By Jessica Messer-Trosin
The owner of 3B Best Beauty Buys has felt a passion for the fashion and beauty industry since she was just 16 years old. It started in her hometown of Edmonton when Steele took a course at the Marvel Hair Dressing School.
Steele, now 85, also felt a desire to make something of herself from a young age.
“I always wore hand-me-downs when we lived out in the country. I had eight sisters and it was always hand-me-downs. I got tired of hand-me-downs and I said I was going to make something out of myself and I’m never going to have hand-me-downs and I’m going to have whatever I want,” Steele shared.
The beginning of her working years involved moving all around Canada, where she held many positions.
“I’ve lived in every major city in Canada because I was married and my husband got transferred for the steel workers all over the place.”
In Edmonton, Steele did manicures and pedicures, was a fashion consultant, bridal consultant, and did work as a model. She also worked as a beautician, managed a hair salon, and supervised The Mirror Room at The Bay. Following that she moved into fashion, managing MacArthur’s Ladies Wear.
Steele and her husband then moved out to the Maritimes before coming back to the West in 1978. In 1980, she started divorce proceedings.
“I started working on doing something for Beverlee,” she said.
After getting laid off from her first job in Kamloops, which she held for a year and a half, Steele decided to start her own business.
“I lingered at the house and wondered what I was going to do with my future. I was tired of working for other people and I started looking at myself and decided I should do something on my own. So I decided to start a jewelry business.”
At the time she made that decided to launch her own store, Steele was both teaching and taking graduate classes at Cariboo College, now Thompson Rivers University.
“I took business administration and at the same time I worked at the college teaching wine classes and poise and balance classes for young aspiring ladies, teaching them how to walk, talk and carry themselves.”
After researching the type of jewelry she wanted to sell, her business started off small. Steele first sold jewelry from out of her house for five or six years, before moving to locations on Lansdowne Street and Seymour Street. After that she moved to Sahali Mall, where she has been for almost exactly 30 years. She has been in three different locations in the mall.
While establishing her business she also did fashion shows for different charities, sold silk clothing from Japan and sold Avon products. These side products allowed Steele to get to know Kamloops.
Steele’s love for what she does has spanned through her whole career.
“I have a passion for what I do. I like people. It’s been good to me. It’s not hard work.”
“You just have to know your clients as well as your products to be able to serve them better. We do personalized service in our store…We work with the customer for her needs. It not only has to match her outfit, it also has to suit the client because they can probably wear it with other outfits. It has suit their attire as well as their personality,” she said. “We don’t sell to sell. The customer has to like it. We can suggest and make suggestions and that’s my forte, coordination.”
Steele repeatedly said how much she loves working with different people all the time. They have taught her many things: cultural differences, the power of positive attitudes, and that everyone has a unique story to share.
“Communication is key and having an open mind. Listening is a good practice because you learn from listening,” Steele said.
Steele has developed personal relationship with many of the people she has encountered throughout her career, both customers and co-workers.
“We have a good clientele…I love people and some of them have become by lifelong friends…My staff from 20 years ago is still in contact and comes by and sees how I’m doing. If I ever needed something, they’re there for me. They’ve been very kind.”
By far, Kamloops is the city that Steele has enjoyed living in most.
“It meets my needs, it has an airport, the climate is something to die for and we’re in the best part of the country.”
Her jewelry store is not the only thing that has kept Steele busy over the years, however. Her love of curling took her to the National Championships in Moncton, New Brunswick in 1974, and she is still an avid bowler.
For six years now Steele has served as Queen of the Canadian Crown Jeweler’s Society, and before that she was a member of the Red Hat Society for 15 years.
Her volunteer work includes time with the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Cancer Society.
Currently still busy working six days a week, Steele has recently put her beloved store up for sale. After all this time, she has decided to finally retire. She has marked down her merchandise 20-50 per cent, and is encouraging shoppers to start preparing for Christmas.
Not having to work, doesn’t mean that she won’t keep herself busy, though. Steele already has plans for when the store is sold.
“I’m going to play bridge, work with my lodge, do volunteer work, enjoy my house and flowers and family and friends and have some fun.”