Then, in walks cancer… the second time. I really believed I was in the clear considering it had been nearly 10 years since my first diagnosis which was detected early. I was not quite so lucky the second time. Being diagnosed with a Stage 4 cancer changed my life in so many ways; emotionally, financially, physically and regarding what I now find important in my life. That’s how Grease Rags Clothing Company began.
It was crystal clear that my brain didn’t function in the same capacity after chemotherapy and I knew I wasn’t going back to banking. Fortunately, I have a wonderful husband who supports every crazy idea I come up with. I woke up one fateful morning, about a year after finishing my treatment, and called him with my grand idea. I was going to open a boutique! I really thought he would tell me I had come undone in the worst possible way. You can imagine my surprise when he said, “That sounds amazing!”
Anyone who knows me knows I have never been one to dilly-dally once I set my mind to something. A mere 45 days later, with only $6,000US and no line of credit, I opened my small shop. That was nearly 4 years ago. I opened a shop that catered to the retro community even though there was not a scene here. I didn’t care. I knew what I loved and I was fearless enough to take a chance. Either it would work or it wouldn’t. All I knew is I wanted my life back. Especially the parts of me that I had lost when I was so focused on making a bigger and better paycheck.
After being in business for a short while, I decided it was time for me to do something to give back. I founded ROCSTART (Rallying for Oral Cancer Support Through ART), an organization that provides financial assistance to oral cancer patients. I never expected that my shop customers would be such a great source of encouragement and support for ROCSTART but they truly go hand in hand. With the support of the community we have paid mortgage payments, car payments, purchased medical equipment, and so much more. In other words, we have taken care of things that can make recovering from cancer treatment even more stressful than it already is. I’m very thankful that I can ease that burden for someone even in a small way.
Coincidentally, Grease Rags is now located just down the street from a hospital and cancer treatment center. Time and time again we have guests walk in who were referred to us by nurses at the facility. “You need to take a break. Go down to Grease Rags. You’ll feel so much better.” At least a few times a week a customer will comment about how they love to spend time in the shop or how they come in to “decompress”. Admittedly, I have no idea what has made this such a special place. Perhaps people can feel the energy that comes from being in an environment that was created solely to give someone purpose. Maybe it has something to do with the shop being my happy place that keeps me from going mad with worry. You can definitely feel something different here. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that others can feel something special when they walk in. I feel better as soon as I walk in the door everyday.
We are fortunate to have won awards every year since opening: Best Clothing Store, Best Boutique, Best Vintage. However, knowing that holding space which actually helps to heal someone’s mind and heart is a greater achievement than anything else I can imagine.
In short, my little boutique might not be the fanciest place you can shop in our town but I can guarantee you it has the most heart. After all, it has given me back my life.
By Cindy Platt