After 30 years of having her name all over Pictou County, realtor Marjorie Rose is moving on.
“From the time I was a little girl I dreamed of living in Halifax, somewhere very close to the public gardens and that is exactly where I’m going,” said Rose.
When she retires from Susan Green’s Coldwell Banker realty company at the end of the month it will be the first time in 42 years that she has not been working or on call seven days a week. For 12 years before she got into real estate, she and her former husband ran Rose’s Grocery on the corner of Almont Avenue, across from Porter’s Funeral Home.
“One of us was always in the store and that was in the days when neighborhood grocery stores were busy, long before Needs and Tim Horton’s came along. We lived above the store and had a buzzer so we could run down and help each other out when it got too busy.”
The irregular hours of real estate never bothered Rose, partly because her two daughters were grown when she started in the business.
“Beyond that, I think it goes back to the way we were brought up. There were seven of us, growing up in Lourdes, in a family where you were not expected to have free time. My father worked on the railway and on his days off he worked for my uncle. Between us kids, we controlled the newspaper market from Sobeys new offices down to The Brick for about 20 years. We delivered the Herald in the morning and The News after school. Then each of us went on to work part-time for Sobeys as we got older.”
Most of the Francis family went into medicine, nursing or teaching but Rose was always interested in business.
“I don’t know if it was in the genes but my grandfather had a couple of grocery stores, one in the south end of Stellarton where my mother and father met and one at the end of Emmanuel Street in Lourdes. He was murdered in the Emmanuel Street store during an armed robbery.”
Graduating high school with a lot of commercial credits, she was offered a job in Halifax but Sobeys countered with a head cashier’s position.
“I was pretty young to be a head cashier but I took the job and soon after that I met my husband. Not too much later we were married so that was the end of my plan for moving to Halifax.”
She continued part-time at Sobeys while her husband worked as a commercial traveler but both liked the idea of owning a grocery store so Rose called every store she could think of, asking if anyone was interested in selling. Months later an owner called back, ready to sell.
“We bought the store and all the charge accounts that came with it. People would send their kids in to get a few groceries, we’d put it on the account and they’d pay later on. You got close to your customers in those days. Kids would tell me things they probably didn’t tell their parents. We had a coffee machine and a lot of men would hang out at the store. You got to know a lot of people.”
About the time they decided to sell, a brother-in-law suggested she try real estate.
“It had never crossed my mind but when I mentioned it to my sister-in-law she agreed. She had taught school with Susan Green who left teaching to run her mother’s real estate business and she put us in contact.”
Rose picked up some real estate books but was intimidated and looked elsewhere for work.
“All I could find was part-time work and we had girls to get through university so I decided I better take another look at those books. I decided I’d take the course and see how it went. I did much better than I expected so Susan agreed to take me on. She gave me much more support and encouragement than I might have gotten anywhere else and that made all the difference in the world for me.”
Rose had been warned not to expect to make any money in her first six months but she immediately sold a piece of land and followed up with a listing and another sale, all through contacts made while she owned the store.
“I remember thinking this is easy but it wasn’t always that easy. I very clearly remember a six month period when I was working as hard as I could and getting absolutely nowhere. I wondered if I’d ever sell another property but when things turned around for me, the next six months made up for it. If you are going to be in real estate you learn to budget or you don’t survive.”
Rose has always enjoyed the excitement of being part of the biggest financial decisions people will ever make.
“To buy or to sell are both such big decisions and as a realtor I couldn’t help getting close to the people throughout the process.”
The process has changed dramatically in Rose’s years in the business.
“It used to be you had to go to a realtor for a lot of information, like price comparisons, but now that is all on the Internet. Many buyers will have done a lot of research before talking to a realtor today. Another big change I remember is when pre-approved mortgages came along at the banks. They really helped people understand their price range and made it easier for the realtor, too.”
Many of today’s young buyers have high expectations, she noted.
“They’ll look at a house and rhyme of a list of things that have to be gutted or changed. That’s great if they know the costs and have the money but it is so easy to get over-extended.”
For the first half of Rose’s career, older clients generally downsized from two-storey family homes to more compact bungalows.
“Because of downsizing there was great demand for the three-bedroom bungalow but that all changed when more rental options came on the market.”
In business and in life, you have to embrace change, said Rose.
“I don’t think any line of work could have suited me better but it was so enjoyable because I worked with wonderful colleagues and had great clients. Now I’m ready for retirement and looking forward to more time off with my daughters and their families.”
As she packs up her work materials and her home, Rose’s mother is never far from her mind.
“She worked very hard raising a family and when she’d get frustrated or overwhelmed she’d say, “Oh I wish I could run away and get an apartment on Spring Garden Road.” It was never a serious threat but she said it often and I can’t help feeling I’m taking her with me.”
Rose’s daughters are marking her retirement with a meet and greet at The Dock Saturday from 7-10 p.m.