Woodstock Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award, October 2016
I am a native of Woodstock. I’ve always had a great passion for life, arts, music, gardening and people. My education is grade 12, and I am a self-taught artist.
I was a mother at a young age, and thoroughly enjoyed growing up with my two God given children: Jeff and Nicole. They have been tremendous gifts and blessings to me.
It was wonderful to have the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom, and also to incorporate ways in which I was able to earn a small income, while at home with Jeff and Nicole.
I guess you could say that I always had the entrepreneur spirit in me!
Often I cared for other children in my home. It was a time for Jeff and Nicole to establish fun relationships and to interact with other children.
I made and sold crafts, macramé, Avon, and gave tole painting classes. It was a wonderful way to express my creativity. Later, as my children grew older, I took a part-time job at Sears. This was my introduction to retail.
My love of retail started at Sears in Moncton, and was followed by a six-year stint at the Woodstock Duty Free Shop. My late daughter Nicole encouraged me to follow our dream of opening a retail store. A year after Nicole’s tragic death in a car accident, I turned our dream into reality and opened “Barb’s Dresser Drawers” at 124 Connell Street, downtown Woodstock on September 1st, 1994.
On August 2009, after 15 years of retail service to the public, I decided to take a stab at retirement. My niece Tammy Keenan purchased Barb’s Dresser Drawers. The next four years I focused my attention on caring for my aging mother, mother in-law, and volunteer work.
In the spring of 2013, I started to get restless for retail and the interaction with people. The result was a new direction with the opening of “Whispering Gardens Boutique” in June of 2013.
Exceptional client service partnered with service to the public has always been my philosophy.
Located in a 150-year-old Victorian home, Whispering Gardens is not your typical store!
The arbors, the flowers, the gazebo, Barb’s paintings, the meandering walkway… It’s not unusual for Customers to linger while taking in the sights before entering the store. Your senses are bombarded again as you open the door! At Whispering Gardens, the WalMart greeter is a black and white stray cat named Delilah who adopted the store as her home, who feels it is her job to greet customers who enter the store.
The smell of fresh bread baking in the oven floats in the store air. And finally, of course Barb’s electric energy combined with her genuine smile greets you to Whispering Gardens.
Whispering Gardens is a thriving retail store in the heart of vibrant downtown Woodstock. But to Barb it is so much more!
Barb engages her customers and the downtown with an open heart. The store has hosted weddings, art shows and bus tours. The veranda has been the stage for outdoor gospel concerts. Many wedding and graduation pictures have been taken in the flower gardens. Warm loaves of fresh bread are delivered often after closing time to one of Woodstock’s less fortunate residents.
Whispering Gardens may be located in the “heart” of downtown Woodstock, but Barb’s huge “heart” for people is what makes it a special place!
Whispering Gardens is in an historical 150-year-old home
The home was originally owned by Dr. Connell (son of Charles Connell who built and owned the Connell house museum) which is located next door.
The Boutique has a very relaxed and cozy/inviting atmosphere, with an intriguing entrance. In the summer, you will experience lovely arbors, full of cascading blooms of creeping Virginias, morning glories, clematis, and scarlet runners. As you continue up the meandering walkway, you will enjoy many gorgeous planters filled with assortments of luscious flowers, enchanting music and a tranquil trickling water fountain.
Your senses are bombarded, as you step inside to a peaceful atmosphere created by a distinctive aromatherapy spa line of candles, lotions, and relaxing music, and very often the aroma of fresh baked bread in the oven.
After the ladies’ spouses enjoy the beautiful architecture inside, they will often find their way to the gazebo outside where they enjoy the garden filled surroundings, or simply read a newspaper.
Each parlor has high ceilings and ornate woodwork which adds to the beauty of this unique shopping experience.
Here at Whispering Gardens, you will find a variety of ladies clothing, summer sandals, winter boots, April Cornell linens, fashions and much more depending on the season.
The purchasing of inventory has always been very challenging for me. There is so much on the market to choose from. I always spend sufficient time studying orders during each season, ensuring I’ve made the best choices available for my clientele and the Boutique. I like to find a balance between fair prices and of course good quality. As the owner of a business, it requires many long hours, self-motivation, hard work and dedication. Internet shopping has become the latest challenge for retailers, especially during the Christmas season.
For myself, the most rewarding aspect of being an entrepreneur is my interactions with the people, and the relationships I establish with them. At the end of the day, I feel great satisfaction from sharing our stories or lending a listening ear. I believe that if you are passionate about your work, it will certainly play a huge part in how successful you will become.
Whispering Gardens is not your typical shopping experience! The ambiance of this Victorian home makes the experience exceptional. The two main parlors are great for the clothing and home décor items. Two additional rooms to display linens, nightwear, boots and summer sandals. Not only does the store have a good size yard for parking, but across the street are two large public parking lots. Best of all “Delilah” (the store cat) loves to meet and greet the customers.