By Inez Whiteley Foster, in "The Christian Science Monitor"
The story of Mrs. Margaret Hawkey, founder of "The Smiling Cow," one of the many attractive gift shops in this little coastal town, is the story of another woman who has learned that Shakespeare was right when he said, "Sweet are the uses of adversity." Like so many other courageous women, she has found that most difficult trials are often the spur to development of latent abilities.
Suddenly faced with the entire responsibility of earning a living for herself and her five school-age children, Mrs. Hawkey started on less than the proverbial shoe string.
"We really had absolutely nothing to begin with except the need to earn our living," she told me, as we chatted on the shop's pleasant little balcony overlooking one of Maine's loveliest harbors. "I had had no previous training in business and the children were young, but we did have, all of us, courage and a lot of ideas and enthusiasm. The children realized the situation and were as eager as I to get started in some business that we could all work in and so stay together."
The building was moved to its present location from the village green in 1919 on top of the Megunticook river falls over looking Camden harbor
A Stable Their Starter
While they were trying to think what they could do, the postman brought a letter from a real estate broker in Maine, where they had often spent their summers, telling them that a "quaint old stable" was vacant. He thought they might like to rent it.
Their first thought was a book shop for they all loved books, but they decided it would be better to combine these with other things.
"Finally one day," Mrs. Hawkey related, "we stood inside one of the wholesale gift showrooms to which we had been directed in New York. We choked down our embarrassment and laid down our cards honestly on the table. We didn't know the first thing about 'approach' so we thought it right to tell of our inexperience and to explain that although we had a good credit rating in the New York shops where we had formerly bought clothes, we now lacked cash."
Their story fell on a sympathetic ear and they were able to get their first merchandise. "As our tastes were practical," said Mrs. Hawkey, "the selections for our new shop turned out well."
Getting to Maine after they had secured their merchandise was another adventure. They had to earn their way along, and they did it by selling pie plates for a well known manufacturer.
They began by putting aside their pride and going from door to door. They earned enough to buy a station wagon, which the children taught one another to drive. En route to Maine they slept in hammocks or hayfields or in their own friendly station wagon. By the time they arrived at their "shop" they had gained considerable sales experience, and even had some pennies left over to share.
Meg Fisher Quijano
2nd generation owner)
Henry and Margaret Fisher
Grateful for Advice
And how did "The Smiling Cow" get its name? It just couldn't have been called anything else in the Hawkey family. You see, when one of the Hawkey girls was tiny, she always thought that a certain cow on her grandfather's farm laughed when she stroked its head and repeated jokes that her family thought were "corny." Soon the "Smiling Cow" became a byword in the family and when the shop came along, it quite naturally inherited the name.
The "Smiling" part has since proved true. The "Cow" has now smiled through three generations, and the 4th and 5th generations are waiting in the wings.