Nine years ago this month, my husband and I began looking around Denison, TX for a place to open our Adventure Sporting Good’s business, specializing in cycling, paddling, and running. We had spent many years working on business plans, traveling in search of the right location, researching and testing products, and dreaming of this coming to fruition.
We knew our location would be in a downtown setting that had a cultural blend. We also decided being close to a lake was important in order to incorporate paddling, as well as our primary focus of trail running and mountain biking. Since we spent so much time for years on Lake Texoma, we realized the need for something like this in Grayson County.
We began working with the Development Alliance and gathering demographics, as well as availability of properties for sale and rent. One Saturday we ventured downtown to walk the sidewalks and get a feel for the community. What we found told us immediately this was home.
We located a building we were very interested in. It had a “For Rent” sign in the window and looked to be in really good shape for the age of the building. Several of them needed significant work to bring them up to code, but this one looked move in ready. We walked around the back and down the ally in an attempt to look inside. We were greeted by a neighbor who saw us and came out to introduce herself.
She was so welcoming and trusting of us and our intentions and invited us into her home. Her and her husband lived in the loft upstairs and ran their amazing art gallery downstairs. She called her husband and he came home quickly. We had a very nice, long visit.
Some of our ideas were discussed without divulging too much information, as these were by the way complete strangers, so we thought. By the end of the visit that day, we had made 2 amazing new friends. After we met with the landlord and had a family member who did construction and contract work check out the place, we suddenly were very serious about pursuing this. Although we looked at a few other buildings, we were not completely comfortable. This one felt right all the way.
As we began visiting other downtown art galleries, restaurants, and specialty shops in order to meet the locals and look into what the town had to offer, we were amazed at how quickly we were welcomed and friendships began to grow. Local merchants encouraged us through the entire process. They were excited to have such a specialty shop in their community.
The owner and landlord of a few buildings downtown who restored them so beautifully befriended us and invited us to a gathering in his loft. We were doing construction on the building and definitely not dressed for a party. We also did not have anything to bring the gathering to share with others in the way of food or beverage. We went anyway, as he was very charming and persuasive.
We were immediately received with open arms by everyone and new relationships formed. We were never treated like outsiders or discouraged from our dream of making our business work here. We knew we were home, we truly felt it.
The most difficult part was the fact that we lived almost an hour away and commuted daily. This excluded us from many of the activities we were invited to, as after a full day of working and commuting, we ventured back home every night to spend a little bit of time together and with our pets. However, we still found a nice balance of being involved in the community and living in another town.
Fast forward 9 years later. We had that business and location for 4 years. It had its ups and downs as any business, but overall was an amazing experience. We had wonderful customers and support, amazing neighbors and friends, and a sense of community that we embraced. Due to various circumstances, we closed that business and accepted positions on Lake Texoma, keeping us somewhat in the area.
Our close friends were all still in Denison and it was difficult to see them while working 30 minutes away and commuting every week-day almost an hour and a half. Shortly after all of those years of commuting, we moved to Denison. Although we were not involved in the downtown area as much, we maintained some friendships and relationships that had been built over the years. It felt comfortable.
I remained an active part of the community as an acting member of boards and committees, a patron of local merchants, a volunteer, and attendee of an occasional event as time allowed. My husband fell ill and my involvement downtown gradually decreased over time, but never ceased. I remained part of the community enough to know it was still home and always welcomed the familiarity of the community and the people.
Several months ago I opened my part time Reiki practice downtown and it just felt so right being a business owner downtown again. Although I run my practice on a part time basis and hours that don’t always allow me to attend many downtown events, I thoroughly enjoy my time there running my practice, shopping, dining, and visiting friends on occasion.
This week I attended a memorial. It was a sad occasion and a difficult time for the family and friends of this beloved individual. While standing in the back and listening to all the amazing words shared by so many I knew as friends and acquaintances in this community, I suddenly was hit with the most overwhelming feeling of love by the people that made up this community. There was so much love for the gentleman who had passed, for his family who suffered two difficult losses in such a short time, and for all those in the room who shared in the lives with those lost.
I realized I have had a loving community that is like family for 9 years, and had not seen it as such in a long time. After closing the business and suffering my own pain around the loss of the business, the loss of a long time dream shared with my soul mate and husband, and the waning health of my spouse, I was just in survival mode. I did not allow many who could have offered support into my world any longer. I just survived and went through so much inner turmoil alone.
While I have no regrets about my life’s path and am so glad I took the time to heal wounds and offer support to my dear husband on his path, I realize now that I am ready to be more involved in this community again. So many times I felt like I did not really have a place here any longer, as I was not part of the circle. I was an outsider who made the occasional appearance. I realized that day, that I was not an outsider. I was still part of that circle of family if I chose to be. The warmth and love in that space was not excluding anyone. If anyone was excluded, they were excluding themselves.
Although some of my friends I shared such wonderful times and memories with downtown have moved on and are no longer living in the area, many of them are still here. They embrace me with open arms every time we meet. They are living their lives one day at a time just like I am. They too have other priorities and obligations, but they remain a community of support. What is community to me? Community is home.