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Greenley's volunteer keeps busy with books after retirement

By Andre Lodder


BELLEVILLE, ONT (03.31.11) -Sandy Backus stands in front of the desk at the Greenley's Bookstore located in downtown Belleville. Sandy has been helping out as a volunteer since her daughter took ownership of the store three years ago. Photo by Andre Lodder.

It happens every so often that a daughter imitates her mother, but how often does it happen the other way around? Look no further than Tammy Grieve and her mother Sandy Backus at Greenley’s Bookstore.

Greenley’s has been a part of the Belleville community for 30 years and after the Greenleys decided to close shop, it was Grieve who decided to keep the business going.

Grieve worked for the Greenleys for 13 years before she took over the business nearly three years ago. That marked the day when her mother Sandy entered the family business and has been helping out ever since.

“Basically what I’m doing is volunteering here. I’m not a paid employee,” said Backus. “I do this because I like to keep busy and keep the mind working.” And that’s exactly what books do. It makes working for her daughter the perfect fit.

Although she only works part time, Backus, who just turned 71, fits in quite nicely at the bookstore. She shares a lot of common traits with her co-workers. Not only does her daughter own the store, but Backus also shares a similar age with most of the other part-time employees because the majority are seniors.

Backus has no experience working in retail, but doesn’t seem to mind. When her daughter first took over the bookstore, Backus was still working as a nurse. A career she carried out for 22 years.

“I retired 10 years ago from the hospital. Then I went to work for my family doctor for nine years and at the same time, my daughter took the store over, where I’ve been working part time.“

Backus didn’t go to nursing school until she entered as a mature student at 37 years old back in 1977. Before that, she was a stay-at-home mom.

Although she may have a wealth of experience in other fields her lack of experience with books and retail doesn’t deter her from her work. Backus works three days a week and enjoys whatever her job brings.

“I meet all sorts of interesting people,” she said. “We have book signings here so I get to meet all kinds of authors.”

Besides volunteering at the bookstore, Sandy lives an active life in the arts.  Asked what her hobbies were, she responded, “I have a piano, so I play piano when I can. I also love the theatre.”

It may not be the norm for a mother to be working for her daughter, but don’t read too much into it.  It’s fairly evident Backus is quite comfortable with what her life has brought her so far, and she still looks forward to the years to come.

For Backus one thing is for certain, she’s not ashamed of her age.

“I have no problem with my age. I am what I am.”