I'm sure we have a photo somewhere!
Joyce (Lenz) Wallace
Life and Work
Joyce’s Fashion Corner has maintained an important link in Sundre’s businesses for well over thirty years. Originally opened by Joyce Cook, it was appropriate, to say the least, when it was purchased by present owner, Joyce Wallace, back in 1973.
Joyce’s parents, Molly and Max Lenz, farmed north of Sundre, and raised a family of four: Walter, Wilfred, Joyce and Rosemary. Like her siblings, Joyce attended Rockwood School. Upon completion of grade nine she then attended high school in Sundre.
Next, Joyce enrolled in and completed a hairdressing course in Red Deer, working in that city for the next couple of years. During this period she met and married Tom Wallace, and gave birth to two girls. Denise was born in September 1960 and Dale in May 1963.
The Wallace family moved to Sundre in the mid sixties, but later, when the couple agreed to divorce, Joyce realized she would need a job to help support herself and the girls.
One of the businesses to which Joyce submitted and application was the boutique, Joyce’s Fashion Corner. The current owner regretfully told Joyce that she was not hiring staff, in fact, she was most anxious to sell the business, and would Joyce be interested? If she had access to the necessary capital she would be, explained Joyce, but in her present circumstances it just wasn’t possible. The two women discussed ways and means, and although Joyce Wallace had no cash or collateral, it was agreed that monthly payments could be made. So Joyce Cook’s fashion business became Joyce Wallace’s property, and amazingly, within two years the complete debt was paid off.
With absolutely no experience, the new owner learned by trial and error what would satisfy customers’ demands. Many of her evenings were spent on the road, driving to Calgary to attend fashion shows, and to see what was being offered that would please her customers in Sundre. As well as the usual dressed, slacks and so on, Joyce became quite a discerning buyer of wedding and graduation gowns, sports and casual wear, night attire, and as well, shoes, accessories, underwear and foundation garments. Although many of the shows and buying opportunities were held in the evening, many encroached on her store hours. Joyce has never ceased to be grateful for the cooperation she has received from her part time helpers. Those that come to mind are Georgina Hilts, Marg Caveny, Anke Klapp, Darlene Doyle and Mary Banen as regulars, and there were others who would fill in as needed.
The store itself underwent changes. Joyce felt the need for only one counter, so the others were removed to make way for more display racks. Tanjay and Alia products had been standbys for the Fashion Corner, and as Joyce gradually became familiar with her customers’ needs and wants, she ventured into more brand lines. She also undertook to carry out sundry alterations, although for some time now these time consuming jobs have been sent out to others.
As a way of marketing merchandise, Joyce began participating in various local events. As far back as she can remember she has enabled Sundre Rodeo Queen contestants and other local participants to exhibit their personality talents and flair for personal appearances by providing the clothes for the Queen contestants and other volunteer models to display in the Rodeo Queen contestants Fashion Show Competition. As well, the Caroline Christian Ladies, the Water Valley Ladies Night and the Christian Women’s Club of Sundre each produce an annual Fashion Show, courtesy of Joyce’s Fashion Corner apparel. These often take place twice annually, to show off spring and fall lines. In earlier years, a Bridal Fair took place in the spring also. All of these events took time and dedication on Joyce’s part. Furthermore, until the year 2000, Joyce handled her own bookkeeping chores.
Asked about influences in regard to conducting her business, Joyce replies, “The answer is easy. My customers.” Many ladies are steady customers who have patronized her since she took over the store, and their likes and dislikes are well known to her. She also takes care to not carry too many look-alikes. She may order, for instance, two models of a particular style dress, but always in different colors. It makes sense to her that two ladies attending a function in identical outfits would not be happy to do so. But she is aware that times are changing. Sundre’s population is far greater now than in the seventies, but as time has progressed, so have peoples’ habits. Today, women don’t hesitate to jump in a car for a trip to a city, and once there, there are malls and individual stores all attracting the eyes of potential customers, and so less ladies tend to browse locally. By contrast, over the past ten years Joyce has built up an excellent clientele of out of town shoppers. People who own cabins or summer property here, or tourists, spy the Fashion Corner and come in, and find Joyce’s merchandise very appealing. Today, these summer visitors make a tremendous difference to Joyce’s year-end figures!
Now, Joyce admits she would like to slow down, and to do so, selling her business would by the best option. Asked what factors have made it possible to maintain her business for over thirty years, Joyce lists her employees, who were always there when she needed them, and of course Joyce Cook, who not only took a chance on Joyce financially, but who was always just a phone call away when she needed advice or instructions in the early days. Her daughters have always been reliable when moral or physical support has been needed. Denise now lives in Canmore, and she and Randy have three children, Cody, Carson and Katie. Cochrane is home to Dale and Troy and their boys, Matthew and Darryl. As for Joyce, she has purchased a brand new home in Sundre’s north end in the late eighties, and owns rental properties close to downtown. As Joyce’s Fashion Corner has always been an asset to Sundre’s business community, so is Joyce Wallace a booster of this town and area. “A great place to live” is her sincere comment.