Memories galore of old neighbourhood stores

Every once in a while, you write a column that strikes a chord with people.
Since last week, several people who remember similar stories about small neighbourhood grocery stores in Fort Frances have stopped me. They all have fond memories of the owners who served their neighbours.
On Monday morning, Malcolm Douglas dropped off a list of former Fort Frances family grocery stores he had compiled in the past several days.
As a young man, he had worked at McLean’s Wholesale, located on Central Avenue and Second Street, which served the district’s needs, carrying everything from rubber boots to cereals and nails.
Malcolm began his list with Bone’s Place, adding on McIrvine grocery, with West End Grocery, which became Wright’s (it was located where the Mohawk gas bar now sits).
The list went on to include Wood’s Confectionary, Urquhart’s, and Walkey Corner Store before heading downtown where the additions of the “Electric Bakery,” the Food Basket, Bernardi’s, and the Fridge were added.
While those stores were found in the central core, Shop Easy (NCDS building) originally was started in Fort Frances. Safeway originally was found in the building now occupied by Border Travel Services.
Those two national chains later moved to the corner of Scott Street and Victoria.
Travelling east down Scott, Malcolm added Andy’s Candyland, Soar’s Confectionary, the Handi Store, Kelly’s Drug Store, Einar’s Grocery Store, and Midway Grocery Store. Also, almost side by side, was Northside Trading and East End Confectionery.
In the east end, John Patrick had his store at the corner of Minnie and Second, and right around the corner on First was Filmore Grocery. A name I should have remembered was the Dew Drop In operated by Blue and Netty Amorde, which is now Rainy Lake Sports and Tackle.
His list was finished, and he corrected me on my column last week that the store I referred to was operated by Phillip Paripa and was known as Phillip’s Grocery.
Another name I had never heard of was McCutheons Store. Tony Byars operated Victoria Store at the corner of Victoria and Fourth.
There was the Subway Grocery, Olynyk’s Grocery Store, Del Zotto’s Store, and Mrs. Franko’s store (which is still operating today).
When you begin compiling lists, you are bound to leave off names. I have tried to go back through the records of the newspaper to confirm the names.
Across the district, many more names can be added.
When I first came back to the newspaper, I used to call on stores along the highway heading west of Fort Frances. Many of those now have disappeared, but in their day they were necessary to the fabric of Alberton, La Vallee, Black Hawk, Chapple, Arbor Vitae, and Pinewood.
They served as the message centre and communications post for events in those small communities. They were important to the well-being and connectedness of the people in those communities.
Posters were put up, mail was dropped off, and information was shared.

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