Raymond and I had a busy Saturday this past weekend, spending most of it doing pretty much everything there was to do in the village of Madoc. (Don’t laugh! There’s lots to do in Madoc. Sometimes you just have to look a little bit.)
We started with an extremely interesting morning at the Madoc Public Library, at an event (which I wrote about here) focusing on the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. It was fascinating to look at the WWI artifacts that local residents had brought in, and to hear the stories about them.
But then it was on to something I’d been wanting to do for a few weeks, ever since I heard that the proprietor of the venerable shop Wilson’s of Madoc was going to start a well-earned retirement: we stopped in and had a chat with her.
Her name (as everyone in the Madoc area knows) is Ellen Wilson, and she is the daughter of the founders of the store, Robert and Hilda Wilson. I have happy memories from the time of my childhood at the Manse of visiting their shop – which sold gifts and also paint and wallpaper – and admiring all the pretty and useful things in it. In fact, a decorative teapot that I bought for my mother at Wilson’s once upon a time was still being used by my parents until not all that many years ago, when it must finally have broken after about four decades of daily service.
It was delightful reminiscing with Ellen about the shop’s history. She told us about how, when she and her sister were in high school, they would get to go to Toronto when her parents travelled there to buy stock for the store. They would get dropped off by their parents downtown, told to be at such-and-such an entrance of the Simpson’s store – do you remember Simpson’s in downtown Toronto? Now that was a wonderful department store – at 4:30 p.m. to be picked up, and would proceed to have a day on their own in the big city. What a rare treat for teenagers from tiny Madoc back in the 1960s!
Ellen was able to quickly clear up one puzzlement I’d been having about the shop, which was how much bigger it seems today than the one I remember her parents being the proprietors of. (Quite the opposite of the usual situation, when you revisit things from your youth and they seem so much smaller than you remember.) The reason is that the shop was smaller in those days; it was located next door to the present one, in the considerably narrower space that is now the pretty shop Kelly’s Flowers and Gifts.
She also had interesting things to say about how the retail business has changed over the years – and about being one of the veterans of the Madoc retail scene.
As it happens, another of those veterans is also retiring. That would be Gord Johnston, the proprietor for ever so long of his family’s business, Johnston’s Drugstore across the street from Wilson’s. (You can read an article about the changes at Johnston’s here.) I remember Gord being behind the pharmacy counter way back when I was a teenager buying nail polish and Mother’s Day gifts at his shop (and eyeing the fabulous Valentine’s Day displays of heart-shaped boxes of chocolates).
With so many other friendly, locally owned shops that I remember from those days now long gone – Stickwood’s Dry Goods, Ross’s Ladies’ Wear, Kincaid Bros. IGA and so many more – it was nice, when I came back to the area, to see that Wilson’s and Johnston’s were still going. And Johnston’s will continue, under new ownership. Ellen Wilson, however, is closing her shop (and having a very appealing sale to clear out stock), so Wilson’s of Madoc will be no more.
The storefront will not be empty; the Madoc thrift shop where I have found so many treasures these last couple of years will be moving into the space. But I will be sad that there will be no more Wilson’s. And I know I am very, very far from being alone in that feeling.
But I know I’m also not alone in wishing Ellen Wilson and Gord Johnston a wonderful, healthy, well-deserved retirement – and in feeling grateful to them for all the years that they and their families have provided good shopping, and excellent service, to the people of Madoc and area.