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(Carol) Elaine Martin: Entrepreneur. Mother. Traveller. Problem solver. Born Sept. 22, 1962, in Elora, Ont.; died March 10, 2018, in Toronto, of cancer; aged 55.

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(Carol) Elaine Martin.The Globe and Mail

The youngest of three girls, Elaine was a firecracker right from the start. Her father described her as a little devil and her mother used to say Elaine was six kids in one. One minute she’d be sitting in her high chair and the next she’d be heading out the front door wearing only a diaper before anyone noticed – a scary thought considering their backyard ended with a sheer drop into the Elora Gorge.

Her school years were combined with time spent hanging around her father’s excavating business. She often accompanied her dad to work, gassing up the big trucks, watching and learning. She learned to drive on the job site at least a few years before she was legally allowed.

The travel bug bit Elaine early. At 17 she and a friend flew to Edmonton and then hitchhiked to Fort McMurray, Banff and Calgary for summer vacation. Later that year, her high school offered a chance to work in Germany. When she brought the permission slip home for her dad to sign, her thumb conveniently covered up the age requirement. Once in Europe she took off on her own to explore other countries.

In the early 1980s, Elaine and her first partner, John, moved to Toronto and opened their first vintage clothing business in the Queen Street West area. It wasn’t long, though, before she sold her share to John and was travelling solo through India and Great Britain, including a visit to the Dr. Martens shoe company. Upon returning to Canada she helped John open his new vintage store, Black Market, before continuing on her own independent streak and opening a shoe store, which became the first in Toronto to import Doc Martens.

Elaine moved her shoe store (now called Groovy) to Queen Street West and, with her new partner, David, started a family, first welcoming Alora, and then three years later, Mitchel. Having two kids did not slow her down. Elaine opened another store in Montreal and drove often between the two, a trip that she bragged could be done in 3 ½ hours – even though Google Maps estimates it at 5 ½.

And nothing stopped her travels. Now as a single mother, she took her children to visit friends around the globe; some of her closest friends were people she had met while travelling.

I first met Elaine in 1985. She was fun, smart and fashionable. Over the years, I would stop by Groovy and our chats would often go on for hours. Twenty-five years after meeting Elaine, we became a couple. Her business experience and bookkeeping skills were a godsend for my restaurant. She was a problem solver.

We travelled together frequently, and hoped to do more once my restaurant closed and she retired. We were just starting to enjoy more time together when she fell ill. Elaine was such a bright shining light, and her legacy remains – Groovy and Black Market are two of the few independently owned shops in an area taken over by corporate flagship stores. She died too soon, but she packed at least 110 years of living into her 55 on Earth.

Allan Ridley is Elaine’s partner.

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