General store reopens its doors and becomes part of community again
(Julie Collins – Cape Breton Post)
From left Eric Whyte, Robert Grant, Sandra MacLeod, and Lloyd Grant take a moment to enjoy a cup of tea.
(Great Place for Tellin Stories Bye – CAPER)
Published on January 20th, 2011
ROSS FERRY — There is a whole lot of social networking going on at Grant’s General Store — the old-fashioned kind you do over a hot cup of tea.
When you enter the store, it is as if you’ve been transported back to an era when such locations were the heart of community life.
Local folks came together to reopen the store, which had been operated brothers Lloyd and Robert Grant for over 50 years, and before that by their father William Duncan Grant.
“This store has such a rich history in the community, it was truly missed after it closed about three years ago,” said Eric Whyte, who was among a host of volunteers who rallied to get it ready to open. “We pay minimal rent and have willing volunteers who man the counter.”
Once word got out about the plan to reopen, people armed with hammers and paint brushes showed up. It wasn’t long before the building was rewired, the floor repaired, walls and windows painted and a washroom installed.
Several local families stocked the shelves with nonperishable items such as canned and dry goods.
“People stepped up right away, often the supplies were donated anonymously. They’d show up with pellets for the stove or stock for the shelves; it was amazing.”
The store is open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Now that Grant’s is open, there are so many people signed up to volunteer that in some cases their shifts have been cut from two to one a week.
Whyte said the community wants the store to maintain the same character as when it was run by the Grants.
Lloyd volunteers a couple of hours a week and Robert keeps the lot clear of snow.
“It is nice to see the place all fixed up and a sign out front,” said Lloyd. “It’s good to see our old friends back again and new people dropping by.”
His brother Robert added that it’s nice to see a light in the window.
“They are using the same register that has been here for 71 years.”
The store doesn’t have a huge inventory, mainly the basics so people don’t have to make a trip to town for just one or two items.
At any given time during the day there can be seven or eight people around the tables, enjoying coffee and participating in friendly debate.
“The store is a place for people to slow down, enjoy a cup of tea or a game of cards or checkers. The walking club meets here each morning for coffee and people gather to play bridge,” Whyte said. “It’s about people dropping by and feeling welcome.”
In one corner of the store is a library of donated books that is looked after by retired University of Toronto librarian Ann Morrison.
“There are a lot of older people who could be isolated, but because they have a place to come and play cards or just talk, they have a connection with people that they might not have if the store wasn’t open,” said volunteer Sandra MacLeod.