Exactly 10 years after the day she opened her doors, Ingrid Steinbach is turning the key for the last time on Dreamer’s Rock, a charming gift and artisan shop on Dunlop St. West.

Dreamer’s Rock has been a great gift anchor for Barrie’s downtown and Ingrid has operated it with personality and pizzazz. Not only has she been an avid supporter of area artisans, but she’s offered show-stopping window displays and delectable Christmas experiences in the rear of her store.

The official word on the street is that Ingrid’s retiring, but I doubt it!

I first met Ingrid when she was the first-ever female travelling salesperson for L & E Paper. Owner Ron Lynch used his typical vision in the mid-seventies when he identified Ingrid’s artistic background and put her “on the road” with a sales territory. Her real forté was packaging sales and she helped many retailers design and purchase signature packaging for their operations.

When her kids left home for university (she has two--one a high school teacher, the other a federal employee) she decided she’d had enough driving through rain, sleet, snow etc. and looked around for a retail opportunity. It sort of fell in her lap.

She’d been making jewellery (a hobby past-time) and selling it on consignment to Kathy Jamieson, who started Dreamer’s Rock in 1988. When Kathy’s husband became ill, Kathy called Ingrid and convinced her the store would be an ideal activity. Kathy was right; Ingrid and her employee Anne O’Donnell have been mainstays on Dunlop St W for a decade.

Ingrid’s philosophy of supporting local artists took hold and throughout her tenure, the works of Barrie region artists have received prominent display space... and sales! Glass blower Tim Laurin, and stained glass artists Tina Heutink, Tim Bilton and Deb Brown, the carvings of Stephen Robinson, the pottery of Hartley Woodside and Toni Oorshoff, and watercolours by Laura Jane Carter have found their way through Ingrid into the homes of thousands of people over the years.

Ingrid says her best year commercially was 1994, the same year Wal-Mart and Michaels started up in the south end. When RVH moved from the downtown core, her sales experienced a dramatic drop, so Ingrid’s excited to see what will happen when the old RVH is full again of people.

These days Ingrid is selling right to the walls. Some of her shelving has been picked up by other merchants while the retail items are going out the door to bargain hunters. She expects to lock the door for the last time on February 27 and complete her year-end the next day.

And then what?

Nothing.

Nothing for awhile, she says. She’s moving to the Beaches in Toronto, to be near her 2 and a half grandchildren for a bit. She’s going to revisit Germany, her birthplace, and pull her roots into her heart. When she moved from Germany to post-war Canada, she was 14, reluctant to leave and scared to move to a country whose residents, fresh from war losses, did not open their arms to “displaced persons.” Revisiting her now-free homeland will give her the perspective she needs to pass on to those important grandchildren.

And then? Well, there’s a website in the making, an artisans website where people can continue to do business with Ingrid, buying products made with people’s hands and hearts and taking delivery by courier. Without rent to pay, and snow to shovel and dirt to sweep off her storefront, Ingrid expects to have lots of creative energy to devote to www.artisansonline.com.

Her jewellery? She kind of stopped doing jewellery, but living in Toronto’s Beaches, she just may take that up again, and ply her wares along funky Queen Street.

She is moving from Barrie for now, but not saying good-bye at all. “You know what they say about bad pennies,” she remarks, “they keep turning up!”

And what about Anne, that stalwart sales person who always helped me pick out the right gifts... she’s going to retire, too. She’s going to go home and make a quilt.

Thanks, Ingrid. Thanks, Anne.

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