By Angelica Ingram
Published July 28 2016
This is the second instalment of a feature series on general stores in cottage country.
Agnew’s General Store has been a family tradition since 1921.
Founded as a mercantile it was taken over by Fredrick George Agnew in the 1930s and has been serving the residents and cottagers of Wilberforce for nearly 100 years.
Now run by Fredrick’s grandchildren the store serves the community in a number of ways from providing grocery items to hardware to a full service post office.
Mary Barker 62 has been working at the store for as long as she can remember. It was run by her dad Murray Agnew and his two brothers Gary and Ross when she was born.
“Gary died very young” she said. “He was the reeve of the municipality and he died at 46 so my dad kept on with the store. So all of the kids he had five kids ended up working here and helping out Dad and Mom.”
Barker now runs the store with her two sisters Cathy and Wynne and works as the postmistress following in the footsteps of her dad.
Barker always knew she would be going into the family business joking there wasn’t much choice in the matter.
Now her own grandchildren are helping out marking the fifth generation to work at Agnew’s whether it be sweeping floors or scooping ice cream.
The long wooden store stands in the middle of Wilberforce on Loop Road with a friendly facade offering a little bit of everything.
Barker says the store used to sell more fresh food and had a butcher and meat counter however that shrunk over the years once the town got a grocery store.
“We used to sell produce and a lot more groceries guns TVs cigarettes” said Barker. “We’re getting more into clothing and giftware.”
The store has a garden centre component which is very popular as is the ice cream corner.
“We’ve gone full circle because my grandparents had an ice cream parlour and the ice cream came in on the train packed in dry ice” said Barker.
The store open year round is closed on Christmas Day and on Sundays during the winter months. During the summer months the store is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Aside from general items the store has a unique feature: it contains the Den of the Pusey Lake Pirates which is dedicated to information and materials on geocaching a popular tourist attraction in Highlands East.
The original store which was closer to the corner of Essonville Line and Loop Road burned down in 1938.
It was a boarding hall and store at the time.
Since being rebuilt the store has had many additions expanding the overall size of the store.
In addition to the giftware the store sells cottage country items such as signs and Canadian themed decor. There is some clothing for sale games puzzles and stuffed animals.
An aisle of housewares offers dishes small appliances and cookware.
“We’ve got just about everything you need.”
Barker said the store receives a lot of support from both year-round and seasonal residents. She says Wilberforce is a wonderful place to live and the community has always supported the store.
“The cottagers are really good to us” she said. “They really support us and know that they need to support us.”