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When retirement means starting a business

Couple opens work wear/leisure store to serve a farming community near the oil patch and cottages

TURTLEFORD, Sask. — Cam and Joann Nutbrown weren’t yet ready to retire to a hammock all day when they moved to Turtle Lake.

Instead, the parents of three adult children launched Bears Britches, a store in Turtleford offering men’s clothing, work wear and accessories.

“My wife said you can’t even buy a pair of socks in this town,” said Cam, explaining how they got the idea to open a store.

They rented and renovated a “compact but efficient” shop in the back end of the town’s liquor store, which was built in 1922 and originally housed a hardware store.

It’s not their first enterprise. Cam had previously operated a supply store servicing agricultural, oilfield and industrial sectors in Marsden and Neilburg.

“We are the kind of people who want to have a purpose,” said Cam.

Joann’s experience in purchasing in Lloydminster helped launch the business this spring, he added.

The Nutbrowns say the business caters to outdoor work and leisure lifestyles in a farming community close to the oil patch and lakes.

The town has 500 residents but explodes into the thousands with travellers and cottagers passing through in the summer months, said Cam.

Joann said maintaining enough varied inventory and catering to different needs in the community are major hurdles.

“The challenge is putting it all together,” she said.

She stocks items as varied as shirts, underwear, swimwear and barbecue aprons to hats, safety goggles, work gloves and hearing protection.

“We’re bringing in what we think they will want,” Joanne said.

Variety and new stock are key.

“You can’t maintain the status quo, you’re either going up or you’re going down,” Cam said.

This afternoon, there is steady traffic in the store, with a handful of locals checking out prices and stock.

Kris McKee, shopping this day for her husband and son, appreciates having a clothing store near her home. She said driving to the nearest big city or shopping online would be her only other options.

“It’s the same price anywhere, so why not shop here instead of driving two hours,” she said. “There, things are usually picked over.”

Later, a woman wanders in to buy a hooded lumberjacket and Cam re-calls the day oilfield workers dropped in for sunglasses.

Work boots priced near $100 are among their biggest sellers.

“People are happy to pay a decent price for a good quality of clothing,” said Cam.

The Nutbrowns offer a range of styles and prices from everyday jean styles around $40 to higher end designer pants at $100.

“Just because we’re from a small town doesn’t mean you have to pay a premium,” said Cam.

They’re admittedly “feeling their way through” these early days, but if successful, they hope for a larger retail space fronting the main street.

Their marketing plans already include a Facebook page and advertising in a local paper, with new highway signage expected soon.

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