Old store in Earltown has new owners

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Iconic landmark sees new beginning

Kayla Conoley and Brent Halverson invite visitors to drop into the Earltown General Store on Highway 311 where they say locals can continue to purchase the same type of items they have become accustomed to along with new offerings to be introduced in coming weeks.

EARLTOWN - Walking across the threshold into the Earltown General Store is akin, in some respects, to stepping back in time.

From the old wooden shelves and the antique canisters and other items they hold, to advertising signs that shriek out marketing messages of year's gone by; to the old iron stove near the back and the well-worn steps that lead up into the upper floor, this well-known landmark that for nearly four decades has been known as "Murphy's" store, is without doubt a journey into the past.

"Just like, to a lot of people, it's a pretty iconic landmark and it just stood out in my mind," says Brent Halverson, who along with his partner Kayla Conoley, recently purchased the store from previous owner Murphy Stonehouse.

According the locals, the store has been in operation since about 1890 and there are many in the area who can still remember its days as a dropping off point for fresh milk and cream destined for the Tatamagouche Creamery.

Halverson, who spent his early days in St. Margaret's Bay, recalls boyhood visits to the area on summer weekends, when stopping at Murphy's was simply a regular part of the trip.

"And every time we'd pass by, we'd pick up a big bag of chocolate macaroons. I always remembered that," Halverson says.

So too, when he moved to area as a teenager and made daily stops on his way to and from high school in Truro.

"I'd drive by here every morning and afternoon and we'd stop for jerky on the way home, things like that," he says.

For the past 10 years, Halverson has worked at a bicycle repair shop in Halifax and it was there that he met his soon-to-be bride Conoley.

For some time he had attempted to negotiate a purchase of the family run bicycle business where he worked. But when he eventually realized that would not be feasible proposition, Halverson turned his interests elsewhere.

And then opportunity came knocking when Stonehouse, an old friend of Halverson's mother, mentioned that he was planning to sell the business.

"When he decided to put it up for sale, he put the bug in her ear and she put it mine. And I decided I would be silly not to take him up on the opportunity."

Halverson and Conoley both grin broadly and talk eagerly of their plans for their new/old business.

"Lot's of potential and lots of work ahead of us," Conoley says, with a chuckle, of her initial thoughts after they had taken ownership.

"And excitement, you know," Halverson adds, "because this place is just packed to the ceilings with accumulated ... just stuff, from all the year's of Murphy's owning it, his antique business. And one of my favourite things to do is just sort through stuff, organize it, find new homes for it," he says.

Where else, for instance, can you walk into a general store these days and see a stuffed bear head on the wall? Or old hornets nests, retrieved from local forests, complete in some cases with tree branches still intact.

"Some of it we will hang on to, to maintain the history of the building and show what has been sold here in the past and some of it we will be willing to part with," he says.

Overall, there will be "a little bit of the old and a little bit of the new," Halverson says.

Local Earltown cheese will continue as a mainstay along with the very popular type of beef jerky that Halverson came to love as a teen.

"People come from miles around to pick up their jerky here," he says. "People seem to be drawn here to get it instead of the regular grocery store or other corner stores that might sell similar products."

The couple also plans to turn one section of the store into a restaurant - initially as a takeout deli style - with homemade soups and sandwiches. By next summer, however, they hope to be able to expand that section into a small restaurant.

"It's going to have a penny floor," Conoley said, of just another unique option the old building will continue to offer.

That effort will require 55,500 coppers, she says, of which so far they have collected about 40,000, thanks to donations from friends and family.

Halverson is also thinking about starting a bicycle repair business at the site.

For the moment, however, he and Conoly are busy poking and sifting through hidden treasures of anything and everything, from old coins to antique canisters and whatever.

"I'm sure that there are dozens more that we'll find tucked in drawers or hidden in boxes," he says, with child-like wonder etching across his face. "There's so much stuff in here and I still haven't seen it all. We're still digging through it and discovering new things."



Organizations: Earltown General Store

Geographic location: Truro, Halifax

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Recent comments

  • shannon and pete
    October 05, 2013 - 01:03

    stopped in while "backroading" thru N.S-treated with awesome kindness and the best cup of coffee...really, all the way from saskatchewan and back...what a great place.. keep up the good work, will be back next summer!

  • J & A Mann & family
    September 02, 2013 - 17:54

    Good for you Brent and Kayla. How exciting it must be for you. Best wishes with your new endeavor. It is a place remembered fondly by our family too on our way to the North Shore. Wishing you loads of success and looking forward to stopping by to say "Hello."

  • Byron Miller
    August 17, 2013 - 00:40

    It is great that someone is keeping this memory and icon of the past in the local area going. Too many places have been lost to modernization. I remember stopping for gas when it was forty plus cents a gallon. Check the air pressure in the tires, get a snack, pop, chips. It was a great rest break when travelling over the mountain when life was a bit slower and more enjoyable. Here's a suggestion; put in a coffee shop drive thru for early morning and late night travelers along with a pizza shop - by the slice or the whole pizza. A slice of pizza and a cup of coffee is great for breakfast on the run. Might also want to consider an expansion for an entertainment project later on for weekends. Local talent willing to participate ie: kitchen parties as in the ole days when ppl socialized.

