The Willy Wonka Blues of Carleton Place


“St. James Anglican Church in Carleton Place is hoping to proceed with the sale of its old parish hall to the McKeen family, owners of Manitoulin Chocolate Works.“It’s a conditional sale, which hinges on a severance and zoning change,” Rev. David Andrew told the Canadian Gazette in an interview last week.” –Tara Gesner – Carleton Place Canadian Gazette


Last night it was St. James Anglican Church versus the town of Carleton Place at our town hall. For a few hours the pros and cons of having Manitoulin Chocolate Works open in Carleton Place were debated. Some words were heated, and some made no sense. In the end no decision was made. Personally, I felt like it was hopeless for the purveyors of exceptional hand made chocolates to bring their business to town and restore Elliot Hall.

What I don’t seem to get is why we just can’t bend over backwards sometimes for progress in Carleton Place. It’s not the first time this has happened, and it won’t be the last.  Of course I understand about traffic and neighbourhood quality. Some suggest it would be a death knell to the local neighbourhood with new increased commercial traffic. But doesn’t that in effect slow or completely stop the inevitable and necessary growth we need? If Carleton Place does not have the innovation and challenge, we will not only lose future financial gain, we will lose our brightest and best to larger communities for better opportunities.

To withstand economic forces that are compressing our economic growth in small towns we have to fight hard for our community to prosper. If we turn away innovative entrepreneurs like Manitoulin Chocolate Works it says a lot to other companies that might consider coming to Carleton Place. Some individuals say “we made our life here because of its quaintness and tranquility“. That’s fine, but, if you do not accept new business here, it will die a slow death, and then you won’t have to argue over the amount of spaces for cars ( 7 )  or those needed for bicycles (8)— or whether an area should be zoned for commercial.


Carleton Place is losing their retail base to big-box stores less than 30 minutes away and now we could be rescued in part by attracting inventive entrepreneurs. We have a dying downtown, and empty manufacturing plants that nobody wants. If everyone could get over their differences and work together we might finally realize that small specialty businesses are in fact the key drivers of future wealth and employment in our economy.

It’s a sad state of affairs– but either except change in Carleton Place or watch your towns dollars go elsewhere. I hate to be Darwinian or melodramtic, but it’s either compete or die. Think about it.


Photos by Linda Seccaspina

If you want to now some history about that area and the different commercial  and non commercial places of Bell Street and area read here.

Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

8 responses »

  1. Unfortunately, it is as you say. The town is dying in great part due to the belief that businesses can operate as they always have, and neighbourhoods must never change. There is no concession to extended hours, no real competition with the stores and businesses only minutes away in Ottawa. When I used to work in Ottawa, stores here were closed by the time I got home. So I shopped in Ottawa. And Bridge Street has storefront after storefront standing empty.


  2. I really hope the older, stubborn generation can take the time to take a good hard look at what is best for them and the town. Not only is the location pretty darn close to commercial locations anyhow, what is being proposed brings back the “hometown” feel. A little chocolate/coffee shop by a beautiful river? Leaves open doors for those empty store fronts to be filled with local candles, jewelry, crafts, art, and all of a sudden our downtown is back to what it once was! Where you can spend an afternoon taking a walk downtown with a stop for a coffee and a treat! Traffic? More than what the Leatherworks (or whatever it is called now) or the Hing Wah bring down the street already? Or the Auto shops? The Victoria School museum, is that bringing too much traffic? A little shop near by might breath the life back into our little museum as well! At the moment that end of the street is ugly. It needs serious updating and re-facing, which requires money….my two cents….growth and change does not have to be bad, and a town working together could really change the course of out future…unless you want another box store…


  3. I agree as well, we have to bring interest to the town to bring more people for growth to the other little shops in town. This small town is turning into a retirement home and it could be so much more!


  4. I was at the town hall meeting last evening and i am a member of St. James Church. I am not a resident of Carleton Place although I reside in Lanark County.
    First I want to say that i was disappointed in the professionalism in the town counsel meeting. There are certainly situations that should be addressed, but don’t though a business out of town because they like a certain piece of property that might soon to be available. i might add that this Chocolate business sounds very interesting and would be appealing to Carleton Place.
    Second, at no time was any options made available to these fine people during this meeting. I left the meeting pretty disgusted with the town council, (not everyone),
    Third, I found outside the town hall building a gentleman who I was told had run for town council and lost. He apparently lives next to the parking lot. He had spoken at the meeting but really said nothing that could be added. He was screaming at some lady because she had asked him to mind his dogs that were a bother to her and her children. I felt this man was about to do something that would have made me call the police.


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