed to cash one in, the time was now. Picture a montage of moments, let's add a sound track...(That's what friends are for ~ Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Elton John) Okay here's me helping cute older ladies up streetcar steps, giving my seat up on the subway, that time I waited in the pouring rain to hail a taxi for a pregnant woman wearing impossible shoes and a ridiculous amount of groceries, “Stilettos on a Tuesday morning at Fresh Co? You're my hero lady.”  It was going to take more than convincing the bank to take a chance on me. I needed angels this time. 
Well..a miracle happened, angels came! (And you know who you are.) We closed on March 16th, 2016 after months and months…and months of any and every possible kind of hoop I needed to hop through, I hopped. Picture me, bobbing and weaving and hopping and slopping my way through a real estate obstacle course that would make any MLS junkie’s head pop right off. I thought I was seasoned but this was next level shizzle. Derrick Morgan, Libby Crombie, Shelagh Mathers, and James Bar you're all geniuses. I gambled slightly on one of the conditions. I can say it now but there is a reason I didn’t sleep much in 2015. We needed to sell our house in order to close the deal but I waived that condition because I believed it would happen swiftly. Didn’t matter that some houses on our street had been for sale for years, our buyers were out there! Thanks to Johnny Lam, the cutest couple in the land saw the beautiful pics and bought the house only 3 weeks after being on the market. Foolishly or brilliantly I tend to not think about the 'what if’s.' 

So, here I sit, writing this from my newly appointed lady space. It’s a room all my own, looking out across a field of wheat-y looking grasses and glorious trees, a stream trickles in the distance. A place to dream. I’m surrounded by the things that bring me joy, a desk, a comfortable chair, a few crystals, my fierce bunnies, a perfect portrait of Tyler taken just around that sweet spot when we knew we were falling in love and didn’t need food or sleep so he’s kind of heroine chic. Speaking of sleep, Hattie is asleep in the next room. Knowing we’re home now, I think we're all sleeping better than we have in years. I feel like I can exhale for the first time in a long time, not that I don't have to continue to hustle but the last couple of years have been ridiculously hard. 
For me, this home is an opportunity to really dig in, literally I can dig in the soil for days. And what's better, Tyler can come on board with his music and food and hospitality background. Together we want to make magic here. We're aiming for 2017 to be fully operational. I'm currently working on the business model for the event space and this summer we'll test it out with a few events/workshops. For any inquiries you can email 

So, you wanna see it?! Let me show you around. 

This 200 year old colonial was lovingly numbered, dismantled board by board and then moved all the way from Cobourg to this lovely 12 acre parcel of land in Sophiasburgh. John and Diane Brisley are extraordinary people, dedicated to the preservation of historic buildings. It's an honour for us to carry the torch and celebrate these monuments for years to come. Lucky for us, the Brisley's remain our neighbours living just across the street in the Demille house built in 1818. Diane baked an apple pie to welcome us last week and soup and cornbread showed up yesterday, we could get used to this;) 

This church originally resided in Adolphustown. The Brisley's read in the paper it was going to be burned down and they rescued her, moving it to the same property on Water Road. Lovely fact, my friend Alex Fida and his Dad helped rebuild this church and Alex helped build the dry stone wall. 

The stone wall was built later as it's reminiscent of the cemetery on the original church property. This would be a perfect spot to toast a glass of Hinterland after a wedding ceremony don't you think?

A log cabin was also rescued and added to the back of the Cobourg house, it's now are kitchen.

Here's my office. When Tyler and I moved in we ran around the house and chose our own office/music/craft rooms, that was too much fun. It turns out my room is the warmest in the house,  a very happy accident. 

Looking out at the wilds from my office window.   

Believe the hype, Prince Edward County is a special place.  The folks here are true gems, both the locals and transplants have proven to be some of the most kind and supportive people I've ever met. It's truly a beautiful place and I'm honoured to call it home. It's always been Tyler's home so he laughs when I go on and on about it but I can't help it, I'm in love with where we live. I wish my Nan could see it but she passed away this winter. I imagined her there the day we moved in, cutting the ribbon as we crossed the threshold. I know she's cheering us on. 
I can't wait to show you all what we have planned. Thank you to everyone for your continued love and encouragement. Coriander Girl thrives because of your mighty hearts!  

Alison xo 


Tasha said...

Oh Alison, what an amazing and beautiful story! You've worked so incredibly hard and this magical place is seems like it was waiting for you!

Unknown said...

Well done you!. I am proud to know you and you have a special place in my heart.
Can't wait to visit.
Huge hugs

Antique Sue said...

I know the Brisleys and the property you have purchased, and I am so happy that you love it as much as they did (do) and will make it shine. Best of luck.

nicki said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story! It captured everything I love about the County and why I am working so hard towards getting there myself, with an equally scary business plan of sorts. I keep thinking I'm either insane, oblivious, or somehow I've stumbled onto a secret plan that just has to work....

Mel said...

Wow! A dream...
Keep doing what you're doing. You are inspiring! And so humble! All the best in you new home. Can't wait to see what you do with this. Keep dreaming and diVing head first... it's your thing and you have proven you do it right!

Avenue Photo said...

Insanely perfectly imperfect story. Congratulations!! It's beautiful.

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