My Merritt Experience
“…I AM a “Merrittonian” now. When I leave to go back to the Coast I can’t wait to come home…”
Writing a blog about my “Merritt Experience” with business …….something I had never really thought about until Etelka Gillespie approached me a few months ago. That was when I was all sparkly and new to my job as the Executive Director for the Merritt & District Chamber of Commerce. What would I write about? Would people really want the perspective of a “Coastie” on Merritt?
For those of you who don’t know what a “Coastie” is, it is an endearing term used by “Merrittonians” to describe those of us born and raised on the BC West Coast that migrate to live in Merritt later in life. Ok, I have to admit, I don’t really look like I am from here. Still sporting a “Coastie” hair do, short and platinum, and even after almost 5 years (this July actually). I still get asked “you’re not from here are you”. It is pretty obvious! LOL. People know me by my hair, or my kid, and not necessarily by me personally. That’s all a part of my Merritt Experience.
I wanted to be close to family…
I am looking forward to telling you about my experiences with the businesses of Merritt. But for me, that really isn’t what brought me to Merritt. Not a job, or anything related to business. I moved here because my Mom, Dad, and Aunt live here (and my sister and her family now). But honestly, I moved because husband was dying of cancer after a long 7 year battle, and I needed support.
I wanted to be close to family as I started my journey as a single Mom, living on my own for the first time in my life. Merritt was a whole lot more affordable than living in Sardis BC. Who would have thought I would be a widow at 36 after 18 years with my husband? Nevertheless 15 days before Christmas, here I was. New to Merritt, just 5 months of living here, no friends yet really, and working from home for a company at the Coast.
Adjusting to Merritt surprisingly wasn’t as hard as I thought!
People recognized me as Maureen’s daughter (there may be a slight resemblance between me and my Mom) or just a “new” person. They accepted us, no questions asked. My daughter’s schoolmates, teachers, and parents supported us when her Dad passed away, even though they didn’t know us. Christmas gifts and casseroles, food baskets, cards and flowers were dropped off at the front door by people we didn’t even know. No explanations, just a Merry Christmas before we could even ask who they were. My late husband had touched people while volunteering with the Community Policing Office. Even in the short time he had been here, I couldn’t believe just how much.
Slowly I found myself venturing out more and more without having my husband to care for. I became a regular at some businesses. People wanted to know my name, where I was from. They remembered me and my daughter the next time we came in. It was so different from being at the coast, where there were simply too many people to remember just one.
The servers at the Home Restaurant knew my daughter loved the “Little Logger Breakfast” on the children’s menu and a hot chocolate, and they knew I loved the beef dip which I ate religiously unless it was breakfast time. As I became a regular to more and more businesses, I was greeted more often than not with familiar smiles, people who said “hey, we haven’t seen you in a while”. Even Jason at the mobile fruit stand that parks in the parking lot at Century 21 every summer asked how my husband was the following summer when I came back alone with my daughter (who he remembered by name). My “Merritt Experience” list was growing faster than I realized, all because of the people.
My Merritt Experience – I was a person, not just a customer!
Living in Merritt was becoming more and more about the experiences we were having. It was about being able to buy something from Creative Company that was different than the norm and showing off the great thing I found in Merritt, it was still being able to buy myself a nice designer top or jeans at Spaner and Webb or Work N Play.
And yet it was also about having the option to shop at a franchise store like WalMart, Canadian Tire or Extra Foods, but with one big difference. There were no long line ups and crowded aisles, even at those franchises, they knew us. We weren’t just another customer. It was different here, special, still large enough to have the option of shopping for what we needed but small enough that there was always a level of personal experience wherever we went. That is what started my love of living here, those people that chose to own or work for a business here.
It’s about the people who make the town what it is.
Eventually it got to the point where now, we can’t go somewhere without seeing someone we know, in fact it would be a rare exception to have that happen. But that is what Merritt is. It’s the place where you find friendly businesses, you experience them, you don’t just shop in them. It’s about the people who make the town what it is. They are the ones who welcome tourists with the open front doors in the summer time, and a place to warm up in the win
ter. The people love this town so much and want to see it thrive. They love to show off what Merritt is all about when visitors arrive and are directed to all the great places they can experience when they are here. (I could go on and on but I guess I should leave that part for another blog.)
I guess what I am trying to say is I AM a “Merrittonian” now.
When I leave to go back to the Coast I can’t wait to come home, and in fact I even have a shiny new husband who has come to join me here and opened a new business! He too fell in love with Merritt, the people, the experience, the lifestyle…..but that is another blog for another day.
I hope you will follow my blog and follow my EXPERIENCES with the businesses here, through what was a tourists eyes. Even now, in a lot of ways, it is still through the eyes of someone who “isn’t from here” originally but absolutely LOVES to live here now!
You will begin to understand why you will want to come here and see what the “Merritt Experience” is all about.