Anniversaries honor the 365-day rhythm built into our world. Peering into the past can move us into the future with a greater assurance of our calling. Couldn’t we all use a bit more of that? Sometimes it just feels so hard to discern if we’re in the right place doing the right things with the right people.
For Kristin Tovar: her own sense of calling hasn’t been linear or clear cut. Opening the store was not a no-brainer for her. There were lots of challenges along the way. As the founder, the messiness of the process sometimes made Kristin question whether opening the store was the next right step. Her words of encouragement for anyone in this position: don’t let the ambiguity or difficulties make you question your calling. The goal isn’t for it to be easy but for us to be faithful with what’s in front of us. There was quite a bit of trust that went into saying “yes” to the store.
With the support of her husband Alex, the team of two eventually became three and then four and eventually seven! This growth was one of the reasons that Kristin decided it would be feasible and beneficial to take the step of opening the shop. She found herself on a platform and hoped to invite others onto it to use their gifts to serve the mission of celebrating Tucson.
THE SHOP AS A THIRD SPACE
Sociologist Ray Oldenburg coined the term “third space” to describe community meeting places apart from the home and workplace. Many agree that these third spaces where people can come together with little or no pressure to perform are vital for cities to thrive. They offer us a place to just be a part of the community, perhaps bump into old friends or make new ones. That has been exactly what the WILWIL shop has been for me and many others. Whether during one of the many events at the Annex or just a random Tuesday in the middle of the day…it is a place for everyone to come and feel at home.
Not long after opening the shop, The Tovar fam moved from a neighborhood they deeply loved to a house that better fit their needs as a family. It was a good choice, but a hard one. Their deep roots of community and familiarity were lost. But in it all, this third space has been a home away from home and an anchor that enabled them to make the change. It is a place where their kids come and learn about hospitality and welcome strangers into their little shop-home. It’s a place where they learn that they are a part of something much bigger than just their immediate family- the community of Tucson, embedded in the larger human family.
LONGING TO BELONG
Oh how our hearts long to belong. This yearning is powerful in seasons of transition like the Tovars had. Newness is exciting but it is new after all- void of that sense of knowing and being known in a place, within a community. When my husband and I moved to Tucson nearly two years ago there were three people that helped cushion our fall from familiarity. They’re intentionality, invitational nature and love for the place they lived gave us hope for life in a new city.
KT, AT & AT
The three people that so naturally welcomed us into our new city happened to be the 3 OG’s that opened up a shop a year ago whose mission is to welcome in their community. Their natural hearts for hospitality are like a centripetal force that draw us in and commissions us to return to our city with a deeper sense of calling to care for the place we call home.
When you think about the type of work you should be doing it is easy to overlook the natural ways that you operate in the world that may not fit with one specific job title. Some great questions to ask yourself: what do I typically do with my free time? What are qualities about me that stand out to others and how can I use them to love my neighbor?
Kristin and Alex pressed into that question, knowing that they would need some serious provision to make it all happen. The most important provision they received was in the form of Tang. Andrew Tang.
Sometimes our hopes and prayers are answered in one spectacular human. Tang has been a gift to this team in more ways that we can spell out here (though I’ll give you a meager overview). And just as he answered the call to partner in establishing the store, he is stepping back from his role to courageously explore what it means to be faithful to his sense of calling for his life in this next season.
If you have yet to meet Tang, make sure you head over to the store by May 4th to try to catch him on one of his last days in the shop. Tang’s last day intentionally falls on the official 1-year anniversary of WILWIL’s shop opening (stay tuned for a celebration to come!). From the days of folding shirts in the Tovar’s living room, Tang has played an indispensable role in the store’s first year. He is one of those rare people that is equally gifted behind the scenes and behind the counter. His natural abilities to create order from disorder helped transform a small space into a lovely, refreshing place to take in Tucson. His knack for efficiency made the process of ordering and storage, getting people paid and planning for events- all look easy. And if you’re anything like me that work ain’t easy!
And then when you thought you pinned him down as simply hospitable and efficient, his creativity and array of knowledge bubbled over as he curated local beer and wine selections for the special “Monsoon” Happy Hours. One might think someone this talented would be busy building up his own legacy but his eagerness to serve others has been evident from the days that he volunteered his time at early events and the work he put into setting up his teammates for success as they ventured into new waters. Tang is truly a one-of-a-kind human with gifts and a heart that rivals anyone I know. His contributions to WILWIL will be forever etched into the fabric of everything that is to come. Without him, the shop would not be open as you see it today. He made this welcoming, community space possible for us to all enjoy.
Celebrating Tang is as easy as celebrating this wonderful first year of WILWIL’s presence at the Annex. It has been a year of hard work, countless relationships built and strengthened, and new opportunities for people to love where they live.
UPDATE: He’s not leaving Tucson!
Written by Teena Dare.
Teena lives in Tucson, Arizona and loves to capture the passions of others with words. Find more of Teena's work at www.shakingspirits.com.