As a youngster growing up in New Brunswick, Penny Flowers loved to play store. It was for this very reason that her father used to place a stool at the front counter of her family’s general store thus allowing her to stand on it and operate the cash register.
While Penny enjoyed working in the store, she also loved visiting other stores. Nothing made her happier than a shopping trip with her aunt.
“Just to walk through the stores and marvel at the clothes was glorious for me,” Penny recalls. “Or to watch movies like Breakfast at Tiffany’s and think wouldn’t it be fun if everyone could make their dreams a reality.”
Eventually, Penny married and moved to Arnprior, Ontario, with her husband and two boys. Here she took over management of the Twin Maples Motel, but the marriage didn’t last and was followed by a difficult divorce.
“After that I needed a change of scenery,” recalls Penny who in 2017 moved to Perth with her youngest son, Charlie, who was 12 at the time.
“I do believe Perth is where I was meant to be,” she says. “Since I moved here, everything has fallen into place. This has been the fresh start I needed.”
Her first job in Perth was at Shaw’s where she worked as a sales clerk. Before long she became the manager and within a year opened Miss Penny’s Closet on the upper floor of the well-known Shaw building.
upper floor of the well-known Shaw building.
Her main line of inventory at the time was plus size clothing, most of it sourced in Montreal and all of it made in Canada.
“I’ve always devoted my efforts to those whose body shape may not fit the usual mold,” explains Penny. “Often their clothing is a special order and that shouldn’t be.”
In December 2019 Penny took over both floors of the large, heritage building. While filling the space was a challenge, it was one that Penny gladly accepted.
“My intent has always been to help people feel good about what they’re wearing,” says Penny. “My reward is to see them take pride in how they look. There’s no sense selling someone a suit when it’s hanging on them like it was their grand-father’s.”
Another important factor for Penny is the price.
“It shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to look good,” maintains Penny. “I’ve been there. I’ve been that over-sized girl who couldn’t find anything that fit decently and I’ve been the girl who went shopping with her friends and had to leave the store with nothing, because there was nothing that I could afford. I know what it feels like. I’ve been the one without a package to take home.”
For this reason Penny has always made sure that she carried a line of less expensive items, such as scarves and earrings.
“I want everyone to be able to find something in my store, whatever their size or their pocketbook,” she says.
When the ownership of the Shaw building changed hands and she wasn’t able to renegotiate her lease, Penny was forced to look for a new location, eventually taking over both ends of the lane between Foster and North Streets where she opened two different stores.
“It’s been great,” says Penny. “I’ve been able to fix them up the way I want. This is me. This is who I am. In the other building, I couldn’t renovate or decorate the way I wanted. I had no identity there. The identity was that of Shaw’s, not Miss Penny’s.”
It’s a fact that matters to Penny who maintains that a business is a reflection of its owner.
“It’s who we are,” she explains with an added provision. “We are all unique, but we have to work together to help each other do their thing.”
The pandemic, according to Penny, has forced everyone to focus on what’s important.
“The retail world can be a rat race,” she says. “Sometimes you have to step off the wheel and try to relax or you’ll burn out.”
In the end the recipe for success is a simple one.
“If you love what you’re doing, you will be successful,” Penny says.