In 1989 McLellan’s store in McDonalds Corners appeared untouched by time. In one corner there was a century-old safe with the original owner’s name on it. In another, there’s an old coke carton dating back to the time when you could get six for a quarter. The store was built 120 years ago when boots were $1.50 and two pounds of sugar cost 32 cents.
The McLellan family bought it 41 years ago and Ivan has been working there ever since. But Ivan and Phyllis McLellan are selling out and leaving the store at the end of the month. “(Dollar) loonies have been about the only drastic change over the years,” says employee Janet Stewart. “They’ve been good neighbors and good bosses,” she says, with tears forming in her eyes.
Step inside the store and it’s easy to imagine the smoke-filled nights in the 1940s when villagers hunkered down every Saturday to swap hunting tales while the town’s telephone switchboard occasionally lit up in the corner. Long gone is the switchboard, the bulk foods and the harness parts. What remains are the smiles, cheerful greetings and good old-fashioned service of the McLellans.
The couple is selling the store after 41 years of working six days a week because they say they’re tired. The McLellans say Bill and Shirley Bradbury of Balderson are taking over the Valley store and plan to change the name, but little else. The McLellans are taking many memories with them as they retire to another house in the hamlet. Like the time 10 years ago when a man tied his horse to one of the veranda posts. “We looked out the window and there he was running off post and all down the road,” says Ivan.
And the time a busload of children weathered an ice storm in their cramped quarters. “We opened up some spaghetti cans and warmed them up,” says Phyllis. McLellan’s is corner store, pharmacy, post office, farm supplies store, souvenir store and local welcome wagon all in one. Keys for the recreation hall are kept there in case anyone needs to get in. Notices of meetings line the front counter. They even cash pay cheques.
Many of the people of McDonalds Corners, population 70, say the couple will be missed in this hamlet about 25 km northwest of Perth. At the end of the month when regulars come to pay off the credit accounts kept in small ledger books under the cash register, it will be their last business dealings with the McLellans. “All I know is when you ask for something once and Ivan doesn’t have it, he’ll have it the next time you come in for sure,” says Bob Harper, while Phyllis gathers all the goods on his shopping list.
The lifetime customer goes there “pritty near every day” and many times twice. “They’ve provided service above and beyond the call of duty,” says Hazel Standing, a customer of five years. She remembers the time she banged on the couple’s door on a Sunday asking them to open up the store to get medication for her sick children. “Of course they helped.”
“It’s like losing a part of the family,” says Doris Fitzpatrick, a customer of four years, after moving to the area from Ottawa. “You’re a person here,” she says, comparing the shop to the “impersonal” big chains of the city. “When I was a newcomer here from Ottawa they were friendly faces who told me where to go and what to do because I didn’t know the area.” “We’ll miss the people coming in every day,” adds Phyllis. “We’ve made a lot of friends.”
Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and theSherbrooke Record and and Screamin’ Mamas (USA
Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place. Tales of Almonte and Arnprior Then and Now
I owned the store from 2003 to 2017. I reopened the store as a furniture and home decor store from 2008 to 2015. Everyone that came into the store was amazed by the renovations and had so many stories to tell about when it was the general store and everyone always boasted about the candy and ice cream counter! When I first opened the store I received a surprise visit from the second owner Shirley Bradbury. She was excited to see the store and had beautiful memories she shared with me. Ivan also visited the store and told me some great stories and provided me with some old photographs. The store has an amazing history and I was glad to be part of it.