New Ambiente Gifts and Decor owner Joanie Cloutier (left) with Ambiente founder Jutta Rapp. Joanie's golden retriever Mason looks on.
Parting is such sweet sorrow. Jutta Rapp is retiring after seventeen and a half years as the creative and decorative brains behind Ambiente Gifts and Decor in Sunny Tsawwassen.
"It was a fantastic time to be here in Tsawwassen and we've had so many loyal customers," says Jutta. "We started a lot of friendships."
The German-born businesswoman started Ambiente from the ground up and turned it into a successful and popular store. She and her husband Gunther raised their two children in Tsawwassen and became a fixture in the community.
But their children have since grown up and moved back to Germany, prompting the couple to decide they also wanted to move back home and be close to their family. Jutta says they've bought a very old house and the next two years of her life will be spent using all the knowledge she learned in Canada to decorate her new home.
"I can't say enough about the loyalty and support of the community. It was wonderful and it makes me sad at the same time."
But even as one door closes, another one opens wide.
The store has been taken over by Joanie Cloutier and her partner Mark Warwick.
Like Jutta, Joanie grew up far from the sunny shores of Tsawwassen, spending most of her life in Montreal, Quebec. Three years ago she decided to change her life and moved to Langley. Upon arriving, she took to the online dating service Plenty of Fish.
"I went on the website because I figured, I don't know anyone here," explains Joanie. "I've been here for three weeks and I thought I will be extremely lonely if I don't meet anyone. And I'm not somebody who goes out a lot."
Within two days she met Mark, a firefighter from Tsawwassen who says he's lived here since he was knee high to a grasshopper. They hit it off spectacularly and have been inseparable ever since.
Once Joanie was introduced to Tsawwassen she "loved it" right away.
"It reminds me of home. It's got such a community and small town feel and everyone supports each other."
A long-time employee of Telus, Joanie says her career was cut short by chronic back pain a few years ago. The injury was so bad that she was bedridden and couldn't continue working in an office.
Worried about his partner, Mark began encouraging Joanie to make little things from home to keep herself occupied and stay the sort of positive and upbeat person she is to the outside world.
"People often think of creativity as drawing or painting," says Joanie. "You don't really think of creativity as refurnishing, refurbishing and doing these things. And when my back started hurting Mark started pushing me to create."
At first she began making soaps and jewellery, but soon enough she had redecorated their entire home.
"It was the perfect fit for her," says Mark, laughing. "You should have seen my place before she moved in. It was the typical bachelor pad."
The couple decided that Joanie should open a store to unleash her creative passion and share it with others. But they didn't know whether to start a new one or buy an existing one.
Then opportunity came knocking. One day Joanie was out walking her dog, Mason, when she ran into Andrea O'Leary, the former owner of Coastal Olive Oils, located inside Ambiente.
Andrea let her know that Jutta was looking to sell, although she hadn't made it known publicly yet.
Joanie and Mark met with Jutta and Gunther and everybody felt they would be the perfect new owners of Ambiente.
"My mom always said, 'Everything in life happens for a reason. If something is meant to happen, it will happen,'" says Joanie. "And as much as I hate what happened with my back, and as tough as it was leaving Telus, it's absolutely the reason why we found out about Ambiente."
Mark Warwick (left) with Joanie Cloutier and their dog Mason.
Jutta is staying on until November to help with the transition and say her goodbyes to the community she'd loved for so many years. And she says the customers have taken to the new owners quickly and easily. Joanie says it's because people realize how important these small businesses are to Tsawwassen.
"These little stores like Ambiente and Boutique Blanche and Flowers Beautiful... that's what creates a town. That's what creates a community and people come to us and say, oh I don't want to go to a big mall. I'd rather support you guys."
You can find Ambiente Gifts and Decor on the northern side of the Tsawwassen Town Centre Mall right by Rotary Square.