Heidi's love for her home town did not waver: “I always knew Raahe to be an active and child-friendly city”

Heidi, who spent her childhood in Raahe, lived elsewhere for fifteen years. When it was time for her to start a family, returning to her old home town was a natural and easy choice. As an active and positive person, Heidi now enjoys her everyday life in the idyllic coastal city and believes that Raahe is just the most suitable location for combining entrepreneurship and the everyday life of a family with children.

Heidi Joensuu, arriving for the interview on a Tuesday afternoon in February, has had exciting and busy couple of weeks. Chicret, a shop focusing on ecological and responsible fashion and cosmetics which she opened last summer, has just moved to its new premises in Kumpeelenkuja, a location with a long tradition of selling high-quality underwear.

It's been about five and a half years since Heidi moved back to her old home town. In the past, she had moved from Raahe first to Oulu to study, and then to Kajaani, where Heidi set up her first brick-and-mortar shop.

The ever-smiling Heidi at the door of her shop.
Heidi opened her shop, Chicret, in Raahe in June 2021. In February 2022, it moved to new business premises where Siro Asu used to also operate. Image: Tarmo Somero.

Her connection to Raahe remained throughout the years in Oulu and Kajaani: “A while ago we split our lives between two cities”

When living in Kajaani, Heidi used to follow the life of her former home town actively. Her father used to order gift subscriptions for the Raahen Seutu newspaper for her daughter. She also followed the life in Raahe through the city's social media channels.

Heidi explains that she got the sense that Raahe was an active and child-friendly city. When visiting her old home town while living elsewhere, she noted that there seemed to be a wide range of developments happening in Raahe.

“There was always something new when I came by. There were winter lights for Härkätori and new events for the whole family, such as Pikkulahti Kids and Raahe Maritime Festival. I got the sense of a child-friendly and vibrant place where surprisingly much is happening. I saw the city develop and move forward,” Heidi says.

Ultimately, the choice was easy and natural. It was obvious that Heidi was coming back to Raahe.

When Heidi found the Raahe-born Juha, who ran the local metal industry company founded by his father, they thought about where to go and settle. Ultimately, the choice was easy and natural. It was obvious that Heidi was coming back to Raahe. After all, she had her old networks in the city, the family company Jot-Rent, and a safety net, which includes Heidi's father.

“For a while, we split our lives between two cities, with me in Kajaani and Juha in Raahe. When we were expecting our firstborn, it was time for me to leave Kajaani behind, including my apartment and my shop, and move to Raahe."

The services for families with children work and others are being looked after: “Raahe has the feel of a small village in a good way”

Now, as a mother of three children, Heidi feels that Raahe is, as promised, a city that is friendly to families with children. Services for families with children work and the environment they grow in is safe. The neighborhood day care centre in particular is highly praised.

“On one Friday, I submitted an electronic application for a day-care centre for the coming autumn, and the next Monday I got a called saying that a new group is about to start. I got all three of my kids into the same day care group, which is just a block away from our house. I only need to take all my children that short distance to one door, instead of having to go to many different places.”

I got all three of my kids into the same day care group, which is just a block away from our house.

“When combining the everyday life of a family with children and an entrepreneur, it is a big advantage that it takes so little time to take the children to day care and hobbies or, for example, to go to the grocery store.” In Heidi's opinion, Raahe is a city that is just the right size and where you can also find a sense of community.

“Raahe has the feel of a small village, in a good way. People sort of know who is whose child and know to look after each other. If I had to mention one bad thing about Raahe, it would be that I'm always ahead of time at every place, when I set off too early to make sure I'm on time. I forget that getting from one place to another is so quick here!”

Heidi, who lives in a detached house a few hundred metres from the city centre, is happy not only with the children's hobby opportunities and their affordable price level, but also with the skating and skiing opportunities available right next to the city centre.

“As a mother of small children, I'm not yet familiar with all of the children's hobby opportunities, but I feel like you can find almost everything here!”

Heidi smiling behind the sales desk in her shop.
Chicret focuses in ecological and responsible products. "I love my work; I love that I can help my customers strengthen their belief in themselves. A person is not the wrong size if a suitable garment size has not been found. It means the correct sizes have been missing from the selection", says Heidi. Image: Tarmo Somero.

