Today is the end of an era. Well, maybe not to you, but to me and so many other shoppers in Yolo County. Today is closing day for The Gifted Penguin. Owner, Carol Rawlings, is retiring and off to new adventures. Twenty-three years is a long run for any small business and for many shoppers at The Gifted Penguin, it is a bittersweet day. It is especially bittersweet for me because I had the pleasure of working at The Gifted Penguin. Carol hired me one late August afternoon and my first days at work included putting out Halloween and fall decorations and writing up orders.
It is the end of an era for a variety of reasons. Few storeowners gift-wrap items with the love and care that Carol did every single day of the year. Few storeowners serve their customers with the level of grace and joy as Carol Rawlings. Few storeowners can remember whether a man bought his wife the same item last year on their anniversary. Carol always knew. She also knew whether the wife already purchased it for herself. Few owners greet the customers by name; know their family history and which college their child is attending today. Many years ago, that same college student was a toddler sitting on the floor of Carol’s store gleefully popping the bubble wrap Carol gave them while their mom and dad shopped.
I will never forget the day Carol taught me how to write up an order. She said, “Every order is written by hand and change is counted back to the customer.” Few stores do that today. It seemed a bit archaic at first, but I loved it. I loved the personal touch, the sense of family and the opportunity to make others smile and laugh. Very often, Carol and her employees were a bit silly by the end of the busy Holiday season and the wonderful customers hummed along to the Charley Brown Christmas song on the radio as as we danced and wrapped gifts behind the counter.
Today I took flowers to my former boss and now dear friend. I wanted to tell her to hang in there and celebrate with joyful tears. Today was the day to remind her that no other storeowner could retire with such distinct honor. Thank you for cherished memories and the good old days Carol Rawlings.
Today is the end of an era and you, my friend, have made history.
Congratulations. Well done!