Oldest general store in Canada restored

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Maitland & Area Notebook, By Susan Sweet

School kids discover what it’s really like to be a Nova Scotia writer

South Maitland resident Glen Ferguson has been operating his business, Cobequid Flooring, for 28 years and in 2009 he purchased a building right in the village of Maitland and opened a showroom. Directly across Highway 215 is the Frieze and Roy General Store, a store that has the distinction of being Canada’s oldest continuously run general store.

David Frieze originally opened the Frieze and Roy store in 1839. In the 1860s Frieze teamed up with Alexander Roy and they established the firm Frieze and Roy. That store remained in the ownership of the Roy family until this century. The store was sold several years ago and those owners eventually moved away, but continued to keep the store open.

For the past four years Ferguson has watched as the building’s facade became tired and was physically on a downhill slide. He noticed the traffic flow was dwindling and residents weren’t finding what they wanted to purchase at the store. Ferguson pondered the future of this once vibrant centre of the village.  He then partnered with Selma resident Troy Robertson, purchased the store and took ownership just before Christmas 2013.

Ferguson and Robertson have wasted no time in jumping right in with interior renovations. They reorganized the store to offer the merchandise on one side (the old side), while they work on the part of the building that was built in the 1960s. Work has included insulation, wall removal and painting. Work on the exterior will commence as spring approaches.

Traffic flow has increased 20 per cent this month as people stop in to buy their goods and watch the progress. Ferguson and Robertson welcome suggestions from residents and customers. They see the store as a vital service to the community and envision a space that’s a hub and a destination for visitors in the warmer months of the year. People are happy to comment and leave suggestions.

One suggestion was the idea to “bring back the rocking chair.” Years ago, there was a rocking chair by the cash register for folks to sit and chat or relax with neighbours before heading back home. It’s a request Ferguson says is easily filled.

Ferguson and Robertson will be adding a small café to the store and will have seasonal picnic tables overlooking the spectacular view of the Cobequid Bay and Shubenacadie River just behind the building.

Ferguson’s spouse, Joanne Solway, is a multimedia visual artist who works in clay, stone, wood and paint, and more recently started producing jewellery. She currently displays her work at the Cobequid Flooring showroom across the road, but plans to bring her art into the general store and expand an art gallery area to include books by local authors as well.

Right next to the Frieze and Roy store, and part of the property, is a building that was opened as a bank in 1873, became a Royal Bank until the 1980s and has seen life as a craft shop and café. The new owners of Frieze and Roy are mulling over what to do with that space.

Frieze and Roy, open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., employs three full-time and three part-time workers besides the owners.

The future has brightened for our community and Canada’s oldest general store.

*****

Maitland District Elementary School enjoyed a recent visit from freelance writer Philip Moscovitch of Halifax. Moscovitch contributes to many publications, including writing the “Daisy Dreamer” comic that has appeared in Chickadee magazine for 10 years. He talked to the children about his career and the process of writing the comic strip and working with an illustrator.

Susan Sweet is a visual artist and small business owner, inspired by the Cobequid Bay and Shubenacadie River and living on the edge of Maitland/Selma. She can be reached by email at: animalart@ns.sympatico.ca.

Organizations: Maitland District Elementary School, Chickadee magazine

Geographic location: Canada, Cobequid Bay, Shubenacadie River

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Recent comments

  • Kirwell Johns
    February 15, 2014 - 18:55

    David sounds easily offended so his patronage is probably not worth it anyway. I remember the store 15-20 years ago and it was great and the wall of VHS tapes for rent for $2

  • David B.
    February 02, 2014 - 10:02

    New owners, same lackluster service. i was in the store last week while a lady was waiting on me mr Ferguson interupted us and pushed his way by to get something. I was insulted and will not be returning to the store in the future. Even if your busy you always need to take the time to treat your customers well!

  • rob vanNostrand
    February 01, 2014 - 17:32

    Great to see Maitland thriving again!

  • Ruby Hiltz- Langille
    February 01, 2014 - 13:27

    This store was a great place to go when we lived in Maitland for 7 Years. My Children loved this store and went there often to spend their allowance. My Children have grown up and on their own but a lot live in Truro area and we like to go back and stop for Ice Cream and think off past times. Fixing this store is a great Idea.So many need it.

  • Phyllis Collier
    February 01, 2014 - 10:12

    I remember going to Frieze & Roy as a child with my mother. She purchased two blue-black bread pans which were hard to find. We had letters that Uncle Hedley Lawson wrote to my grandmother Belle Weldon telling of his time at the Royal Bank, and that he had a fast little mare that allowed him to leave work at noon when the bank closed, run to Selma for lunch and be back at one when the bank reopened. Wonderful stories from a simpler time. Thanks for keeping the store!!

  • Janessa Lowe
    January 31, 2014 - 23:45

    As a long time Maitland resident, seeing the gas station close years ago in south maitland - rreally didn't help our tourist area. Maybe the New Freize & Roy can have gas pumps again?