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Rossmore Renaissance

Just over the Bay Bridge on Highway 62 sits Rossmore, the first port of call for many visitors to The County. Just about everything you may need can be found in here from a memorial stone, to pizza, to gas, a hair cut or a bottle of wine.

If you took a straw pole of the general public and asked what other word they would most associate with the word ‘business,’ I would bet the next word would be ‘man.’ In recent times, the Rossmore business community has been joined by some new enterprises with a common theme of being headed up by women who have taken on major renovation projects.

The Dressing Room is now a very attractive building with its own car park, but many will remember the dilapidated old shack that occupied the corner spot before it underwent such a remarkable transformation. Prior to becoming a fashion retailer, owner Lori Foster was a professional figure skater who spent time travelling between Toronto and Montreal with her students for competitions and in search of skates and outfits. A friend suggested that it might be a good idea for her to sell skates from home. The success of that lead to the opening of the original Dressing Room in Wellington, selling dancewear, swimwear and outfits for gymnasts.

Lori and her staff are fully committed to helping fund charities their community supports, and with fashions shows have raised, over a hundred thousand dollars for the Canadian Cancer Society, Prince Edward County Hospital Foundation, the Regent Theatre and the Women’s Shelter. Currently the team is focussing their efforts on supporting Tears Mean Love which is helping over fifty clients meet the unpredictable financial and emotional challenges of treating pediatric cancer.

The Dressing Room is in the business of empowering lives. Lori observes that, “You can buy clothes anywhere, but at The Dressing Room we build confidence through fashion and creativity, one outfit at a time. Colour is most important to lift both spirit and mood. We can dress women for every event and occasion with products sourced from Canadian Designers. Please check our Facebook page for daily updates.

Whilst the exterior of the former LCBO premises remains largely unchanged, the interior underwent a huge transformation before switching its identity to The Green Root. Now the building’s historic agricultural architectural reference is much more sympathetic to the speciality health food store that occupies the site.

From the germ of an idea, to a little sprouting seed, The Green Root has grown into the fully fledged vision of three generations of the same family: a mother, her three daughters and a grandmother. This locally owned and operated business is very much a family affair.

Kimberly and Mariah Line suffered for many years with a variety of painful digestive disorders that defied medical diagnosis. Consequently, the pair took it upon themselves to analyse the problem with a lifestyle change and by careful observation of their diet. By trial and error and a process of elimination they were able to learn which foods to avoid. Satisfying their new diets imposed the challenge of finding the necessary ingredients and this was the catalyst that brought The Green Root to fruition.

The Green Root’s mission would be as a one stop shop for those dealing with dietary dilemmas, a source of helpful products, information, and sympathetic advice from people who have personally experienced the impact of nutritional intolerance. They focus on loving your body and understanding your body’s needs in respect of foods and food types.

In stock are organic products, and products that are gluten free or suitable for vegetarians and vegans, or appropriate for those following specific dietary regimes such as keto, diabetic, low sugar, or fodmap.

Kassandra says, “We can guide people to better health with a specialised plan that will make customers feel good about themselves.”

Besties sprang to life from the most unprepossessing of starts. Blaze Hymus and her brother in law identified the site just opposite The Dressing Room as potentially a good location for their new pet care store. But the building was almost a tear down and of all our five feisty female entrepreneurs, the prize for the most dramatic transformation and contribution to local architecture must be awarded to Besties. Blaze tells me, “It was designed to reflect an old pet store I remember from my childhood. Our designer combined a comfortable small-town atmosphere with city design cues. So, we are in part historic, with the distressed strip wood ceiling and part funky with the spectacular orange and black swirled poured concrete floor. This is reflected in the corrugated metal clad orange and black exterior. It’s fun building that no one will drive by without taking a look.”

After twenty-one years working in mental health care and group homes, Blaze was looking to achieve two objectives, firstly a career change and secondly to spend more time at home with the family. After exploring various business options, she decided to combine her life-long love of animals with a business venture. “And that’s how we ended up here.”

Whilst small of stature Fidel Matthews is a lady possessed of an immensely resilient character. A hint of a boxer in her stance suggests a military bearing and exudes a don’t mess with me attitude. I first met Fidel a long time ago, when she had just acquired the former doctor’s office and the idea of the floatation centre was merely an aspiration: not even a set of architect’s plans. An unfortunate choice of contractor for the extensive renovations and installation of the floatation tanks caused an entire catalogue of delays and costly problems. This issue is the now the subject of legal proceedings and when the time is right, Grapevine Magazine will tell this story for the benefit of all aspiring entrepreneurs.

Like The Green Root, this is a story of personal experience translating into a business opportunity. Slipping on ice whilst being a good Samaritan, delivering lunch to a friend, exacerbated a previous parachuting injury and left Fidel with chronic neck pain and torn ligaments in her back. The pain was so bad that Fidel had to have help from her husband to put her socks on and became dependent on very strong painkillers to function. “I was miserable and would rather have stabbed myself in the eye than go through life depending on another person to get dressed in the morning.”

To regain some movement, my massage therapist suggested that I try floating, and I loved it, but better than that, I was cured within the month. Then I realised that if it could do that for me, what could it do for everyone else?”

Fidel invited me to try it. One Saturday evening I turned up feeling a little apprehensive. First one takes a shower, then I gingerly stepped into the tank, the water is dense with magnesium salts and feels thick like syrup…floating requires no effort at all. I settled in for the experience then realised I hadn’t pulled the lid closed. (Note to self…pull the lid down partially on entering the pod.) Then I turned off the lights and was left in the darkness listening to a soothing musical soundtrack punctuated with birdsong. I lay there waiting for something to happen, like an out of body experience or connecting with my inner bliss. And then I was listening to birdsong again and beginning to surface from what I now realize was the most profound sleep I’ve had in a long time. Exiting the pod, it is time for another shower…I‘ve never been so clean! That evening I slept like a log and have been trying to fully evaluate the experience, certainly it is enjoyable and calming. Floating has a range of health benefits including helping with magnesium deficiency, as this is absorbed through the skin, and is beneficial for PTSD, anxiety disorders and chronic pain. I plan to return and develop my floatation skills, but thanks to Fidel, we no longer have to go any further than Rossmore to enjoy the Red Sea experience.

From 2015 to 2017, Jessica Freeman was enjoying an idyllic life working in a small local pharmacy in the Turks and Caicos Islands. “It was an amazing time and a great opportunity, but I was missing my mother, my family and horse riding.” However, those Caribbean islands’ loss is our gain. It’s hard to imagine that the lure of opening her own pharmacy in Rossmore attracted Jessica away from such an exotic setting, but let’s be thankful that those of us in the north end of The County no longer have to schlep across the bridge in search of our medication.

Externally apart from the new signage, Pharmasave in Rossmore looks pretty similar to how it previously appeared. Inside it’s a different story. The former realtor’s office has been transformed after a ten-month long renovation into a modern pharmacy with a retail area and private consulting rooms. “There are a lot of rules and regulations to follow,” says Jessica.

Enrolled in 2007 at the University of Toronto, Jessica graduated and went to work in community retail pharmacies in northern Ontario. She came to enjoy the personal client interaction that working in Elliot Lake and Sturgeon Falls allowed. This more personalised experience is what her new business seeks to provide. “If you know your customers you can take better care of them. It’s as simple as that.”

Jessica is thankful for the support of other independent pharmacy owners in The County who have been most encouraging.

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