Our gift maker

Nelly Westra-van Dijk

Coordinator of the White Ox

'Coffee to Switzerland and summer tea to Amsterdam'

However you walk around the museum, and whatever order you take, you will always end up in the museum store De Witte Os. There you are welcomed by the volunteers who, with a team of 17 people, explain daily to those interested what teas are for sale and how the various flavors of coffee are roasted. The person who coordinates all that is Nelly.



'I was born and raised in Joure. After high school I wanted to get out of the house. I wanted an education as well as to work. That became nursing. I went to Leeuwarden to the Diaconessenhuis and I enjoyed working there for over four years and got my diploma. Then I got married, there were children and I wanted to be with the children. But after a while I felt like working again and here in Joure I was able to start working as a geriatric nurse. I got a job in the night shift. That was tough, and eventually it turned out to be a bit too much. I then went to the late shift, which were shifts from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. After almost thirty years in healthcare, I retired early.'

First counter, then White Ox

'I'm not one to sit at home, so when I read a call for volunteers at the museum in the newspaper I responded immediately. I ended up at the front desk: welcoming visitors, selling admission tickets and explaining the route. But I actually wanted to do more. That's how I ended up at The White Ox in April 2016. I now have a job for two half-days a week, but I do attend more often.

With the team of volunteers, we make sure that there are about four people available per day on mornings and afternoons; especially in the afternoons it is often busier than mornings and then it is nice if, especially in the high season, 2 colleagues are present.

Together with colleagues we work in new volunteers; and discuss how things are going. If someone is sick we try to solve that together in our appgroup. This appgroup is important for passing on e.g. this information but also if we run out of coffee and all kinds of other "business". The schedule is made by a colleague, the Sunday afternoon schedule by myself. In this way, almost every one of us has a task. One person arranges the candy, another the spices, and yet another the chocolate, etc. Among other things it is my job to keep a close eye on the tea, D.E items and lately also the orders.

white ox

Special questions

'Visitors sometimes come with the points they save from the tea and coffee packages. They want to redeem these in The White Ox, but they haven't been able to redeem them for years. Blokker does still take these points for D.E. gifts, as we used to call it. Sometimes people ask about tobacco, because, after all, that's what it says above the door of the little store. And since 2 years there is the demand for the KLM house, but that too is not for sale just like the tobacco...'

'What is also special is that sometimes visitors come to the store especially for a particular product, and usually that is the coffee. If it's not there, we send it after them. For example, we send coffee to Switzerland and this week summer tea to Amsterdam.'

Shop window

'Since a few years I also decorate the window, I think the window should look neat and attractive. And I always go with the seasons with material that fits with this or with current events. I have inherited a lot of things from home and often I can get some things on loan. It sometimes happens that people ask about items in the window and ask if that is for sale. But that's from my own collection and I say "That's advertising material." Occasionally people bring something to display. That too, of course, is nice and I can always use it'

Products in the store

'Coffee and tea run best and of course the "Jouster Brokken" (licorice with salmiac) and the Dúmkes. Visitors used to be allowed to taste and then there would be some old-fashioned candy and piece of Jouster brok on a tray on the counter. This is no longer allowed, unfortunately.

Regular customers ask about the coffee they drank in the tea garden or museum café. That is often the Spicy Widow, and then they buy a pack of coffee, beans or ground. Recently we have all kinds of items from the "Ot and Sien" series for sale: tumblers, mugs and peppermint tins. We make nice packages with all kinds of products that are not too expensive, to give as gifts or to take away as souvenirs. In the summer, most items then get a Frisian ribbon attached to them.

Douwe Egberts melangeur Sipke

Favorite museum piece

'I love looking at the tea-bagging machine that stands at the museum entrance. That's because my father used to be the mechanic of that at the Douwe Egberts factory. He always made sure the machine was running properly. So that's a nice memory.

Something many people don't know...

'I also volunteer at my previous work in the nursing home. Once a week I go for a walk with a resident, chat, play games and on Monday afternoons I take care of the soos. Then I play memory games with a group of residents, we drink coffee together and we discuss topics from the news. This is very nice work to do, I now have more time for fun things with the residents than in my time as a nurse. I also babysit my grandchildren in Zoetermeer and Alphen, but that is currently on a very low level because of the corona crisis. Yes, I have a busy life and I am very happy with that.'

Interview and text: Willeke ten Noever Bakker

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