  • Murray Reid
    August 15, 2013 - 14:32

    i use to stop there all the time when i worked in the woods.i loved to get the pepperoni.also bought the gas and would have chats with Murphy.Last time there was in 2010,when i came home from Calgary for a visit and that was my first stop.congrats to new owners and hope to get there next time i am back home.

  • Murray Reid
    August 15, 2013 - 14:27

    I would stop all time when we were working in the woods for the Pepperoni and the last time I was home from Calgary that was the first I stop at so Congrats to the new owners Good Luck

  • GlenMack
    August 14, 2013 - 13:01

    Great memories of that store..I can remember being a teenager going over to the beach with limited funds..and running out of Gas and Murphy giving us enough gas to get back to Truro..Happy to see someone taking over a place like this to keep it alive..Congrats on embarking to make this place a destination, not just a store on a back road

  • brendasutherland
    August 14, 2013 - 11:20

    I am glad I dropped in Monday as I got to meet KAYLA and Brent ! Had A great chat . Lovely young couple. Kayle and Brent I must congragulate u BOTH again on your upcoming wedding in a few weeks !! I was the lady that dropped in for cooked FOOD ...LOL on my way back from searching for the place where the bacherolette PARTY is to be SATURDAY ! Again enjoyed meeting u BOTH ! GOOD LUCK with your NEW BUSINESS and Many , Many years of happiness !!

  • Annie Bennett
    August 14, 2013 - 08:02

    I would stop in there and get a pop even if I wasn't thirsty. It was the feeling of a store that has a 'soul' from the dusty cans to the laid-back owner. That step back in time atmosphere. Good luck to the new owners. I hope they don't fix it up too much

  • Mark Hamilton
    August 14, 2013 - 00:40

    I'll be in on the way to the camp, and always. Ice Cream Sandwiches and pepperoni! Good luck you two. Congratulations.

  • Gail-Ann Smith
    August 13, 2013 - 21:54

    How exciting for you guys! I'm so proud of you and we all know that you will do a great job running the old place and adding your personal touch! Looking forward to seeing it and I will probably fall in love with the area as well. We'll keep our pennies for your penny floor. See you in October!

  • Joan Lavell
    August 13, 2013 - 19:31

    Your news came to me through my niece, Lee Anne Lavell. It is wonderful to see the landmarks treasured. Good luck in your new business.

  • pat
    August 13, 2013 - 18:46

    i hope that they keep the blona as its was my favorite spot to stop when i came home fom bc i would get my big rolls of blona from their to bring back to bc with me as out their the blona sucks not like the nova scotia blona

  • Bonny Takeda
    August 13, 2013 - 18:42

    Never thought Murphy would sell the store, he's been there forever it will be a change for him as well for the new owners, best of luck to them !

  • Fabian Mayer
    August 13, 2013 - 18:15

    So happy to see young people coming to this area. We wish you all the best! See ya, Agnes & Fabian Mayer

  • Aunt Gloria
    August 13, 2013 - 18:10

    Congratulations you two. I cannot wait to see what will evolve from all of this. I know for sure that Kayla's big heart alone will make the General Store a place where people will be drawn to. I look forward to seeing the General Store but most of all the both of you in October. Love you both! xoxo

  • Smith's Bakery Halifax
    August 13, 2013 - 16:36

    Good luck Kayla and Brent ..... with all your experience we know you will make the old store a place of interest in the neighbourhood.

  • Barbara McCallum
    August 13, 2013 - 16:27

    Worked a couple of years for Murphy in the store & restaurant. Great spot, you will be very busy. Congrats & best wishes!

  • Jessica MacNutt
    August 13, 2013 - 13:59

    Way to go! I will be by as per regular :) what a great spot, wish you all the best!

  • Uncle Tony
    August 13, 2013 - 13:41

    Way to go you two, good luck in you new Entreupenerual Adventure !! Envy you because kinda think I'd really enjoy. Good Luck!! See you in October.

  • Peter Linfield
    August 13, 2013 - 12:36

    Brent and Kayla are the perfect people to take over the store! I'm so excited to see what they do over the coming years.

  • Sandra Mccallum
    August 13, 2013 - 11:24

    My family and I lived in Earltown for 20 years. Me along with others started the first pancake Festivals at the hall, thanks to Murphy who donated emensly.Best of luck to you folfs and your new endeavor.

  • Allan B Stewart
    August 13, 2013 - 05:44

    so sad to see Murphy leaving the store as was I when Earl MacKay left, but best of luck to the new owners. We'll see you on our travels through Earltown. Allan & Sheila Stewart

    • Sherry Allen
      August 14, 2013 - 06:44

      Congrats! I have fond memories of the store--while out fishing with my Dad we'd stop in and get cheese and pepperoni and of course the gossip. My Dad has since passed, glad the store lives on.