"Please stop by any time"
Updated: Jul 27, 2022
If you don't know him you're missing out. If you do know him you already know that Terry Phillips is a Regional Treasure.
New to the area I escape Hamilton regularly for the Twenty Valley and sit in Jordan Hollow Park to plan my new River & Wine venture. There I take in the beauty of the hollow and peer across at a curious little hamlet.
I've never seen anything like it. Boo's Eatery, tiny houses in a half-circle, vendor tables.
When I move to St. Catharines I need a place to position a sign for my tours. Eyeing up Boo's two years I never stop to ask, fearing refusal. Failing to form reliable industry partnerships I expect rejection from yet another small-hearted, small-minded Small Town Miser.
In time I'm desperate. After twenty-four long months of sluggish COVID-era revenues I screw up the courage to engage. I find a Facebook Page for the flea market and email one "Terry Phillips." I ask if possible to rent a table and/or space to erect a sign for promotions. I click SEND and nervously await the "No" so many love to give.
His response immediate:
Please stop by any time.
I am sure we can help out.
In one brief message this Man has snapped the iron gate of pandemic prison. So frustrated with what I couldn't do for two years this short note catapults my spirits.
Please - request is not an imposition but an opportunity to serve
stop by - face to face, open door policy, "don't feel intimidated"
any time - without restrictions. Ego-free. "Come connect. All welcome. Don't fear. I'm here for you."
I am sure we can help out - unlike others he's not looking for a reason to not help. In his mind to deny a beggar would be hurtful. He's certain there's a way "we" (his entire family) can help
Terry's twelve words embody a special essence in a complex world of self-consciousness, territories, titles, bureaucracies, gratuitous rules, reputations at stake, game playing, self-importance, exploitation of opportunities to lord over people and the lust for power.
When we meet I offer a small sum as rent but he says, "No way, no fee."
I say, "What would you do if I forced twenty bucks into your pocket?"
"Well," he smiles, "You'd be escorted off the property."
Finally a man unmotivated by reciprocation with humor to boot!
Terry Phillips, I quickly learn, simply does what's needed - within reason. Mobbed for donations of things and money and time Terry doesn't need another demand. My deep appreciation is not exaggerated.
More than what he does however is how he does. Terry's easiness reminds me of every person who rolled through my parent's house to converse with our family of eight. "No need to knock," Terry seems to say. "Just let yourself in. What's on your mind?"
So easy is he to be around I make excuses to pop over just to talk. Good conversationalists are hard to come by but Terry is not one to monologue. In Terry I find a kindred talker as eager to absorb as he is to share. His approach to the community is consistent with his approach to business. "I like to hire people who know more than me," he says.
If only more posh local establishments exuded the same reason.
As a result he's a magnet for all levels. I marvel at the revolving door that is his kingdom, a never-ending stream of smiles, dogs, laughs, banter, gossip, love and trust. Warmed that he lets anyone join the altar of chatter - while in progress, no less - I'm also annoyed when interrupted. I must accept that Terry is to be shared, not occupied. While he's available and valuable to me he's those to everyone else as well. And while some may only need him for a word or a hug, some need him for longer. Either way he meets all with warm eyes which means he's all ears and, if necessary, all in.
"I'm just a country bumpkin who enjoys life," he says, lighting a smoke.
He must know he's more than that. Truth is he's mayor, pastor, friend, talk show host, comedian, sage, owner, inclusionist, enthusiast, conversationalist, therapist, realist, professor, pragmatist, idealist, approachable, likable and human.
Sunday morning I solicit advice amid pine trees by a fire pit. It's peaceful for the moment but the conveyor belt of locals now roll out of cars and shout hello or toss a joke or two to which he responds in kind.
Most symbolic is that Terry lives outdoors. Whenever I motor through the hollow there he inevitably is among trees and people in the life and village of his creation - priests and reverends take note that the connection between God and the people is daily visibility, not weekly speeches; to be a small part of a big circle - not a looming guru at an amplified podium. Terry's Hollow is not a stage facing the masses but a dot in an O that keeps him equal, neither self-promoting nor seeking nominations. Because, hell, he might need you one day and wouldn't be ashamed to ask.
Terry Phillips is not just the heart of the region but an artery available to everyone. More important than his enterprises and events (pictured above) is his steady and unending accessibility - a breath of fresh humanity in an inward-looking world of privacy fences and anonymous neighbors.
Put simply: Terry Phillips puts the "omm" in community.
No doubt he's a Regional Treasure - and everyone who knows him yearns to preserve him for no other reason but that there will never be a replacement - not with his humility or social agility.