What began as a trip to visit Golden in the 1970s evolved into a life changing adventure for Peggy Chalmers, who owns the Moon River Gift Gallery.
Chalmers, and her boyfriend at the time, Paul Smewing, who is now her husband took, a year away from Golden, where she was teaching and he was working for a glass installation company. He decided his days of installing glass was over, and he wanted to take up stained glass art.
They returned to Golden, where he continued his craft, and they opened up a small shop in a building that no longer exists in 1983. She never looked back, and has been working for herself for more than 30 years now.
The Moon River Alley Gallery took roots in a log building that was located behind what is now Higher Ground Sports.
“It was a fantastic place, but a horrible location,” Chalmers said, adding that the shop has moved twice since then.
She relocated Moon River to where Red Tomato Pies is now, before moving to its present location on 9th Ave. N.
With a background in art, owning the gallery has allowed her to source locally crafted art, things handcrafted in Canada, or from around the world. She takes special attention to things that are ethically made, and imports wares to her store.
Before opening the door to Moon River, the outside of the storefront greets you with windmills, and a large metal piece of art, spinning in the breeze and catching the rays of the sun.
Inside, trinkets dangle from the ceiling, glass cases house meticulously crafted jewelry, masks and fabrics line the walls.
Somewhere in the store, Chalmers is reorganizing and ensuring every small and large item is on display. She’s behind a display of pendants, sparkling blues and purples, wrapped in delicately coiled metal. Exquisite pieces that draw your attention to the details.
Smiling and happy, Chalmers greets every customer into her store. Some of them are just looking around, and many are on the hunt for the perfect gift or keepsake.
At 65, Chalmers could retire from her working career, but she’s happy at Moon River. Working for herself has given her many opportunities to live her life to its fullest, volunteering, taking trips, and raising children in the shop.
“If you work for yourself, and you like to work, you never have to stop,” Chalmers said, smiling. “Sometimes I think I’d like to retire, other times I think I’ll retire when they carry my cold dead body out the door.”
Chalmers and Smewing have raised two children in their shop, bringing the babies to work when they were small, and having them hang out until it was time to go once they were old enough.
When Chalmers arrived in Golden in 1977, she thought she would stay for a week and head back to Edmonton, but she wound up collecting her belongings 15 years later.
She had a number of jobs before her and Smewing opened their first shop in 1983, all of which she enjoyed.
When they opened their first store, it was small, and mostly sold Smewing’s stained glass art, displayed on bricks and boards for shelving. It featured consignment pieces as well.
The small shop has since grown, and Smewing’s passion for stained glass has evolved.
“If a woman wants to go into business for themselves, I think they should go for it. My biggest piece of advice is don’t get into debt,” Chalmers said. “Start small, and grow as fast as you want to and can afford to.”
With more than 30 years of business experience, Chalmers is a wise business professional, and a staple in Golden’s community.
“Sometimes we have to risk falling to see how we can soar. That’s not just in business, but in relationships and whatever,” she said.
Chalmers has made Golden her home and raised her children here, just as many other people have done after travelling through town.
“The Rocky Mountain Trench is kind of a net. A lot of people get caught up here and decide to stay. It’s incredible,” she said. “Probably the main reason I’m still here and I’m still doing this is I love this community so much. I just love the people and the vibe, and everything. It’s really going through a period right now of evolving and changing, and it’s really exciting.”