HAVE A CUP OF JOE WITH JOE – Straight “From The Heart” We Thank The Janisse Sisters For 32 Amazing Years
On April 30, 2022, From The Heart, Card, Gift and Wig Boutique, 1356 Ottawa Street closes its doors for a final time.
This popular Windsor retail business has been owned and operated for 32 years by my three cousins — Jackie McCreary, Geri Maisonneuve and Paulette Kupnicki —who are all sisters.
I sat down with them for an interview in a back room at their shop on International Women’s Day (March 8). Let me now introduce you to them — in case you haven’t already met — and then I will tell you about their business and how it came to be.
They are three of five daughters born to my uncle, Vince ,and aunt, Doris Janisse (McParland). Their other two daughters are; Sue Simard who lives out in British Columbia, and their much-loved Michelle (Mickie Janisse) who was felled by cancer on April 4, 2006 at the age of 52.
Not a day passes by that she isn’t remembered and loved by her partner Lynne Rose and the entire Janisse family. It should also be noted that at age four, cousin Mickie was the first girl I ever kissed; we were true kissing cousins, LOL!
Their father Vince was a second generation owner-operator of Janisse Brothers Funeral Home on Ouellette Avenue. The business was passed on to him from his father, George. Vince and Doris also had two sons, Paul and David, who became third generation owner/operators.
Hence Janisse “Brothers,” but that name wasn’t quite accurate.
Their sister Mickie, also a licensed mortician, played an important part of the family business before moving on to other career opportunities. Janisse Brothers Funeral Home was subsequently sold by the two brothers to Arbor Memorial Inc. and is now known as Janisse Funeral Home.
Each of the sisters travelled different career paths when their schooling years were completed.
Maisonneuve worked in a bank; McCreary became a Registered Nurse; Kupnicki was a catholic elementary school teacher for years before accepting a position with Centres For Seniors (now renamed to Life After Fifty).
She then spent 19 years with The City of Windsor Parks & Recreation department, working with the seniors in the region.
All three sisters married, had children and raised a family.
November 16, 1989 was the official opening of From The Heart, Card, Gift and Wig Boutique.
Originally located in the Dorwin Plaza on Dougall Avenue, the business was then called The Wig Wam Boutique. It wasowned by Bea Lennon, a good friend of the sisters’ “grandma” Jeanne Janisse who remarried their father Vince, after their mother Doris had died.
Lennon had told grandma Jeanne she was going to be selling her business. Grandma Jeanne then told the three sisters, who were quite interested and after some deliberation, the sisters agreed to purchase it.
Along with the assistance of their father and grandma Jeanne, the sisters became business partners.
“We owe so much to grandma Jeanne,” says Kupnicki. “My sisters and I were deeply saddened to learn of her passing the week this interview was conducted. We are forever grateful for all she did for us.”
They renamed the business From The Heart and within a year expanded into a space next door that became available.
So, where did the new business name come from?
McCreary’s first husband Jim McCreary was involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Windsor Essex and it was his “little brother” Jeff who is credited with naming the business. No further explanation is available as to why he chose this name — but it was spot on!
They changed quite a bit of the product line and eliminated the Canada Post station that came with the business. The business grew — especially The Wig Boutique,which catered to a growing number of clients suffering hair loss from cancer’s chemotherapy, and other hair loss diseases.
Over the years, they have served hundreds and hundreds of women with this much needed service which, at times, represented half of their business.
In September 2001, they purchased their own space at 1356 Ottawa Street in a growing business community. And there they have remained, for the past 21 years.
So, how do three women with no formal training in business come together and start and sustain their own business?
The key word is mentor. You find a reliable and tested mentor who can walk the walk you are about to begin.
As Kupnicki recalls: “A friend of mine, Liz Munsterhjelm, had a business called Casa Chavela (which closed in 2021 after 36 years), a fair-trade store on Pelissier Street featuring international products from over 40 countries. Early in our start up she graciously opened her books for us to review and shared with us her learned experiences. She was essential to helping us get off the ground.”
