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Climbing Her Second Mountain

I wish I could bottle Colleen Anderson’s spirit and enthusiasm.

She has that brand of sunshine that spills over like a sunny day and I bet we could both get rich if we could capture it in a mason jar and put a price tag on it.

But then, she’s always been this way. I know that because we were childhood friends. She lived next door to our cottage across the lake, and we spent summers fishing and traipsing around and following the flower-strewn path to the candy store together.

She was the better one in our gang of kids. I can just hear her saying, “You guys are going to get in trouble!” And she was always right.

She’s lived in the area her whole life-a loyal community member who roots for the prosperity and the health of our county and always contributes to it. She practiced nursing here after graduating from college in Buffalo, and worked for Hospice for many years. She was also co-owner of two pharmacies and raised three incredible kids-one is a veterinarian, the other a nurse and the third is a pharmacist.

I’ve written before in this column about second mountains, and I guess you could say Colleen is in the midst of climbing her second. After a difficult life change, she took a decidedly new path by opening the sweet and special gift shop in Lakewood called Gifts Of Grace in the old Wellman’s space. It’s full of unique gifts, bath and grooming products, home decor, and more.

The name isn’t religious in nature. Colleen says it comes from one definition of grace, which is “simple elegance.” To her grace means having respect, gratitude and kindness in life and then sharing those attributes with others. She tries to exemplify those special qualities to each person that walks through the door.

“People are greeted with a warm, friendly smile and offered guidance if needed,” she explains. “When you walk into Gifts Of Grace the atmosphere is light-filled and soothing. It doesn’t take long for your eyes to catch the beautiful home decor and gifts offered here.”

There’s been some wonderful recent additions to Chautauqua Avenue. A few new stores and businesses have popped up, adding to the excitement of the street’s makeover that’s currently in the works, thanks to some government grants obtained by the village. It’s a great time to become a part of the mini renaissance in Lakewood’s business district.

I was sad to see the closing of Craft Burgers & Brews — a place we enjoyed going to for fantastic burgers and friendly conversation with Lakewood locals. Added to that is the recent decision to close Kmart and it’s not hard to feel some real loss over the closing of some of the business staples in our community-places we depended on or enjoyed going to.

Which makes the recent addition of Gifts Of Grace all the more important-that in the face of a downturn in our business sector, there are people who find a niche and open up shop with a sense of purpose and optimism.

And is if to underscore her intentions to help create a thriving local business district, Anderson has incorporated local artists into her lineup of offerings. Every six weeks, she features a local artist and offers a discount on their work to shoppers. Other local offerings include two local jewelry lines.

“I want to promote our area artists, ensuring they can continue to serve our community,” Anderson says.

A favorite question of mine to ask a new business owner is “why?”

“Gifts of Grace has been a dream of mine for several years now,” Colleen tells me. “In the back of my head I always thought I would end up owning a nice little shop. I am a retired RN and also was a co-owner of two local pharmacies and I incorporated gift areas in both of those stores. I really enjoyed working in the retail business and enjoyed getting to know the customers and really felt connected to so many wonderful people. Unfortunately, significant life changes occurred and that’s when I knew it was time to start my own adventure!”

There’s nothing better for a small town than to have talented people like Colleen plant lifetime roots. They offer their creative juices, their business acumen, and their love of our community and we’re all better for it.

“I love this area,” she says. “There are so many beautiful sites here. Having the opportunity to grow up on the lake and live by it throughout my life has been a privilege. I have so many memories of boating, swimming and just having fun all summer and then making ice rinks in the winter and skating for hours on the lake. What I enjoy most now as an adult is just relaxing by the lake and taking in the beautiful scenery. Especially in the fall when the lake is calm and the reflection of the fall colored leaves are on the water.”

She also enjoys the state parks in the area, and the wine trails, shops and restaurants.

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