Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Field Of Dreams. Field Of Blooms.

It doesn't matter if it's Christmas morning or your birthday, chances are that you've opened a gift, more than once in your life, that has left you feeling deflated. I know that I have, on too many occasions to mention. That's why I've asked my family not to give me any presents on my 'special' days. I'm a pretty good actor but when you unwrap your sixth apron (a true story), and you don't wear aprons, it's pretty hard to hide a two gallon grimace with a one ounce smile.

I'm sure that I've given more than a few duds over the years too, though I take agonizing steps to ensure that I don't waste my money or your emotions. You should see me buying Christmas presents...I'm a wreck. That's why I'm the honorary chairperson of Let's Stop Retail Madness, a fictitious group with one member.

When I go to the mall these days, which isn't often, I feel like a sidewalk trout. I'm definitely a fish out of water. If I must shop, then I seek out businesses that are unique and innovative. They're rarely found in malls.

My favourite store in all of New Brunswick is located in a barn. This is odd because I hate horses, unless properly marinated, and I'm deathly allergic to animal hair, hay, dust and work. Once, as a fourteen year old, I spent five minutes in a downtown barn on University Avenue in Fredericton (before by-laws were invented I suppose). My allergies went berserk. I was a berserker. I drove my cherry red Hercules moped home from that barn, with a trail of toxic snot flowing Niagara-like from both nostrils. My eyes were so pillow puffed and watery that I could barely see the road. As if this wasn't bad enough, the helmet that I wore was honey bee yellow and looked like an upside down piss pot.

Ah yes, the barn...not much of a segue. This barn, the Barn in Bloomfield, has no animals though I feel like squealing when I step inside. I love this barn and all that it represents. For my senses, it represents retail as it should be.

Brent Rourke is the person who saw the potential in the barn. He's a ridiculously talented chap who miraculously balances business and artistry. This doesn't mean that he's rich, but he is in so many ways. Brent works with wood and creates Shaker boxes, cutting boards and just about anything to which he sets his mind. He's taken this big old barn in Bloomfield and turned it into a state-of-the-art workshop and retail showroom.

Brent is a wood artist as far as I'm concerned. You could call him a craftsman, but that's like calling Sidney Crosby a skater (or Ben Mulroney mildly untalented). The precision of his woodworking is spectacular, yet he's so efficient that he can sell what he makes for very Scottish wallet friendly prices. I'm happy to open my wallet at the Barn, which says something. I take a crowbar to the mall when I go shopping.

'Okay Wendy, just pin my wallet to the floor...I'll try and pry it open'.

The real beauty of the Barn in Bloomfield is that it's one of the few places on earth where I feel that I could buy anything and it will be appreciated by whoever becomes the lucky recipient. It makes shopping easy and stress free. If you don't like what's made at the Barn, then you either have no taste or no sense of aesthetic.

I'm sorry to have interrupted you at dinnertime...please, finish your Kraft Dinner while I just repossess the Shaker box I gave you. Yes, it does clash with the velvet Elvis paintings and the yard decorations. I love the butterflies on your trailer by the way (fingers crossed). Hey, is that Jerry Springer on TV?

Call me a snob but I think that a baguette tastes better when served on a beautiful wooden board. I have Tupperware in my cupboards just like you, it has it's place (in the microwave and fridge), but it's nice to see the union of taste and talent. Brent's work is a visual feast.

It's more than just his designs, which range from Skaker, to Japanese inspired to pure Bloomfieldian. Brent Rourke and his shop manager Trudy have created a retail environment that makes you feel good. It's earthy, yet modern. Warm, yet cool. Subdued, yet vibrant. It's one of those places where every visit yields a new discovery. Brent never rests on his laurels. Brent never rests period. The man is busy but always has the time to talk about life, work and wood. He's just an all-around nice guy with a barn full of surprises, and talent.

Brent's creations are sold all over the world. Even poor old Queen Elizabeth has one of Brent's Shaker boxes...I suspect that she and Phil enjoy it when they're not out RVing. Like that guy I wrote about yesterday, Brent makes his living while surrounded by a field full of blooms in rural New Brunswick. It's quite idyllic. It's just more proof that talent can survive anywhere.

If you build it, they will come.

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