Bamboo Fly Rods, Change and the Accidental Retailers

 “If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.”  – Robert Fritz

Late night in the shop…my class!

Over three years ago, we had outgrown our “cottage” inspired home workshop after a decade plus and needed more space immediately. So, with a three day old baby in the back seat, we set out to find a workspace that could fit our ever expanding family bamboo fly rod business.

While roaming around, we literally took a wrong turn down Main Street in our new hometown of Blue Ridge, Georgia.   Then, while trying to get off that one way street, the  former run-down “Dip n’ Dots” in town and big “FOR LEASE” sign caught our eye.

“Yuk”, I said.

“Ooooo…that’s cool”, Bill said.

“I am not cleaning it”, I said.

“Let’s call the leasing agent”, Bill said.

“I am not cleaning it”, I said.

A few minutes later…

“The agent will be here in 15 minutes”, Bill said.

“Do you think the ceiling is supposed to be on the floor, Bill”, I said.

“I’ll see if we can move in Thursday”, Bill said.

“I am not cleaning it”, I said.

After a mild negotiation and a professional cleaning, the run down old Dippin Dots in town was all ours…

And, by Thursday, we were ready to work.  However, there was a big surprise on the horizon…

New baby, locked doors and hanging tarps times.

Because we were on Main Street in the rapidly growing tourist area of Blue Ridge, Georgia, people would just walk into our shop…just come in as if they were entitled to some piece of us.  At first, this freaked me out so bad I locked the doors, hung up paint tarps in the windows and left out of the back door of the building so no one would even see me.  Okay, so I had just had a baby…give me a break.  For those of you unfamiliar…when you have a baby…you get a little crazy.  I am assuming there is no need to elaborate.

So, here we are…on Main Street trying to make bamboo fly rods for a living, bringing in students from all over the country to teach and raising  two small children all in a run down ice cream shop.

Bill And Henry Williamson in front of the shop

You know where this is going, right?  Eventually, we unlocked the doors, tarps came down and we used the front entrance instead of sliding in and out of the back unnoticed.

Doors unlocked…Oyster showroom

We were warming to the retail lifestyle. We renovated the shop (as much as possible), filled the “showroom” with “merchandise” and opened our hearts to the life of a retailer…sort of.   Most of all, we became part of something bigger than us…we stumbled upon a sub culture of fellow business owners, artists and group of dreamers like ourselves.

Main Street in Blue Ridge, Georgia is the true “Street of Dreams”.

We are honored to be a small part of it.

My children are almost a science experiment (the children raised by Main Street).

When Bill called the leasing agent (who…by the way…as a direct result…is a dear friend of mine now), our lives made a drastic change.

 Change is hard. 

Change leads to growth.

Growth is good.

As I sit in this “dump” for one of the final times, I can not help but remember…

…Roni has literally spent most of her life rolling around the floors beneath me.

…Cutter became a full fledged boy in front of my eyes here fly tying and breaking away.

…Bill’s mother moved here from South Georgia after visiting and enriched all of our lives to infinity.

Oyster Bamboo grew as a company in every possible way.

…Total strangers have walked through our doors and left as our friends.

…My own connection to my parents and my past deepens as a stroll Main Street remembering how we would visit here on a regular basis growing up.

...We have made friends...real friends...the kind you never expect to come your way as a grown up.

…Yogi spent his last hours in my arms here.

Riley and Quinn

…Just when I thought my heart could not grow any further, Riley, Quinn, Ian, and Molly the dog came into our lives and proved me wrong.  We have them because they entered through our newly unlocked doors.

Quinn aka “SuSu”

So…why so nostalgic?

We are moving in our new space (four doors down) in the very short future and I can not believe I am about to say this but I am going to miss this place.  While I have affectionately referred to it as “the dump” for years, I now see it as a stepping stone of all kinds.

That wrong turn turned into something very right.

Go figure.

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