By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor
“We have an amazing community, absolutely,” says Ann Parrish of South Glens Falls. The proprietor of Milk and Honey gift and clothing boutique on Exchange Street in Glens Falls, should know.
She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December. It’s challenging enough to battle cancer. What do you do when you’re the sole proprietor, buyer, main staff member and guiding mind behind a small business?
Mrs. Parrish closed the shop from Jan. 14 to Feb. 14, while she figured out what to do.
She is currently undergoing radiation treatments at Glens Falls Hospital to shrink the tumor so that she can go to Buffalo for surgery to remove it, hopefully later this spring.
“But,” she insists, “I’d rather focus a story on my hometown heroes, as I’m calling the people who are literally running my shop for me on a voluntary basis.”
Several customers and friends offered to run the shop in her absence, for no pay.
Friend Janet Flinchbaugh of Glens Falls leads the crew, working several days a week in the store and organizing the schedule. She says that when she learned the shop was closed due to Ann’s illness, she got in touch.
“I would occasionally volunteer for Ann when she needed a day off. She asked me, would I do a little more volunteering. I knew I couldn’t do it five days a week, so we started lining up some friends of hers, who all said they’d be happy to help.”
Mrs. Parrish says, “Janet just said, let me take care of this for you. These are the most loving, generous people I have ever met.”
Ms. Flinchbaugh says her goal is to keep the store staffed for all its regular hours, Tuesdays to Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 to 4.
If things are slow, she says, “I do tell them it’s okay to close 15 minutes early.”
‘I have to sit back’
Mrs. Parrish says, “I’m just so grateful. People are so good, from offering financial support and prayers to the ones volunteering at the store.
“The other business owners on Exchange Street have all been so supportive and encouraging, too. I love them all.”
As for ordering merchandise for the distinctive specialty shop, Mrs. Parrish said she’d already planned her spring and summer lines months before, and the vendors’ sales reps are changing schedules to accommodate her treatments.
“Everyone’s been very understanding,” she says.
She says she’s fortunate that she owns the building, so she’s her own landlord.
Is it hard not being at the business’s helm? Mrs. Parrish says, “You have to prioritize. My health is number one. Milk and Honey, as much as I love it, I have to sit back and say, I trust these people to know what they’re doing, and I have no control over that.”
She said, “These are people I know from my church, my customers. It’s a good thing, amazing actually. So, we’ll go on this way with the shop for as long as we can, until I get better.”
Friends: ‘It was easy’
Ms. Flinchbaugh says the volunteer “army” does more than simply working the register. They’re keeping the place clean, prepping clothing and items for display, making up the windows, taking in deliveries, keeping items stocked.
“Business has been pretty good,” Ms. Flinchbaugh adds. “It does depend on the weather. But Ann has a pretty loyal clientele.”
Why do the women do this, some of them giving up one or two days a week? Several spoke with The Chronicle at the shop last Friday afternoon.
Ellen Farley said she “just loves” the store itself. “It’s tucked away and very upscale and of course Ann makes the whole environment so lovely with her soft approach and her personality. We got to be friends from the time I moved back here and became a customer.”
As to becoming a volunteer now, she says, “I came in to the shop one day and Janet was working and explained, and I said, Okay, I’m in. Not a second thought.”
Kerry Bruno says, “I first met Ann 13 years ago, when I had cancer myself. Between the hospital visits, this was someplace good to go, for a break. We became friends right away.”
She adds, “I was reading a book, a novel about this woman. She would get up early every morning, tended to her family, then went out and sold her wares for a living, to take care of her family. Her children and her family just called her ‘Blessing.’ That’s Ann.
“She has great faith, and we share that. She knows her journey is with the Lord, a wonderful woman.”
Ms. Bruno said, “I didn’t think I wanted to really go around telling people about working here, to make a big deal, or put it on Facebook or anything. But maybe it reminds people to help each other.”
Linda Petteys laughs, “I never touched a cash register before I came here. I was very nervous but I’m doing good with it, and the customers are so helpful and patient.”
Tamberlyn Dickinson, whose crepes-and-baked goods shop Dickinson’s Delights was located in the Milk and Honey Building for some time, says, “Ann is an amazing lady. She has always been so generous about giving us advice for our shop.”
Michele Sawyer sums up, “It’s a beautiful thing.”
The ‘Go Fund Me’ site
Care to help with Mrs. Parrish’s expenses? There’s a Go Fund Me campaign online at www.gofundme.com/medical-expenses-for-ann-parrish. As of Monday night, the account set up by daughter Laura Parrish Combs had raised $6,235 of the $7,500 goal towards medical, travel and incidental expenses for the family.
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