This is one of a series of stories we are sharing to show what's inside CubeSmart. You not only get a peek inside our customer's storage unit, but also a peek inside what is important to them. Thank you to Felicia Long, customer of our CubeSmart store in Washington, D.C, for sharing her story with us.
Felicia Evans Long is a federal government program analyst in Rockville, Md., where she also lives. But her passion is a candy store she operates in her hometown of Lumberton, N.C.
"I've always sold candy as a kid out of my mom's apartment in the projects," she said. "I was the one they'd stop in the hallways saying, ‘You got some Now or Laters? Chick-o-Sticks? Got some bubble gum?"
She has all that and more at Sweet Candy Café, which she opened five years ago on Nov. 25.
She was struck with the entrepreneurial bug as she coveted Guess and Gloria Vanderbilt jeans but couldn't work until she turned 16. Felicia would put the clothes on layaway and sell candy until she could pay them off.
"That was my hustle," she said.
Her husband, Timothy, was her business partner. Felicia said she was the face of the business, but behind the scenes was his steady, loving support. Timothy was born in the Bronx and raised in Newark, N.J. "He was tough but soft and sweet on the inside," she said.
Felicia admired his energy, which she recalled him showing during one particular business situation. "I'm Southern shy and my husband's like, ‘Tell ‘em what you want.'"
Timothy worked as a surgical assistant for George Washington University Hospital in Washington D.C. The couple courted for five years and were married for 10 years before Timothy drowned in a pool while on a trip to California on Aug. 17, 2014. He was 39.
His last text to her read: "I can always count on you. You're the best wife ever."
Felicia continues to heal from her loss. "I have a long road ahead," she said.
Felicia said when doctors and staff go on vacations they still ask her if they want her to bring her back his favorites — black coffee beans, Scotch, or cigars.
"I keep everything going that he helped us start," she said. "I'm 45, and think where are we going to be? But I can hear him saying, good job bae."
Together, they kept the store going after it caught fire in October 2012. She hesitated to reopen it, but the landlord convinced her the confectionary store needed to stay in the heart of downtown. Six weeks later it opened with new chandeliers and a 40s vibe she hoped would entice patrons to view the store as an entertainment destination of sorts, including as a site for prom photos.
Felicia may have lost her husband, but she has found ongoing support in a friend and public relations consultant, Nicole Hayes, who lives in Northwest D.C. They met in 2008 while serving on the Board of Directors for Suited for Change, a non-profit organization in D.C. devoted to providing professional attire, mentoring and job-readiness education to women.
"We developed a friendship, a sisterhood," Nicole said. "She became one of my clients."
Nicole and Felicia shared their story with us during a visit to our store at 645 Taylor St., NE, Washington D.C. Nicole was downsizing to a smaller apartment and kept some of her belongings at our store.
Nicole helped Felicia publicize her candy catered events and the business in such magazines as The Knot and Women's World. Nicole said the two are compatible as business-oriented, organized, planners.
"There's also some comedy in our idiosyncrasies," Nicole said. Like the fact that Felicia keeps telling her it's pointless that Nicole has five Blackberry cell phones.
Nicole summarized Felicia's story as one of resilience. In April 2014, Felicia's brother died in a car accident in Lumberton, just four months before Felicia's husband's death. "It kind of comes down to when you make lemonade out of lemons," Nicole said. "And a lot of prayer and support."
Prayer is a key part of Nicole's life. During a routine cleaning, she learned her dentist was also a Christian. They discussed today's culture woes. "We said, ‘What can we do to give our young people something else to model?' People are looking at the Brittany Spears, the Beyoncés."
She said an idea for a ministry was quickened to her on the spot. Soon after, she launched Voices Against the Grain, which she described as a counter-culture ministry that seeks to help others develop Christ-centered, critical thinking.
"There will never be a utopia here," she said. So Nicole's ministry encourages people to endure under increasing pressure. Much like the pressure Felicia has endured.