Vanessa Lee with self-described “man about town” Dan Galbraith
OJ main man Bruce Parkinson with Fred Azouz
Suzanne’s brother John Arbuckle with Karen Scott Caplice of Worldview Travel and Jeff Element of the Travel Corp.
It was a chilly night but the friendship and camaraderie were definitely warm as a group of travel industry ladies and gents gathered to wish a fond farewell to Suzanne Christie, who recently announced her retirement from Open Jaw.
First, to set the record straight: she’s happy and fine with the whole thing. “It was a friendly and smooth transition, the lawyer said they’d never seen anything like it!” she says. “I’m learning how to be retired – it’s a thrill not to rush all the time but a huge shock to the system.” Her plans (apart from sleeping in) include spending more time at the cottage and taking, for the first time in her life, piano lessons.
Nina Slawek will of course remain at the helm and is looking to staff up.
The evening, in a cozy room at Noorden Food Bar decorated, of course, in pink feather boas, was a good opportunity to reminisce about Open Jaw and find out the attendees’ fondest memories of Suzanne. They included…
OJ cartoonist Sean Kapitain: “Every week for 15 years I’ve received payment from Suzanne, a cheque always with a really nice personal note, always fun – in a pink envelope, of course.”
Joan Haines, PR Rep for Beaches and Sandals: “I’ve known Suzanne since before Open Jaw, during her KLM days – 28 years to be precise. She’s absolutely a professional but also so much fun. She always kept her airline smile!”
OJ columnist Vanessa Lee: “It’s such a surprise when you get to know Suzanne – there’s a whole lot of delicious things going on underneath.”
Fred Azouz, Azouz Media Marketing: ”Ooga-chaka, ooga-chaka.” (Hm. Think we’d best leave that one alone.)
OJ journalist Bruce Parkinson: “I watched Nina and Suzanne build Open Jaw, with its own personality, really reflecting the industry. They’ve done a wonderful job to build a small company. But I must admit I’m slightly jealous of Suzanne and her current status!”
And from her partner and pal Nina: “We started this before agents were on the web. We knocked on doors to launch this thing called a website, and pretty much everyone told us to pack it in and get a job because travel agents weren’t on the internet. Tonight is bittersweet, because we shared ideas every day, we’d laugh and be stupid. And now it’s weird but exciting.”
As Suzanne added, “Nina and I are like an old married couple, 20-odd years and we still love each other and have been through good, rough, and crazy times.”
They were brave souls in a brave new world: starting Open Jaw just two months before 9/11. But as Suzanne told me, “That changed the industry and the news. People who said agents would never use the internet now had to know what was happening every day and couldn’t wait for the print publications to come out next week.”
Suzanne also recalled the arrival of the famous pink couch, purchased from a local used-furniture store. “It wouldn’t fit through the door of our office so it sat in the hallway outside for the longest time. The people at the store wouldn’t take it back – thank goodness – so we ended up taking the door off to get it inside. And now it’s become a signature part of Open Jaw.”
And no adieu to Suzanne would be complete without mentioning all the hard work she and Nina put into WinterBoob each year, over 12 years raising almost a half-million dollars for breast cancer research.
So…any bad memories? “The breast cancer calendar. We thought we had to be nude so prepared for that and it turned out we were the only nudies! What a bloody nightmare!”
Thank you Suzanne for the fun and fellowship you’ve provided your colleagues, advertisers, supporters and readers over the years. You’ll be missed!