A versatile network to support entrepreneurs: “It is safe and communal to be an entrepreneur here”

The happy and positive Heidi says that when she returned to Raahe, she was particularly pleased about the speed with which she began building a functioning network. She became actively involved in association activities and over the years has been active in both Kauppakeskus Raahe (Raahe Shopping Centre union) and the Raahen yrittäjät group of entrepreneurs. She has also participated in board work.

“In an unimaginably short time, I got a varied network of different fields, where it was easy to start working and being an entrepreneur. No matter what kind of situations come up, there's always that person you can call and the matter will be resolved!”

Heidi shares a concrete example of a situation that occurred during the organising of a shopkeepers’ outlet sales event. The facility where the sales event was supposed to start the next day had been empty for some time, and an unexpected drainage problem threatened to water down the organising of the event. However, the networks came back to help, and the local cleaning company promised to clean the facilities as soon as possible. The owner of the cleaning company went to the facilities in the morning and the merchants got to open the outlet as planned.

“This is one example of how it is safe and communal to be an entrepreneur here.”

The number of boutiques by Raahe's entrepreneurs and their customer-oriented service concepts especially bring joy to Heidi.

According to Heidi, the fact that there are entrepreneur-led shops outside of large chains enables a quick response to customers’ wishes. The service in the shops is personal and the selection is different. The shops are located so close to each other that in practice the impression and accessibility is almost alike with a shopping centre.

The fact that there are entrepreneur-led shops outside of large chains enables a quick response to customers’ wishes.

Heidi also says that the shops in the centre of Raahe are visited by a surprising number of out-of-towners for shopping: commuters throughout the year and tourists especially during the summer.

“Those commuting from Oulu to Raahe have liked shopping at Raahe, especially now during the coronavirus pandemic, because here you can shop more freely and without congestion.”

As an entrepreneur, Heidi appreciates the fact that she can work in an environment where the residents of Raahe provide direct feedback and where the importance of the local brick-and-mortar is understood. She believes that brick-and-mortar shops in general will remain in the future and that they will just change their form.

As an entrepreneur, Heidi also usually reminds us of the importance of developing urban centres and the attractiveness of the city centre.

“It is important to remember that the city centre is a living room for all of us. You have to be able to spend time without spending money there.”

Early summer evening on the shore of the Packhouse Museum.
In Heidi’s opinion, the maritime nature of the city is one of the most magnificent features of the city. "It's great that the sea and the old town are right next to the city centre in Raahe". Image: Atacan Ergin.

The sea brings a special touch to life: “In which other cities does the sea come to the city centre in this way and is so accessible?”

Among Heidi's, who spent her childhood in Raahe in the 1980s, favourite places at the time used to be the Raahe library, the Merikatu skating rink, and the Packhouse Museum, which seemed miraculous to her.

“As a child, I always wondered how we could have such an incomprehensible place as the Packhouse Museum. That there are real treasures that sailors once brought here. The Raahe library's reference collection was also wonderful in the time before Google. It was possible to find everything there!”

As a child, I always wondered how we could have such an incomprehensible place as the Packhouse Museum.

Now, as an adult, Heidi adds the Raahe archipelago as one of her favourite places alongside the library and the Packhouse Museum.

“The archipelago has been important to me since I was a child. At one time it was confusing to realise that this kind of thing does not exist everywhere! I also remember the water bus, Fantti, from my childhood, which took us to Iso-Kraaseli. It is truly wonderful that the archipelago is accessible to everyone and that experience services related to the sea and the archipelago have been developed in recent years.”

Heidi seems very satisfied with her life and everyday life in Raahe. The sea and its proximity bring a special touch to the milieu.

"We have so many different living environments here: the cultural-historic Old Raahe, new apartment buildings, plots zoned for different environments, nice villages. But in what other city does the sea come to the city centre like this and is so easily accessible than in Raahe? Just being aware of the sea and the fact that you can get anywhere through it brings a wonderful feeling and flavour to life.”

Text: Tarmo Somero, 2022.