Published in The Ithaca Journal, March 24th 2010
WILLSEYVILLE – Barbara Gile lives about a half-hour drive from downtown Ithaca, at the hilly border of Tompkins and Tioga counties. “We have neighbors, yes, but I can’t see their houses from where I am,” she laughs, standing in front of the red, ranch-style house she shares with her husband, five Siamese cats and a German shepherd called Stormy.
Gile is no stranger to the countryside. The 55-year old, soft-spoken brunette grew up swimming in creeks and climbing trees in her native Cortland, the third in a pack of four daughters. “We were a handful,” she chuckles.
But love of the countryside isn’t the only thing that’s kept her here for 26 years. As proprietor of three home-run businesses – TLC Kennels, Ceres Greenhouses and Sophisticated Baby Gifts – Barbara Gile needs the space.
“I opened the kennels 15 years ago,” she says. “It was just a temporary home for people’s pets, if they were going on vacation, or couldn’t take care of them”. Beginning with modest ads in the Yellow Pages, there are now days that Gile has as many as 40 dogs under her care. The business helps pay for all the household’s utilities.
“I did it because I love animals,” she says. “So I just had someone put up the building for me, and jumped in.”
Barbara Gile isn’t afraid of “jumping in”. From revamping a bankrupt Candor grocery store in 1984 to setting up two hydroponic greenhouses in her backyard in 2001, Gile’s gentle, smiling demeanor conceals an innate sense of business. “You just have to have common sense, and be willing to put in the time.” Her greenhouses produce tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, which the Giles’ sell at the Ithaca Farmers’ Market every week. “The recession has made things a little harder, yes, but at least I don’t have to worry about getting laid off,” she says gratefully.
Gile also never hired any help. Her husband Oscar, a real estate agent for Audrey Edelman, pitches in whenever he can, but for the most part it’s a one-woman show. “I have worked hard all my life and would never retire,” she says, “but I would like to work a little easier!”
That explains Sophisticated Baby Gifts, Gile’s recent foray into e-business. Sophisticated Baby Gifts
is an online store for baby products such as clothes, blankets, toys and diaper cakes – basic baby supplies packaged in attractive ways –as well as thoughtful gifts for parents and siblings. Customers make their purchases online, and Gile forwards their orders to various
wholeslaers around the country, who then ship out the products within two days. All she needs to run this business is a computer with
Internet access; for someone as accustomed to physical labor as Gile, it’s like “being on holiday”. The couple also plan to sell their
Willseyville home this year, and move out of the country.
“The people who buy the house will have to be industrious,” says Gile. “Because I don’t want to close the kennels and greenhouses. I want to sell them. It’s a good income for somebody.”
Meanwhile, she would like to keep expanding the baby products business, and set up another site for older children. “But most of all,” she says with a laugh, “I would really, really like to take a vacation!”