Years later the sisters helped establish an entrepreneurial group of female business owners to brainstorm, network, support each other, share best practices, and work together. This was largely spearheaded by McCreary and was their way of “paying it forward” for the advice they received from Munsterhjelm.
McCreary believes the key to a successful small business start up “is in not going it alone. There’s a tendency to be hyper vigilant about expenses in the beginning and perhaps not hiring the level of required staff to assist you. The three of us had a great advantage here because there were three of us who are sisters and who love and respect each other.”
As time went on, they opened their business to employee help, many of whom became honorary family. And they also earned two Biz X Awards — one in 2009 for The Card Shop That Rises To The Occasion and the second in 2012 for The Big Wig Of Hair Pieces.
I asked Maisonneuve how they survived the COVID-19 pandemic when so many other small businesses did not.
“We would not have survived the pandemic had we not been given the wonderful grants from the government,” Maisonneuve replies. “We took advantage of every grant out there and that saved us. It helped us get our online store in September 2020, something which we never had before.”
The funding also allowed them to upgrade their 50 year old cash register, obtain a POS (Point Of Sale) machine and purchase a few other items used in today’s contemporary business environment.
These are some of the grants Maisonneuve went after: Digital Main Street; Ontario Small Business Relief Grant and Canada-Ontario Job Grant in addition to the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB, now closed) financial support each of the sisters applied for.
Faithful patrons of From The Heart will tell you the store is an eclectic mixture of diverse one-of-a-kind gift items and cards — always renewing itself, keeping itself fresh. Items like my whimsical Mistletoes, which make an appearance every December. This is the result of the sisters attending some of the best trade shows available.
During the late 1990s’ Beanie Babies craze, the store was overrun at times by people from both Canada and the U.S. lining up to purchase their well stocked inventory of these collector dolls (and future investments)!
Their most popular and enduring product has been Ramedica Herbal Wonder Balm (for aches and pains), which will continue to be available after the closure through Kupnicki’s daughter, Nicole. (Note: The store will announce details to their customers on how to contact Nicole shortly).
And there is great news about the future of the Wig Boutique!
A long-time client, Jodi McGregor, is taking over the Wig Boutique and is excited to continue this service.
From The Heart staff will continue to serve you in-store until the end of April, and then McGregor will be available at Salon Topaz, 3021 Dougall Avenue.
Reacting to the impending closure of From The Heart, Ettore Bonato, President of the Uptown Ottawa Street BIA shares these words: “The store has been a fixture on Ottawa Street for years where you could always find that special card or gift no other merchant has. And their heart-warming way of finding wigs for people suffering the effects of hair loss due to cancer treatments, is a true testament of caring. They will be missed greatly, and I wish them the best in their future endeavours.”
The Mayor continues with: “The addition of the Wig Boutique added another dimension of caring service. I’ve heard touching stories of the confidence, strength and joy a wig from the shop helped bring many people during uncertain times in their lives. Jackie, Geri and Paulette — thank you! These decades of service have made a tremendous impact on families celebrating life’s special moments, and those seeking comfort during challenging days, while your many charitable and community-oriented initiatives have truly resonated. While we are glad to hear the wig and head covering services will continue under new leadership, the legacy you have created will live on in the hearts and minds of all those who you’ve touched. It is obvious the shop was never a ‘job’ for any of you — it was a vocational labour of love that was truly — from the heart.”
Our Mayor could not have said it better!
From The Heart has been an oasis for so many persons, for so many years. The three sisters fuelled their service to others through their individual faith and spirituality. Their approach to their client service has been unique. It is therapeutic; it is ministry.
Whether it’s their participation in the Look Good, Feel Better (LGFB.ca) program, or the sisters praying with a client for their personal needs in their back room, they have responded to clients with respect, devotion and love.
From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU cousins for these 32 years, I hope you enjoy your richly deserved retirement. You’ve made this cousin so very proud of both the Janisse brothers AND Janisse sisters in our community!