41 years of downtown business: End of an era for Snookie Welling

·3 min read

Wednesday morning started like just about any other for Snookie Welling.

She got to work early, answered phone calls before her store opened and got her shelves ready to be looked through by Hatters looking for their latest wardrobe addition.

Wednesday however, was quite different from the rest of Welling’s 41 years as owner of Stone Furs.

People were phoning in to say goodbye and thank you, not to place an order. Her front counter was housing multiple bouquets of flowers, which she has been receiving for more than a month. Her shelves were just about bare, with a small selection of clothing left to purchase.

Wednesday was Welling’s last day at work.

“I have very mixed emotions,” she said. “We had a small party here (Tuesday) night with some friends and it was nice to share it with everyone.

“It’s just different without my husband Jeff here. The store has been my salvation since he passed away two-and a-half-years ago.

“It’s a lot of different emotions right now.”

At 78, Welling decided to head to retirement. She cites the pandemic and general fatigue as two reasons why this was the right time.

“When COVID came, I discovered I was too old to take the pressure of being closed again,” she said. “There’s always so many shopping trends, and I was getting tired of being six months ahead of the consumer.

“I took a step back and made the decision to retire.”

Welling was born in Calgary and moved to the Hat at four years old. After moving here, she started stocking shelves at a grocery store. She moved away for a bit while Jeff pursued a university degree. When they moved back, they purchased Stone Furs.

The business has been a staple of downtown for generations and has been at its current location for 35 years. Welling says her favourite era of clothing retail was when everyone was wearing fur.

“When we first took over the store, selling a coat every day was normal,” she said. “As time went on, trends changed. We always did our best to be stocked with the latest trends.”

Welling says downtown is an exciting place right now, and encourages people to spend their money on local businesses.

“With how online shopping is going, we need to keep our independent stores around,” she said. “Downtown is looking great right now. People need to come down here.”

As for retirement, Welling says she does not have any huge plans.

“Everyone keeps asking me what my plans are. I don’t have any big plans,” she said. “I know I’m going to be volunteering with the Santa Claus Fund soon. That’s something we never had time for, so I’m looking forward to that.

“I just want to exist and take things one day at a time. I want to have gratitude and enjoy the things around me.”

Welling says she is thankful for the support her family has received over the years.

“It has been amazing,” she said. “I’ve made so many friends and so many great memories here. I couldn’t even think of 10 times I didn’t want to wake up and come into work – the people have made this so worthwhile.

“The past 41 years have been so special.”

Mo Cranker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News