Half a century on main ends for Joyce Mann
MUTING THE SHOEHORN..
Local retailer and McVeigh Shoes owner Joyce Mann has been a fixture on Manitoba Street for more than 50 years now. Come Dec. 24, she will be retiring and closing up shop with only the fondest memories of her time in business.
Photo by Neil Etienne
December 19, 2012
BRACEBRIDGE - For some 50 years, Joyce Mann’s path has been her own, but that doesn’t mean plenty of people haven’t walked a mile in her shoes too.
Like all of her merchant peers on main street, the end of day Christmas Eve will see Mann flip the closed sign over and shut up shop at McVeigh Shoes on Manitoba Street. The difference is it will be the last time Mann does so, as the long-time retailer and fixture of the main street has decided to retire.
“There comes a time that you just know it’s time to roll it in so to speak and I decided it was time for me,” Mann said. “It’s time to hang up the shoehorn.”
Mann, 68, began working on Manitoba Street at the age of 16 just a few doors down from McVeigh Shoes, which she purchased from the owners Ernie and Jessie McVeigh in the early 1980s. Her first exposure to retail came from Elliott’s Five to a Dollar Store which later became Stedmans. She stayed on with the retailer for many years, including when it moved across the street where Muskoka Bear Wear is now located.
Over the years, the storefront names have changed along the main street and eventually what was Patterson’s Shoes became McVeigh’s in the earlier ’70s and Mann made the switch to footwear.
“They (the McVeighs) were such wonderful people; very sophisticated but sometimes you wouldn’t know that by their incredible sense of humour,” she said with a laugh. “But they were very helpful to me, very supportive and taught me a lot.”
As the decade rolled on, Mann was given more and more responsibilities; even taking over purchasing for the McVeighs until eventually she said they asked her to purchase the business.
“I wanted to have my own store; I always liked the interaction with people, but it wasn’t something I really had ever dreamed about,” she said adding with a chuckle, “I probably know more about shoes than I ever wanted to.
“I’ve seen bad feet, I’ve seen bad socks, you just have to suck it up,” she added, saying many of those feet, good or bad, continued to walk through her doors through the years. “I saw a lot of big feet I knew I had sold shoes to when they were little.
“But over the years, I’ve had nothing but the greatest support from the community and my fellow merchants,” Mann said, recalling the first day she officially took over from the McVeighs. “We didn’t make a big splash of it, but I remember worrying and worrying that no one would come in; but it turned out to be a great day.”
Mann is handing the keys to her building, where she once stood in the comfort of her store to take in Santa Claus parades, relish midnight madness shopping events and watch the community stroll by, over to the owners of the Muskoka Bean coffee shop. However, the park bench out front of her store probably won’t be without her for terribly long. It was a place she eventually loved to perch herself, chatting with fellow merchants, community members or tourists, or just to watch the world go by.
“For years I never went outside or left the store, but then it hit me, ‘Hey, I own this now, I can do what I want,’ and I went outside,” she said. “I’ll miss that, but I don’t think I’ll be just sitting around.”
Fellow merchant Veila Wright, one of the owners of Sun Chasers, next door to McVeigh’s was first greeted by the friendly Mann some two years ago when she arrived from Niagara to set up shop and spent many days enjoying some sunshine on that bench.
“She really made us feel as if we belonged; she’s such a very good and kind person, I don’t think there’s an evil bone in her body,” Wright said, calling Mann generous and always willing to help. “Anytime I had a problem or a question I’d run right to her; now that she’s retiring, I don’t know what I’ll do.”
Mann says upon her retirement on Dec. 24 she doesn’t have any grandiose plans, but simply expects to enjoy the time with her retired husband Ronald.
As a way to say thank you to her loyal customers and her fellow merchants, Mann is holding a customer appreciation day on Dec. 22 from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. She said she plans to keep composed as the final day approaches, “but I’ll probably end up blubbering at some point.”
“But I really want to thank everybody for all their support and business over the years; I will miss everybody, but it’s time,” she said. “There’s been a lot of changes and this will be just another one.”
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