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Consignment, chickens, and the Allagash
SOUTH PARIS – Jennifer Zabella grew up in Oxford and now owns La Donna Zabella, a consignment boutique in Market Square.
She recently took time to tell us about her life.
Q: When were you born and where did you grow up?
A: I was born here, at Stephen's Memorial Hospital, September 16th, 1971. I grew up in Oxford. I went to Oxford Elementary school until probably third grade, and then I went to private school. Up where they're building the casino is where I grew up.
Q: Do you have any siblings?
A: I have one brother, his name is Chad, he lives in Portland, he's the CEO for Bull Moose Records. He's three years younger. I'm super proud of him. We got along so well. We're almost exactly three years apart, and I planned my kids to be about the same because we got along so well.
Q: What did your parents do for work?
A: My dad was a machinist and worked for Sanborn Machine, right up until they closed, and now he works for Downeast Machine as the purchasing agent in the office. My mom was kind of a Susie Homemaker, Jill-of-all-trades. She had a lot of odd jobs which I think was great because she introduced me to a lot of different venues, which I think makes life more interesting – versus the one streamline career.
Q: What was it like growing up?
A: Storybook. I grew up on a farm. Climbing trees, fishing and camping. Lots of family. I lived with my grandparents, and my parents and my great grandmother in a farmhouse and that was amazing. There was always someone there. There are so many kids now, both their mom and dad is working. I always had someone milling about, someone to talk to. I couldn't have asked for a better childhood. We didn't do a lot of extraordinary trips, but I think family things are more important.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I went to the Oxford Elementary school until the third grade and then I went to a private Christian school until the eighth grade. Then I went back into the public school system, which took me a little while to acclimate to, even though I still had friends there that I knew. It's different when you leave. You're very much the outsider when you come back. It took me a while, but I had a lot of great friends. A lot of folks when you go from a Christian school to a public school, and vice-versa, you glean from it what you want to, and there's positive experiences everywhere. I was very sheltered growing up, too, so I didn't get into a lot of questionable situations because I had no idea they were out there, so I'm grateful for that. I had a good moral compass growing up. Straight out of high school, I married.
Q: What have you had for jobs?
A: My very first job, I was an Avon representative. I was twelve years old and my Papa, he was very, very patient, he would drive me around to all my client's houses and wait for me. I've worked in strawberry fields, and waitressing and as a nurses' assistant. I opened a daycare when my babies were little and I was a preschool teacher for a while, did apartment maintenance for a while, then opened my shop. I opened my shop a year-and-a-half ago. I was a little apprehensive, with the economy and location, but it's been amazing. I've met the best people. I'm so grateful to the community. I have almost 600 consigners and so many clients, and everybody is so supportive and nice. I can't say enough about how I've been received here.
Q: Do you have any children?
A: My kids are great. My son is a senior at Oxford Hills this year, my daughter is a freshman. I couldn't ask for better kids, they're beautiful people. My son is going to be playing in the Lobster Bowl for football, in a month. That's a huge achievement, I think. Varsity baseball, football. My daughter, she's wonderful. She plays softball and she's really coming into her own with that this year. They're just great.
Q: Do you have any hobbies?
A: I kayak, fish. I used to scrapbook a lot when my babies were younger, but I don't do that so much anymore. I think this shop has become my end-all-be-all hobby, lately. I have five little chickens at home. They've become quite my little hobby. They're cute. I've named them. Emma is my favorite, then there's Molly and May and Gertie and Jean. My chickens are adorable. Pretty much just going to my kids' ballgames and I really don't have a lot of time for anything beyond. I'm here at the shop a lot. This is what I do, and I love it.
Q: Have you done much traveling?
A: I've been to Virginia a few times; Texas, just for a minute. Recently, within the last three weeks, I went to the Grand Canyon which was amazing. Words don't even begin to describe. You really have to sit there on the edge and just take it in because it's breathtaking, not to be cliché, but it really is. Every year growing up, my whole family would caravan up to the Allagash Waterway. Aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandparents. I think those are my best memories of growing up, to go up there and spend a whole week with all these family members. I only got to see once a year. Paris [France] is way up on my list. My daughter is going to Paris next spring and I am so excited for her.
Q: What was the last book you read?
A: I love to read, but sadly, the last book I read was last summer. I read A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. It was about the Appalachian Trail. I found it witty; I thought he was a good writer. It was relative to going to the Allagash when I was younger so I could relate to it a lot. I used to read a lot when I had my daycare but I'm so busy now, it's hard for me to sit down.
Q: What would you like people to know about you?
A: I find such wonderment in people, especially since I've had this store. People are amazing and wonderful. I think a lot of folks take for granted community and what's out there. Everyone is so busy now, to take time to stop and listen. I don't think a lot of people do that. I'm always just so grateful to have met people and to have gleaned something from meeting them. The Golden Rule, that's my thing – treating others the way you'd like to be treated.That's how I strive to live every day of my life. When you stop, listen and pay attention, people are so grateful. And I am so grateful for everything and everyone in my life.