Country Roads
Country Roads

Way back on a rainy January morning on January 2nd, 1993, Country Roads opened its front “door” for the very first time. And the first person to walk through that door was my friend Chris Nickoloff. As many of you know, she sadly passed away a few years ago. So Chris, I hope you know that I still remember your smiling face coming through my front door on that rainy morning.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect of Country Roads when I first opened. I had opened a store the year prior on S. Glassell called the Battered Barn, and I took a lot of heat from everyone who said, “You’ll never make it off of Glassell!” So I guess now I can confidently say they may have been wrong. Back then I had a husband and a good guy friend with whom I shared a business. I also had a friend named Tim who I had gotten to know well in the Battered Barn days. He did the majority of the construction, and if you know Tim, he is very talented. I gave him a Chili’s children’s menu that had sketches of old buildings or something to that extent. With that menu Tim was able to score some great architectural elements, novelty siding and my favorite-lots and lots of wood from the old Laguna Beach boardwalk. It was a good feeling to not only recycle lumber before doing so was popular, but to construct the interior of the store from pieces of the past.

Like a lot of things, first my husband had a falling out with Tim, then he had a falling out with my friend, and then he divorced me. So, since late 1998 I’ve been on my own with my kids and that has been the saving grace of Country Roads. My kids grew up in this business and continue, even today, to be actively involved in Country Roads.

There have been so many great and wonderful stories over all of these years. I always talk about the “someday” that I want to write my book. You can only imagine all of the stories there are to share! Something will happen at “the store,” our name for Country Roads, and it will remind me of a story. I’m sure everyone has heard more than enough of my stories to last a lifetime. The problem is that these stories are endless and many times are pretty crazy if you weren’t there at the time when they happened. I’m not sure what it is about this business but it brings out all kinds of people.

We’ve had our share of celebrities shop with us. I remember the summer day Nate Berkus walked in the door. Did you hear me, Nate Berkus just randomly walked through my front door! I was truly star struck, but I did find the courage to ask for a picture of him. Diane Keaton used to come in quite a bit, although she hasn’t been in the store for several years. She was always so down-to-earth and so much fun to work with.

My all-time favorite celebrity who came in and my most favorite story involves Barbra Streisand, who came in the door one Valentine’s Day afternoon. I wasn’t at the store that day, as my Dad had died that morning. We never ask for autographs, but my daughter Katie politely began her little request. She explained to Barbra that we really never ask for autographs, but her Grandpa, my Dad, had passed away that morning and could she maybe sign an autograph for me, because I was a very big fan of hers? Instead of just scribbling her name, Barbra took the time to ask how Katie how her Grandpa had died. Katie went on to explain that it was from Alzheimer’s and missing my Mom, who had died the prior September. Barbra went on to explain that her own Mom had recently passed away from the same thing. She could have just scribbled her name, but instead took the time to write a short note to me. That will always mean a lot to me.

The celebrities are great, but what means the most to me after working at Country Roads for 20 years? It’s my customers who continue to not only support us, but to share their sweet words and positive comments. They are the best of the best and without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I can’t emphasize the importance of all of you! I know that doesn’t sound like much, but it comes from my heart! You guys are really wonderful.

And what’s planned for the next 20 years? What goals and changes do I have? Actually...nothing! As my four grandkids get older, I’m sure you will see them working alongside of us. But outside of that, I’m so happy with Country Roads that I wouldn’t do anything to change what’s worked for the past 20 years. Okay, we “could” have a better bathroom, but hey, we can’t have it all! Please accept my heartfelt “thanks” from my kids and my Country Roads family. And hey, don’t forget to join us on January 1st, 2013 for our big sale as we begin another year at the store that is “Always your favorite, never the same!”

204 West Chapman Avenue, Orange, CA 92866 / 714-532-3041

Published in the Nov/Dec 2012 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review

Written by Sue Jackson

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