March is slated not only to bring about the end of this winter, but the closing of a store that has been a staple in the Hintonburg community for the past twelve years.
Heavens To Betsy – a retro haven containing everything from sardonic pillboxes to fine china plates, nostalgic sweet jars and luxurious bath soaps – is the love child of best friends, Dawn Carlisle and Denise Landriault.
“Heavens To Betsy was our dream,” Carlisle says. “We’re very creative people, and we wanted to do something creative together. But it’s been twelve years, and we decided we don’t want to close when we have to, but on a good note. We do get restless.” Landriualt adds, “Being in one place, you get a bit stagnant. We need new stimulation.”
Carlisle plans to move with her husband to Prince Edward County, where they’ll build a workshop and work on home-based projects. Landriault, who is staying in the city, hopes to focus on her granddaughter and art, which she describes as rich, colourful work with intense texture. Her first solo show in five years is scheduled for June 4, at the Orange Art Gallery.
The two are also excited to be able to travel together, now that they won’t have the worry about the shop. They’ve been the sole workers since the beginning. It’s this hands-on attitude that has solidified their bond with the community.
“We’ve watched this neighbourhood grow up,” Carlisle says. “We have kids coming in as teenagers that we saw as toddlers when we opened.”
“We’ve grown very close with our customers.” Landriault smiles. “Children come in and buy gifts for their moms, and we put it in little gift bags with ribbon, and they might have only spent ten dollars but they feel like they’ve gotten something really special. And it’s great to see.”
Heavens To Betsy has long been a second home to Carlisle and Landriault. They’ll miss the store, and also the time they spent together because of it. “We would go to the gift shows, and share a hotel room, and get into our pyjamas and have Swiss Chalet and a bottle of wine,” Carlisle remembers. “It was our little tradition. And I’m really going to miss that.”
It will be hard for the community to lose such a unique store, which has long been a favoured gift shop for many. The personal relationships the duo maintained with many of their clients over the last decade is a quality that’s tough to find these days.
“I thank our customers from the bottom of my heart,” Landriault says. “We really appreciate the people who have supported us all these years and we hope we’ve given them a memorable experience. I feel really good about that. I think we did achieve it – I think we really brought some joy into people’s lives.”
“People have been coming in to say goodbye. We’ve been a bit overwhelmed by that – we didn’t expect this gratitude people have expressed,” says Carlisle. “I’m sure there will be tears the last few days.”