When Bob and I rolled into Ashland, Oregon in our orange Volkswagen bus 25 years ago, at the end of a five month honeymoon odyssey around the United States, it would be pretty safe to say that we didn’t think we’d soon move to Ashland and open up a retail travel store. In fact, it would be pretty safe to say that Bob and I had no idea what we might do in the future. We didn’t have jobs, didn’t have a place to call our own (outside of the awesome camper van), and hadn’t really thought much past our honeymoon. Oh youth, I miss you. We did know that we didn’t want to live in the crowded San Francisco Bay Area, and didn’t want to work for “the man.”
With no market research, and nary a thought about how one goes about opening and running a retail store, we decided to move to Ashland and open and run a retail store. Because, why not? We saw a tiny travel store on our big road trip, and knowing that we both loved to travel we thought, “hey, this looks easy and fun. We should do this.” So we pulled up the few stakes we had left in the Bay Area, rented a U-haul for the free furniture our families had gifted us, and moved on up to the quaint Shakespearean town of Ashland.
We leased a storefront in the old Anderson Pharmacy – across the street from our current location – complete with a soda fountain counter and stools in the back. I wish I had a photo of us from the first day we opened, but we were too busy making sales. Yep, we brought in $64.48 that day. So you’ll have to be satisfied with these photos of our honeymoon, because that’s what ultimately brought us to Ashland in the first place.
We quickly learned how to buy merchandise, and bought a seemingly huge amount of books and maps, which in hindsight filled about a quarter of the store. And we learned that when you own a small business, you are the buyer, you’re the salesperson, you’re the janitor, the seamstress, the decorator, the painter, the accountant, the clothes steamer, the newsletter writer, etc., etc. Easy and fun? – Fun definitely, but not always easy. But never too hard.
Amazingly, here it is 25 years later. We’re still the buyer, the salesperson, the janitor, the seamstress…..you get the idea. But we have a wonderful staff helping us out, so thankfully we’re not doing it all on our own. And I daresay, it has gotten easier and even more fun. Everyday we get to visit with great customers who recount their fascinating adventures. And we’re fortunate that we occasionally get to take outstanding trips of our own.
Buck Owens sang, “It takes people like you to make people like me.” And that’s the truth. What we do only works because of people like you who offer a remarkable combination of loyalty to their city and its inhabitants, and a passion for visiting and experiencing people and cultures around the world. And that’s quite a mix. Hats off to you all.