Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Shopping In The Middle Of Nowhere

I live in the middle of nowhere. Seriously, I'm smack dab in the centre. My home is the bulls-eye of nowheredness. This mean that when I need something, other than peace, quiet, loneliness or quarantine, I have to drive somewhere to get it. I'm not kidding about quarantine, I hardly get any colds because most germs haven't got the legs to walk here. Occasionally the flu will hitch-hike on the back of some host parasite (cleverly disguised as a friend). Sometimes I like to give something back to my friends as a thank you. My gifts involve pain too.

When I need a gift for someone, I don't have the luxury of simply driving to the mall, or walking downtown to go shopping. Frankly, it's a pain in the ass to go shopping for single items when you live where I do. This would explain why none of you receive gifts on the most special day of the year. No, I'm not referring to Victoria Day, though I am getting excited about its pending arrival! I love celebrating the birthday of some dowdy dead queen who I've never met, plus I get the day off work.

I'm not a big fan of the concept of a royal family, even though my parents are British tea-totallers. For me, the King is Elvis. Queen is a rock band. Prince is the former symbol artist and Princess is a cruise line. Charles is a river. Camilla is Gonzo's love interest. Andrew is the saint of small seaside golfing towns. Fergie is a black-eyed pea. Liz is a tailor and Philip is a screwdriver. It's at this point that I want to thank section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. Without it, my big yappy, royal dissin' mouth would be swinging from the gallows in some village courtyard. I'm convinced that, of all the royals, Philip would be the hangman. At least I'd get to see him smile once in my abbreviated lifetime.

Setting aside my noble family fantasies for a moment, let's get back to discussing the reality of rural shopping. Simply put, I'd like to shop locally. If I want herbs or specialty meats, then I don't have to travel far. Cambridge-Narrows is blessed with some exceptionally talented purveyors of gastronomic goodness. As delicious as maple beef jerky is, it doesn't make a good birthday gift, certainly not if popped in a box and mailed from nowhere to somewhere.

All is not lost. Amazingly, my favourite retail experience in all of New Brunswick is located a mere 30 kilometres from my house, in a place called Bloomfield, otherwise known as the outskirts of nowhere. Bloomfield probably doesn't register on your radar, but perhaps it should.

In a big red barn on the edge of a field of blooms, is a very unique retail experience. The business is called The Barn in Bloomfield. The barn is my favourite spot for a number of reasons. First and foremost, you'll know you're not at the mall, and this feels good. Once you step inside the barn, you'll be transported back to a time when craftsmanship and artistry mattered. You'll be enveloped by the warmth of grainy good wood. A couple of years ago, Brent Rourke had the idea to move his workshop from metropolitan Hampton to edge-of-nowhere Bloomfield.

Risky. Brave. Brilliant!

Brent converted a lonely country barn into a state of the art woodworking studio as well as a retail space with a distinctly old world feel. I just love it! It's more than just the physical aspects which make this place appealing, it's also about the creations. Brent's wooden creations are world class, yet affordable to everyone (you can get something really nice starting at $12 or so). Every time I visit, I see something new as Brent is always playing around with designs. He's got a phenomenally global sense of design and balance which belies his country gentleman demeanour.

Regardless of who's standing behind the counter, whether it's Brent or his wife, or the manager Trudy, they're all very hands off, if that's what you want. It's a place where you're given the freedom to browse without having a sales vulture circling overhead. Shopping actually feels peaceful at the Barn. I love that the most rewarding shopping is found in the least likely place. It's one of the few places that I can recommend to anyone with without feeling any apprehension.

The drive itself can be rewarding as well. When I drive to Bloomfield in the autumn, I pass through some blueberry fields (pictured above) which are decidedly delicious, though long since fruitful. The great irony of my pilgrimages to The Barn is that I live in Queens county and Bloomfield is in Kings county.

Shopping will always be a royal pain for me, I guess.

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