When I was a child most grocery stores looked the same in every village or town. It was either on the Main Street, or simply on the corner by your house. It had a human element, and there was nothing you couldn’t buy in the family-run stores. There was always fresh bread, gossip, and the grocery store was arguably one of the most important businesses in town.
The Granary on Bridge Street in Carleton Place in the old Keyes building was no different. Argue’s Grocery ran their food store in the same location in the 50’s and 60’s. The penny candy was always a favourite even though a neighbour told me her Grandfather had warned her that such candy could spread polio. In those days everything created polio, but candy was supposed to be the number one culprit. No doubt some mindful parent had started the rumour to keep her children away from the sweets.
Each store had a wooden counter that people shared conversation around. The grocer always had a pencil behind his ear, a smile, and quick precision as he wrapped a piece of fresh meat, not shelf-stable packaged, in brown paper tied with string.
Gone are the days of the clerks knowing you by name and any struggles you were going through. We are living in an impersonal age, and, sadly, most people seem to like it that way. Rural grocery stores are plagued by shrinking customers who have flocked to the big box stores for cheaper prices. Small towns should understand the old grocery store was, and still can be, a small town’s economic anchor, and a rural tourism attraction.
Shuttering the local grocery store knocked the wind out of our community. It was like losing a part of the lifeblood of what keeps a pulse going in small towns. There was a time when I felt I had to shop at the cheapest place in town but now I realize the cost difference to me isn’t that big. I now long to feed the heart of a community rather than corporate coffers. Granted living in a small town doesn’t generally come with a lot of extra income, which makes people even more price sensitive.
After all, the grocery store was always the heart of the rural town. It wasn’t the products they sold that made them special–it was the service. They took the time to talk to you, and in return you got a real feel for the community when you were there. It was pivotal to the future survival of a small town, and now has sadly become an endangered species.
Text- Linda Seccaspina
Photo– of Carleton Place’s legendary grocery counter was originally located at 107 Bridge Street –now home to The Granary, a health food store operating since 1978. Built in 1887 to replace an earlier frame store destroyed by fire, this address has been home to several grocery stores including C.W. Moore’s and Maynard Argue’s. The only way they could move the original grocery counter into the Carleton Place and Beckwith Museum was through a window! It is soon to become a permanent exhibit at the Museum.