It was an emotional day at Woodland Jewellers on Friday, Jan. 31 as sisters and longtime owners and operators Cindy Watt and Brenda Bourdon worked their last shift and passed the company on to Geoff Bourdon.
A Williams Lake institution, Woodland Jewellers has been operating in the community for close to nine decades now and is one of the lakecity’s only fourth-generation family-run businesses. It’s been the beginning and home of many happy memories over the years and none more so than for the sisters who have run the business for most of their adult lives.
Cindy described their final day as “exciting and emotional” as she held her dog Hank at the store on Friday afternoon. Brenda explained that the two of them have been coming to the store since they were both young girls helping out with odd things before eventually working part-time there as teenagers in high school.
Both of them went away for university and other things but both returned to the lakecity and began working at the shop full time, taking on the family legacy. Cindy began work there in 1980 with their father while Brenda returned to the lakecity in 2006 and began working at the store full-time with her sister.
“More than anything else, we’ve been fortunate to be able to help people celebrate the special occasions of their life. We’ve helped people with weddings, engagements, graduations, sweet sixteens, birth and all sorts of special occasions,” Cindy said. Brenda joked however that neither of them has ever helped anyone give birth in the store.
Getting to support the community that has supported them for the last 87 years has been especially rewarding and both are proud to be a part of it. In fact, Cindy thinks that it was the attachment they have to the community that first motivated her to carry on the family legacy when she was starting out.
It’s kept Cindy’s interest since because the jewellery industry is one that is “ever-changing” with something new to learn every few years. The use of gemstones and diamonds, different metals like gold, silver, platinum and steel have all changed since she started and it’s been interesting to watch that evolution. Today she said it’s about man-made diamonds and gems, so it’s an industry you always have to be learning in.
“We get to work with pretty things all the time and make people happy,” Brenda added.
Looking back, Cindy said her favourite moment at the store was when she sold an engagement ring to a third-generation Williams Lake family. She found it amazing to think that her grandfather, her father and then herself had sold engagement rings to this family to help people move into a new stage of their life and said she found it very rewarding and complementary.
Brenda, meanwhile, said that her favourite story from the store wasn’t about her but was instead one told to her by a customer. Brenda said that this woman used to deal with her grandfather who chose to dress up as Santa Claus one year for Christmas and ride out to their home on a snowmobile and deliver gifts to her family.
Despite how much they’ve both enjoyed working at and running the business over the years, Watt said they both feel that it’s the right time for them to move on and do new things. They feel it’s also time for Geoff, Cindy’s nephew and Brenda’s son, to take over. Geoff has really good ideas and energy for the business moving forward and is an “extremely talented goldsmith designer,” Cindy said.
“It’s time for him and it’s time for us, so it’s just perfect timing,” Cindy said.
They feel that it’s fabulous to be leaving the business in the hands of a family member and knowing that it will continue on as a family-run business with a great legacy and integrity. Brenda is proud of the fact her son has served on the city council for two terms, much like her father and grandfather were in their time, so she enjoys the continuum they’re experiencing there.
From here, Brenda said they both agreed they’re going to do “whatever they want to do whenever we want to do it” while they’re young and healthy. Getting the chance to travel and visit family and friends more often is also important for Cindy as is taking a few courses she’s interested in.
On Friday, they celebrated their retirement with a surprise cake from their staff and had people call and come in to wish them well all day. Both Cindy and Brenda were visibly moved to recall this.
“It’s been a very roller coaster kind of day, emotionally,” Brenda said. “Lots of people have phoned and said very nice things which of course makes you more emotional.”
“It’s exciting, sad and glad all at the same time,” Cindy added.
The two of them would like to take the opportunity to thank the community once more for supporting Woodland Jewellers over the last four generations of their family and assure them that their love of the industry and integrity will be carried forward by Geoff.