Updating a Classic: Sweat, Blood, Tears & Love

When we first decided to re-open Crew’s Quarters it was exciting!  Who wouldn’t love giving life back to a 29 year mainstay of Port Colborne?  That excitement soon turned to “Oh my god what have we gotten ourselves into?!” as we began renovations.  If you’ve been to Crew’s Quarters you know that it is a big, big, BIG space.  If you know my husband West and myself, you’ll know that neither of us are particularly handy.  We also had a limited budget for renovations as we had to use most of our money to get a lot of new stock and inventory.  When you add all those things together it’s easy to see how terrified we were, why the wind nearly went out of our sails.  We had a lot of work ahead of us and not much money or experience to get it done.  Yikes.

But get it done we did!  We love the new look of Crew’s Quarters, lots of other folks do too.  For those that witnessed the “before” and “after” the reaction is usually one of shock and amazement.  So, here you go friends, the road from then to now:

Screw You.  Seriously.

Screws, screws and more screws.  Thousands of screws and other strange metal hanging-things in the walls.  Removing them all was the first daunting task.  29 years of screws in the walls to hang pictures and product sure do add up.  West was gone for the first few days of preparation work, he was on a business trip someplace warm, someplace nice.  I spent literally days taking screws out of the wall so we could start on the painting and other renovation tasks.  If I’d known how mind numbing this task was going to be I would have found a way to pay/bribe/extort somebody else to do it!

Naughty Trio

Gnomes Make Things More Fun:  One of the things we decided to do to make things a little more fun was to have our empty storefront windows inhabited by 3 naughty gnomes.  We re-finished the store front windows first and made sure that the gnomes were doing new things every day.  It was just a fun way to let people know something was going on with the store while we continued to while away at renovations.  Some days they played poker, other days they wore shades and played guitars, and on and on it went for the better part of a month. We have them behind the checkout area now, and there they will stay.

Hunter’s Green Is Not A Colour.  It’s a Punishment.

Painting Is Purgatory:  When I hear people say that they like to paint, that they find it calming and relaxing, well, I would like to choke them.  I’ve always hated painting but after painting Crew’s Quarters I hate it even more.  Brushes, rollers and paint trays are evil.  We had a ton of painting and none of it easy.  Ceiling tiles were browning, walls were dark green, dark wood with occasional peach accent areas.  We wanted the product and merchandise to be the colour and we whitewashed and painted almost every square inch of the store.  It’s a big store.  It feels even bigger after having had to paint it all!


Re-purposing The Past:  Most people don’t realize it when they come into the store (why would they) but most of the fixtures and displays in the store are re-purposed and up-cycled.   It was important to us to maintain as much of the 29 year history of the store as possible for a couple of reasons.  First, waste not want not.  Second, money.  New things cost money.  One of the funnest things we re-imagined was the front desk.  West did an incredible job converting the original front counter into something new and inspired.


Helping Hands Are The Best Hands:  Most of the time it was just West and I doing the store renos, but every once in awhile, when we needed it the most, friends came by to lend a helping hand.  Some painted, some helped with more daunting construction tasks, and others ran errands and provided meals.  I think what I’ll remember most about the renovation work is the friends that came by to pitch in.  On days when I thought I would crack under the pressure they came to the rescue almost as if by divine intervention.  To all those that helped out (you know who you are!), THANK YOU!!!


The Results Are Worth It:  Now that the store has been up and running for a few months it’s hard to remember a time when it wasn’t the way it is now.  Every once in awhile we get customers come in who haven’t been in since the renovations and remind us of what we’ve accomplished.  Dropped jaws, “OMG!” and general looks of disbelief and words of praise make it all worth it.  Come on by for a visit and see for yourself.

If we had it to do over again I wouldn’t change a thing.  Cliche, perhaps, but true to the bone.  Re-opening Crew’s Quarters and being an active member of the community in Port Colborne is so worth it.  Crew’s Quarters is 29 years young and I’m excited to be at the helm for the next 29.

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