By Andrew McCutcheon

When we ask the question, as we do every week in this column, of what exactly the Kerby Centre is, a few different things may come to mind.

You might think of the fun recreational activities we host, our fabulous café, the Seniors Supports department which provides information or our Free Food Market’s which provide needed sustenance to vulnerable seniors.

What might not cross your mind, however, is the Kerby Centre as a shopping destination.

But we are! For years, we’ve operated both the Wise Owl Boutique and Next to New as reasonably priced shops for a variety of different items.

Whether you need some yarn or needlework supplies, or even a pair of hand-made woolen booties for winter, they’ve got you covered. In fact, this writer is wearing his pair of purple and white woolen booties right now! No judgement, please. They are beyond comfortable. It helps with the writing process. He swears.

Our Next to New and Wise Owl Boutiques, however, have recently combined and found a new home down the hall from Seniors Supports on the main floor of the Kerby Centre. The entire shop has been renovated and looks utterly fantastic; many folks took the opportunity of our Seniors Expo in May to check out everything we had to offer.

But the Wise Owl Boutique has been around longer than you may realize. We’re pulling information from Ken McGuire’s Kerby History document for this information.

Wise Owl Boutique had it’s massive official opening on June 10, 1974. Roughly 400 people were said to be in attendance and the Honourable James Foster, minister of advanced education, who presided over the event.

The opening of Wise Owl Boutique was only possible through the efforts of Mrs. Mae Richardson, who was instrumental in its creation. Mae came back to Alberta in 1973 – her home province – from the West Coast in British Columbia, where she had retired to be closer to her son.

Mae soon joined the burgeoning Kerby Centre and organized a craft fair early on in its existence. Seeing the potential for a boutique dedicated to crafts and handiworks, she set out to make Wise Owl Boutique into a reality. According to McGuire, Mae felt there was “potential for elderly crafts people to earn some income from their work” as well as the preservation of the skills involved in the creation of these crafts.

Mobilizing resources quickly, along with volunteer labour and public interest, Mae quickly managed to open the Boutique, which has continued on in various forms to this day.

And as for Mae? Her association with Kerby Centre not only continued, but blossomed: Mae would go on to manage the Wise Owl Boutique for 13 years, and was president of the Kerby Centre from 1976 to 1978, and was presented with an Alberta Achievement Award in 1986.

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