Amber Webster is deeply rooted with Kredl’s. In fact, she is the only staff member who has been involved since the beginning. She has served as garden centre manager since 2005.
Amber comes from the rural New Brunswick soil, born and raised in McDonald’s Point, which bears her maiden name. For those that don’t know, this is a farming community on the Washademoak Lake. Her family has such a deep heritage in the area that her father remembers the natives boating down the river from camp to camp. Amber’s brother even once found an arrowhead. Amber grew up on the family farm, which was granted to her Loyalist ancestors in the 1700’s. In the 1920’s, her great-grandfather turned the farm into a business. In the early days, they sent vegetables on the riverboat and had stalls in the City Market.
Amber’s earliest memories include filling her red rubber boots with soil and manure and playing with the earth worms. Her father’s main income came from fruit and vegetable farming. At their height they had several hundred apple trees, 21 acres of strawberries, 65,000 tomato plants and many more acres of mixed vegetables, including peppers and cabbage. For a period of time, they were the largest tomato growers in the province. The produce was wholesaled all over the province to grocery stores, markets, restaurants, nursing homes and more. They were marketed as McDonald’s strawberries and tomatoes and everyone knew who they were.
Amber was a true farm girl. Her brother looked after the crops, her father marketed the goods and Amber was in charge of the harvest. One week, she had 70 strawberry pickers to look after, but 50 pickers was a normal crew. She liked that. When she was 16, Amber obtained her drivers license. The next day, she was put behind the wheel of a 1960’s three ton truck with a bunch of tomato pickers in the back and sent down the road. The manual transmission truck had no power steering and an authentic bullet hole through the windshield. It turned so hard, she had to brace her feet to turn the wheel. This was just part of a fleet of farm vehicles with character. They had another truck named Joseph because of its coat of many colours.
All this is what brought Amber to Kredl’s. Days before their July 1, 1980 opening, the Kredl’s approached Amber’s father to supply them with strawberries. Reluctantly, he agreed because he had experience getting burned by these silly little fly-by-night hippy vegetable stands. He delivered those strawberries and that was the beginning of a long relationship.
Over the years, the McDonald’s supplied Kredl’s with all sorts of veggies. However, as big box grocery stores centralized and prices were set in Ontario, the bureaucracy dictated that you either had to go big or go home. This marked the first wave of deaths of the small family farm. With just Amber and her father left at the farm, the investment to go big was not a sensible decision. So, the McDonald’s converted their greenhouses to growing bedding plants. Coincidentally, this happened the first year that the Kredl’s started their garden centre. For years, Amber delivered plants to Kredl’s and many other garden centres.
After season 2003, Amber’s father decided to retire. He was 76 years old. Amber had a very tough decision to make, continue the business that her great-grandfather had started or seek a career elsewhere. She decided to find a job where she would stay clean and wear nice clothes. She failed. To this day, she plays in the dirt at Kredl’s. When Paula Kredl hired Amber, one of the first things she was told was that there was a wiry little kid running around Kredl’s. His name is Dave and don’t let him tell you what to do. That dynamic remains true.
Three years ago, she told me she wanted to retire. I’ve been trying really hard to find a replacement to train. However, there is no one like Amber. She will not be replaceable. And I can’t say I’ve been looking that hard. We wouldn’t want her to actually leave, would we.
Amber has watched every step of the transition in ownership from the Kredl’s. She enjoys seeing the changes and watching me learn my lessons one at a time. She’s watched me gradually mature in the way I handle situations. She always thought I was driven by the desire to make money, but she has seen that I am driven by the desire to see people eat well. To be honest, I’m half dictating what she is saying and I am interjecting this sentence as she’s talking, but hearing her say this is very touching. She really enjoys our managers meetings. She loves knowing all the ambitious projects being worked on.
Amber has always eaten a lot of veggies. She now eats more fruit than she used to. She has made several small changes in her eating habits. Over the past two years, she lost almost 50 pounds. She admits that she has put a bit of that back on, but keeping it off is a frame of mind to resist all the temptations. She says sugar is poison, but it is darn good. That’s the sad part. Amber loves fresh salad onions. Watermelon and grapes are among her favourite fruits.
Most people don’t know, but as a child, Amber used to comb the ditches and brooks looking for frogs to play with. She called it froggin. Amber has amazed me because through the transition, I dragged some people kicking and screaming into the texting and emailing world. However, once she decided to, Amber jumped onboard. Few Kredl’s staff reply to a text or email faster than Amber and her smart phone.