If you have ever taken a stroll down by the river on Sophia Street in Downtown Fredericksburg, you have undoubtedly come across The Pantry Shelf. The Pantry Shelf, owned by Bill Greenlaw has been a cornerstone in Fredericksburg for a very long time. If you had ever asked Bill how long he has been in business, his answer, with a smirk on his face would have been “longer than you and your momma probably been alive.”
Since we opened Kickshaws Downtown Market, we have known Bill Greenlaw… well, really before that. Bill was eager to introduce himself to us before we opened the doors to our market and ready to give us all the advice we needed to make a go at business in the ‘burg. I remember the day I first met Bill, I was working feverishly on sanding and painting and I looked over to the covered window to see his face peeking in at the edge. I walked out of the shop and introduced myself. Bill stood outside, what would soon be Kickshaws and talked for quite a while asking what we would be selling and if we needed help. I fully admit I was very wary of him to start off with as I had heard a number of colorful anecdotes about him from folks in town. And again, admittedly, he wasn’t always the easiest person to talk to. But there were a few really huge redeeming factors for Mr. Greenlaw; he was passionate about health and passionate about teaching people. These are two things that we have built our business on and with that Bill and I were comrades.
Over the last year and a half, we worked together a few times on supplying our markets, splitting items that we couldn’t possibly completely use. He came over many times to bring us organic vegetables that he had grown on his land and of course, lots of advice on how to more effectively build our business. The funny thing is though, that while we were technically competing business, Bill was never adversarial. He sent folks my way for items and of course, I sent folks to his end when they needed certain items I knew he carried. While not all of his advice was completely useful (ie “who needs a computer these days anyway!”) he had his heart in the right place and for that he was loved by many loyal customers in Fredericksburg.
I heard yesterday that Mr. Greenlaw had passed away this week. I think for us, and probably many folks in town, we all knew he was growing older, but he was still kicking about (as he said), tending his land and tormenting college kids who ambled into his shop. I guess we just thought he would always be there.
Thank you Bill for being such a pioneer, keeping natural living, eating and health in the forefront of the minds of everyone not only in our area, but even farther. Thank you for keeping your focus on us and our well being, thank you for dedicating your life to making us better. Rest in peace Mr. Greenlaw, although they might not all admit it, Fredericksburg will miss you.