Cathy Kazenbroot is not the first entrepreneur to celebrate 35 years in business on mid-Vancouver Island.
But she may be the first to do so at age 85.
In November, Kazenbroot will celebrate the 35th anniversary of her opening of The Wool Shop in Parksville’s Pioneer Plaza. She opened the shop at age 50, after 12 years helping her husband Hank operate motels in Qualicum Beach and French Creek.
“It was something to do,” said Kazenbroot, a native of the Netherlands who emigrated to Canada in 1955. “All my kids had left and I had a big, empty house.”
The decision on what type of business to start was not hard. She had been a lifelong knitter — “All European ladies do; we learned to knit early,” she says — and the choice ultimately boiled down to a store catering to knitters, or one catering to chocolate lovers.
“I figured I better choose yarn,” Kazenbroot said with a quick smile. “I love chocolate too much.”
Stepping into her shop is a bit like a trip back in time.
There are no signs welcoming credit or debit cards — she accepts only cash or cheque, and does not use a credit card herself. And don’t even ask about a website or social media page.
“I have no computer. I have no cell phone,” Kazenbroot said. “I am a simple woman.”
Oh, there are modern needles and accessories on the shelves. But along with the numerous skeins of yarn and patterns are hand-knitted clothing items and baby booties of a type not much different from those Kazenbroot may have created as a girl in Holland.
There is an entire corner devoted to baby yarns and patterns, knitting magazines and cross-stitch and crochet materials.
She keeps a comfortable chair alongside her circular sales counter, where she sits and knits during quiet moments. And when a customer comes in experiencing a problem with some knitting technique or item, Kazenbroot has them sit alongside and offers tips and lessons at no charge.
“I’m not going to come back at night and do classes,” she said. “But they can come in any time and bring their problem and I’ll help. I don’t mind.”
Kazenbroot, who has been widowed since Hank died nine years ago, has five children — four of whom still live on Vancouver Island — seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
She has remained in business, in the same location, not out of a need for the income, but from a love of getting up every day to be among other knitters and to stay active and engaged in the community.
“It was a hobby,” she said of her start in 1982. “I had no pressure on me, and I still don’t. It keeps me healthy and happy and it keeps me here in the community.
“It’s a nice pastime for the ladies. It beats going to the psychiatrist, anytime.”
Asked if she had any plans to retire, Kazenbroot flashed her smile again.
“That’s what my customers ask,” she said. “I tell them, they’ll have to carry me out.”
The Wool Shop is located at 9-281 East Island Highway in Parksville. Hours are 9:30 a.m-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., and 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday. For more info, call the store’s landline at 250-248-3821.