The general store in tiny Castleton, Ont.: if Castleton can do it, why not Queensborough? (Photo by Will S. via Flickr)
I’ve written before about the excellent blog Ancestral Roofs (ancestralroofs.blogspot.ca). It explores heritage and architecture, with a particular focus on southeastern Ontario, including Hastings County. Pretty and historic little Queensborough is frequently cited in it, to my great pleasure (and, I’m sure, those of other Queensboroughians who love to see the attributes of our hamlet celebrated).
Anyway, one recent post at Ancestral Roofs has been buzzing around in my head for a while. In the post (which is here) we read about the general store in Castleton, Ont.: “Post Office, LCBO, general merchandise – what more could a village want? Judging by the traffic in and out, folks are pretty satisfied with the services offered. Built in 1870, and featuring some of the original counters and display cases, the building has Greek Revival grandeur – reminds me of the old store in Queensborough, though the years have been kinder to this structure.” (There are also some beautiful photos showing details of the building. Go have a look!)
I learned a bit more about the store at the Visit Cramahe website. (Castleton is a hamlet in Cramahe Township, which is part of Northumberland County – the county immediately to the west of Hastings County, where Queensborough is.) Here’s what that site’s page on the store tells us:
“You will truly take a step back in time when you visit the Castleton General Store. Built in 1870, it still contains some of its original countertops and display cases. Now one of the longest continually run general stores in Canada, it is very well known for its ice cream lineups in the summertime. The store also offers a variety of gifts and groceries. Open 7 days a week until 9 p.m. For more information call (905) 344-7341.”
Now, here’s what else I found out about Castleton while doing some quick research for this post: the population is only about 350 people! That’s not vastly more than the population of what I like to call the Greater Queensborough Area, which would include Queensborough proper, the reasonably well-populated area to the east of it on Declair Road and Rockies Road, the hamlet of Cooper, the hamlet of Hazzard’s Corners, the homes south of town on Bosley Road, and the homes west of town on Queensborough Road.
In addition, Castleton is located more closely to a “town” than is Queensborough: it is less than 15 minutes to Colborne (and Highway 401), whereas it’s 15 minutes or a little better from Queensborough to either Madoc or Tweed (both of which are still half an hour north of the 401).
So here’s what I’m getting at: if tiny Castleton, population 350ish, can support a thriving general store, could Queensborough do so once again? (I wrote about the general stores of old here.) It certainly would not hurt one bit if such a store were able to have Liquor Control Board of Ontario and Beer Store franchises, as the one in Castleton does. Not that I’m suggesting the people of Queensborough (or Castleton, for that matter) are lushes, but hey: it’s a draw for a community if people are able to buy wine, beer or spirits there – in addition to food and other essentials, of course!
Since we bought the Manse, several people in Queensborough have been kind enough to say that if we ever run out of anything – milk, eggs – to not hesitate to come borrow it from them. And we’ve also been told that people making a run to Madoc or Tweed or Belleville don’t mind picking up necessities for others.
But wouldn’t it be awesome if Queensborough, like Castleton, boasted a place to mail a letter, to buy a hot cup of coffee or a newspaper or an ice-cream cone, to pick up the milk and butter and eggs and toilet paper that you always need, as well as perhaps some locally made home baking or handicrafts, maybe some freshly picked local corn or tomatoes or blueberries, and maybe some beer or a bottle of wine, maybe even some gardening or hardware materials: to me, that would be absolute heaven. We could enjoy the Manse and never have to go anywhere if we didn’t want to!
I know that a couple in Queensborough are thinking of – actually, I think they have moved beyond the “thinking” to the “planning” stage – opening a café that might have a store or even bed-and-breakfast component. That would be so terrific.
I think tiny Castleton can show us the way!