For over a decade, my grandmother Harriet Harrell managed the UNICEF shop in Carmel, a town she lived in for forty years. From the age of 8-18, I spent a month every summer with Harriet. You have to know a bit more about Harriet to understand why that time is so significant to the story of Harriet’s General.
This is not a sweet Grandmother story. Harriet was an American original. She was also formidable and everything she did and everyone she loved was held to a high standard, her standard. Harriet loved her adopted city of Carmel, she loved her country, she loved her husband, Ben, a 1933 graduate of West Point. A gentle and endearing man who, as he rose to the Army’s top rank of 4 stars, gave Harriet a chance to travel the globe with her two sons, Gus and my father, Charlie.
I have so many memories of those summers with my grandmother. Not all good for Harriet was not easy; and, if I did not meet her expectations, she was quick to let me know. Yet, in looking back, and with the blur of time, it is easy to say that her formidable ways have served me well. There was also about Harriet, a quirky side and she was a great dresser. My Uncle Gus recently sent me a photo of Harriet standing with a group of her friends, all in their late 80s. There she is in a freshly ironed white shirt, navy blazer and heels to show off her great legs. Your eye is drawn to her, not just because she stands in the middle and, of course, has perfect posture but because she’s Harriet.
There is more to tell so I’ll leave Harriet for a moment but I do need to say a bit about her wave since it is the logo of our store. At the end of each summer, my brother and I board an 8-10 seater plane for the trip to San Francisco and our flight home. I turn for a last look at my grandmother and, there is Harriet standing on the roof of the airport in Monterey, giving me her movie star smile and the grand wave with her arm straight up in the air.
What I learned from Harriet is not hard to articulate. I have her love of country, and a love for my gentle and endearing man, Acie. Family is everything to me. And I see a bit of Harriet in myself and my children. My daughter, Charly has Harriet’s confidence; Caroline, her quirky side and a touch of Harriet’s formidable nature and, Bibb is an American original. I have my grandmother’s entrepreneurial spirit and ever since that first day at age 8 when I was put to work at her UNICEF shop, I have a love of creating a showplace of quality and community.
In tribute to our family matriarch, we hope to share our love of country by showcasing the best of the American made revival movement while keeping a bit of the quirky and original alive. Yet, we want to do more than that for we see Harriet’s General as not just a business opportunity. My family has a tradition of service. Both my grandfathers fought in WWII; my father served in Vietnam and my mother spent two years with Peace Corps in Malawi. And then there is Harriet who devoted her life to others. Service is a tradition we hope to carry on…. of giving more than we get. So “Ever Onward” as my grandmother would say.