It was early in the year 2018 and my lease at Manulife Place was set to expire in March of 2019. I didn’t want to go into my final year without some idea of what lay ahead for myself and for Vandenberg’s Jewellers. You have to understand, Vandenberg’s had been my baby for close to 43 years. I’ve nurtured it through good times and bad. There have been great times and also times where I didn’t know if I would make it through the next month. In particular, I remember the early 80’s just after the NEP (National Energy Program) was implemented. Those months and years still stick with me today and when ever I owe any money to anyone, I start to get hives until I can pay it off. It’s funny how some things just stick with a person.
Well, it was a year before the end of my lease and I approached Manulife about the possibility of staying on for another term. To my surprise, they didn’t want to talk to me. They couldn’t tell me why, but they weren’t renewing any leases or talking to anyone. I was in a bit of shock. I hadn’t even thought about retiring so I started to look around for another space to move into. There was literally nothing that I was comfortable with. I didn’t want to go to a mall where they’re open almost 24/7, 365 days a year! “No life for my team,” I thought. I didn’t want to go on the street somewhere, not safe for a fine jewellery store. And then I found a possible spot. It was in the Brewery district, close to downtown, underground heated parking, easily accessible, but it was almost 4 times the size of my present store and they weren’t interested in negotiating the rent at all! There’s no way anyone could afford that.
I got a bit discouraged… and the thought of retiring started creeping into my head. But what would I do? I don’t play golf, I can’t spend too much time on the beach, I’d go crazy. I couldn’t stay home, I’d drive my wife nuts being under foot all the time. But, what were my options??
Time ticked on, weeks turned into months and months into a year, stress levels rose, and before I knew it, my lease was going to be up in a matter of days. Then everything changed. Manulife came to me and excitedly told me that they could talk to me now. That they had been waiting for permission from the head office. It seems that they were in a bit of a dilemma as well. They had a proposal to spend between $23 and $24 million to renovate the two retail levels and couldn’t talk to anyone about leases until the decision was made. Well, it was made, and they were spending the money! They want to re-establish the building as Edmonton’s Premiere building. There would be a ton of changes and a crazy few years with everything chewed up while they renew everything, but when it’s done, it will be an amazing space. And… they wanted Vandenberg’s to be an anchor store on the 2nd level.
They didn’t have to ask me twice. For once in my 43 year career, I was in the right place at the right time. They let me design the new store just as I wanted and all the ideas that I had had over my career of how I would build the perfect store came rushing back. It took many, many months between concept, design and construction, but in the middle of November, it was ready to unveil to the world.
It’s more than I dared hope for and the reviews have been amazing. It really is a space that you have to see to believe.
So, long story short, I’m here for another 10 years at least.. why not? It’s not like I work hard……