After 26 years selling clothing and gifts, JoAnne Willox is closing shop. She spent four months trying to sell Details by JoAnne through Remax and Imagine Kootenay but wasn’t able to find a qualified buyer and wasn’t prepared to invest in another season worth of stock.
“It’s time sensitive because orders have to be placed for the fall,” she said. “It’s bittersweet. I’m excited to go out and do another chapter in my life, but I have very teary days these days saying goodbye to some very good customers. It’s very emotional for me. This has been my life and my joy for so long, and it’s not carrying on so it’s very sad.”
A host of prospective buyers were intrigued by the possibility of taking over her business until they found out how much it costs to run, she said. The $100,000 cost to take it over and annual inventory costs of $250,000 scared off many of those who initially expressed interest.
One serious buyer who didn’t mind the costs couldn’t convince the bank to offer a big enough loan.
“You can’t change the economy and you can’t change that banks won’t loan money. That’s just the way it is with the economy these days,” Ms. Willox said. “So I have taken it off the market, and the store will close at the end of August.”
Pete Bourke, the executive director for the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce, said: “It’s unfortunate that the timeline didn’t work out for her to find a buyer… We definitely don’t want to see any doors closing.”
While “banks are being more and more cautious these days,” he said alternative financing opportunities for businesses may be available through initiatives like the East Kootenay Columbia Community Investment Co-op.
But Ms. Willox sees no alternative. While she loved the business and her customers, she’s too exhausted to continue. She’s been working seven days a week and said she hasn’t been able to take a holiday in 15 years.
“It’s a lot of work, but I was passionate. But my passion is gone now. I’m tired. Stress and working too much can do that to you,” she said. “The last few years have been a little tougher, but the whole Valley has seen that. It’s always a challenge. You’re always hoping and praying. But with the shift in the economy and people not spending the money or losing jobs and stuff, you have to shift with that.”
Invermere is a tricky place to do business, she said, because “we go from the highs to the very deep lows” when the seasons change and the visiting shoppers head back home.
When she first started her shop 26 years ago, it was in response to people begging her to do so. Over the years she’s loved helping people, giving locals fashion choices and “making them excited about what we’ve found for them.”
The store is still crammed with merchandise, but now everything down to the fixtures and a set of decorative outstretched hands is for sale. Bright scarves hang nearly to the floor, showing off their intricate patterns, while heart-shaped mementos share sweet sentiments.
“We’ve got lots of great stuff still. All new clothing. There are some great deals,” she said. “You have to try to really know who you’re selling to and your clients and your customer base and buy with them in mind… I thought I did pretty darn good. I listened to my clients. I tried to find what they were looking for.”
Ms. Willox is so fond of her customers she almost feels guilty about closing shop.
“I just want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. They made my life a joy,” she said. “I feel very blessed.”
Ms. Willox, 62, isn’t sure of her future plans. She wants to work for someone else, take a risk and build some kind of to-be-determined new life for herself.
“This is pretty scary too – and especially at my age – but I just know it has to be done.”