Dell Texmo remembered as part of downtown renaissance

Daniel MacEachern
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Businesswoman dead at 68

Dell Texmo

When Dell Texmo applied, with business partner Penny Hansen, for a loan from the federal Business Development Bank, she ran into some difficulty.

“In those days, in the 1970s, it was very difficult for women to get business loans,” said Keith Storey, Texmo’s partner of 45 years. But they were prepared for the loan officer. “They basically told him that if he wanted their husbands to sign off on this, they’d have his guts for garters.”

Actually, Storey clarifies, what they told him was something a little more profane. It wasn’t garters they’d have, but bookends. And it would not be his guts, but a part of the male anatomy. They got the loan.

That was for Upstairs Downstairs on Bates Hill in St. John’s — a restaurant upstairs, and a kitchenware store downstairs that opened in 1976.

“For the first time you could buy cheesecake and quiche in Newfoundland. That was upstairs,” said Storey. “And downstairs you had all the pans and bits and pieces to make them with.”

It was also the start of a long business career in St. John’s for Texmo, who died Tuesday of pancreatic cancer at 68. Texmo opened Living Rooms, a furniture and accessories store, and Speakeasy, a wine bar, in the Murray Premises in 1979 — a Dining Rooms in Churchill Square and another Living Rooms in the Village Shopping Centre would follow. A two-time finalist for the Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, and, in 2000, the Eastern Canada Retailer of the Year, Texmo most recently began selling Mummers the Word collectibles, in 2008, in addition to numerous awards, honours and board of directors positions. Texmo served on the steering committee for the Canadian Association for Women Business Owners, the board of directors for the Newfoundland and Labrador Tennis Association and, from 2000 to 2006, the Newfoundland Power Board of Directors.

Local businesswoman and former member of Parliament Siobhan Coady called Texmo a “dynamo” and said she was a big reason for St. John’s’ downtown renaissance.

“What she brought to the downtown area during an era when there wasn’t a whole lot in downtown, especially of the ilk, the kind of store she was developing,” she said. “She played a large role in the development of the city in that regard. She was one of the leading local retailers of the time, and even in later years, when she started producing the Mummers, just a rediscovery of the traditional Newfoundland icons. And now they’re collectors’ items and people trade them on eBay … just the way she was able to look at St. John’s and see the potential and develop that potential certainly contributed to the development of the city.”

But Texmo’s business dealings came after Texmo made a local impact in academia, as a lecturer in Memorial University’s English department. She and Storey came to Newfoundland together in 1971 to teach at MUN, after meeting at Simon Fraser University, where Texmo earned her master’s in contemporary English literature.

“She was literally the first person I met when I arrived at Simon Fraser University, and that was it. Smitten,” said Storey. “I’m biased, but she was remarkable.”

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Organizations: Business Development Bank, Eastern Canada Retailer of the Year, Canadian Association Simon Fraser University Newfoundland and Labrador Tennis Association Newfoundland Power Board of Directors.Local EBay

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Churchill Square

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Recent comments

  • Michelle Costello Abramson
    December 25, 2012 - 21:14

    I was Dell's roomate in college - and good friend. Kieth, I'm so sorry.......we haven't heard for a couple years now and so I went online..........what a terrible thing...I am still reeling. I can verify what others have said; her intelligence was remarkable, her flame burned so brightly in every other way too. I am stunned and saddened; I will write to you, Kieth and family.

  • Janet Benge
    April 05, 2012 - 10:53

    When I arrived in Vancouver in 1968, Dell took me, a complete stranger, under her wing, giving me accommodation and helping me to find a roost of my own. Although our subsequent distant homes (she to Newfoundland and me to England) meant that coffee mornings were few and far between, we kept in touch with some great holidays. I will remember Dell with huge affection, in particular for her zest for life, her amazing organisational skills and her ability to laugh. Keith, Gabe, Alex and families... thinking of you lots. Dell was fab! Love, Janet.

  • terry goldie
    April 02, 2012 - 13:03

    Yes, a dynamo, on the tennis court, in her kitchen and in her business. It is a word often used too loosely but "unique" applies to Dell.

  • Martin Hallett
    March 31, 2012 - 20:47

    As a fellow-student with Keith and Dell at Simon Fraser, I can attest to the fact that they were smitten. And so were we who knew them and hung out with them and soaked up some of their warmth. It was a wonderful time to be alive and in such company.

  • bILL smith
    March 31, 2012 - 03:52

    just a wonderful person, who would make your deal happen , if you wished it, thank you you were so kind to me

  • Janette Georghiou
    March 30, 2012 - 15:36

    Thank you for this review of Dell's wonderful business career. She was a visionary in so many areas but also a very special friend to many. I am away from St John's at present and the article has helped a little to ease the pain of not being there as extended family at this time

  • Alison Stoodley
    March 30, 2012 - 13:08

    Dell was a friend and a client and a remarkable business woman, her legacy lives on not only in Living Rooms and Mummers the Word but also in the eyes of her beautiful grandchildren. She will be sadly missed.

  • Victoria Texmo McCracken
    March 30, 2012 - 12:37

    Thank you for writing such a great piece about my sister. She made an impact on the world around her, and we're all better people for having known her.

    • John Brown
      April 04, 2012 - 15:09

      I shall always have fond memories of our business and personal meetings. Saying she will be missed is certainly an understatement!! Stay strong Keith and extended family...............