Some treasures can be found if you look inside the Empress - Carpet One Floor and Home location in North Battleford,
Among them is a medallion from Istanbul, Turkey; a Chinese desk that is 800 years old; doors and chests from Kathmandu, pillars from Egypt and other items acquired from around the world.
Behind the front desk is a wall that is a replica of the famed “John Lennon Wall” in Prague, including a blow-up photo of the wall featuring a peace sign with the word “Imagine.”
It is all part of the vision by proprietors Terry and Stacey Caldwell to transform the location into more than a flooring store.
In speaking to the News-Optimist, Terry Caldwell explained the idea was to make the store a community gathering place for charity events and presentations.
“This has been our main focus for the last while, trying to make it a more multipurpose facility, not just a business,” he said.
The potential from that came when the venue hosted a charity event for 100 Women Who Care some time ago.
After seeing its success, “we’ve started to expand that,” said Caldwell.
They’ve since hosted the Prairie Women on Snowmobiles, who ride across the province on snowmobiles to raise money for cancer research. Caldwell said the snowmobilers loved the venue so much that they plan to return again in February 2020.
Caldwell has also been heavily involved in the “Class of 2030/2031” initiatives by businesses in the community to “adopt a classroom.” Each business sponsors a class from kindergarten and stays with them until graduation.
That effort launched while Caldwell was serving his one-year term as president of the Battlefords Chamber of Commerce, which wrapped up earlier this year. One of the mandates of his time at the chamber was to move the organization toward more social responsibility initiatives.
“Now we finally got to adopt our own classroom last year,” said Caldwell. “I think what we found out is that it was absolutely true what everybody said – it was more of a benefit to the owners and managers and everyone else involved in the company than it was the kids, because it was totally heartwarming. They were fighting over who was holding Stacey’s hand walking out to the garden.”
He believes a program like that one will be “transformative” for North Battleford.
To that end, Caldwell says the Empress store is preparing for the future as the venue has been equipped for more gatherings in the future. They hold all their charity events on the main floor, and have placed all their display racks on wheels, so they can be easily moved to accommodate those larger events.
“Now that everything’s on wheels, it doesn’t take a day and half anymore,” said Caldwell of the preparations to set up.
Also added was multimedia equipment that can project images and videos onto screens above for presentations. Those could include school presentations.
Caldwell feels the various collector’s items held in the building – including Roman coins from the times of Nero and Caesar – hold tremendous educational value for kids who may show up.
“When a child can hold a coin from 200 B.C., something in their head changes,” said Caldwell. “The next time they have a lesson on it, they remember that and it’s real, that people were real back then. That they weren’t just a thing they see on the page, writing on a page, or in a movie recreation of it.”
He hopes their efforts will also encourage other businesses in the Battlefords to get involved in the community themselves.
“Every little bit helps,” said Caldwell. He adds North Battleford is in an ideal position to be able to do these sorts of community initiatives because of its small size.
As for the future, more charity events are expected, with plans for the venue to possibly host Planet Youth events.
“It’s nice that we’re able to cater it from the restaurant,” said Caldwell, referring to the family’s other main business venture, Porta Bella Restaurant, located just down the street.
The News-Optimist caught up with Caldwell in advance of a milestone for his flooring store – a grand re-opening as “Empress - Carpet One Floor & Home” as a full member of the Carpet One chain.
The plan is for the vice-president of CCA Global (Carpet One) to come to North Battleford and join them Sept. 17 for the opening ceremonies at their Highway 4 North location.
The North Battleford location differs from others in that the selection is diversified compared to other Carpet One stores. It includes not just flooring but furniture, window coverings and accessories.
“Most Carpet Ones you go into, they sell just flooring, and that’s all they sell,” Caldwell said.
But he noted Carpet One is looking at diversifying. North Battleford is seen by the company as a good test case for its other stores because of what’s been tried there before.
“Because of their mandate to be more diversified, they thought we would be a good example for that and there are lessons to be learned for their stores through us.”
The store itself began as a Carpet Superstore initially before evolving and diversifying its selection under the Empress name.
The idea of adding a community-gathering-place element to the location evolved over time, as the store diversified.
But the vision of having items that customers might not find anywhere else – the sorts of items that might encourage customers from miles around to come and visit – is something Caldwell said has been there from the start when he moved back to North Battleford almost 10 years ago.
“I came back here … to make changes in North Battleford or try and urge change, because I saw it was having some difficulty,” said Caldwell. “There’s got to be some things I could do to help that.”