Longtime readers will know that I regularly sing the praises of the magazine Country Roads, which, as its slogan says, celebrates life in Hastings County. It is a beautifully designed, well-written, high-quality glossy magazine that pokes into all kinds of interesting things here in our beautiful, yet still in many ways undiscovered, part of the world.
But I am especially excited about the most recent issue, Fall 2014, because it features a splashy article about an interesting business in Queensborough and the people who run it.
(You may read the article itself by picking up a copy of the magazine – which I have not yet managed to do – or by clicking on the link here and scrolling to Page 28. You’ll probably need to enlarge it a bit to be able to read the text.)
The business in question is Pronk Canada Inc. – Queensborough Machine Shop, and its name will be very familiar to readers of Meanwhile, at the Manse. Jos Pronk is a machinist and craftsman who can, it seems, build or fix anything made of metal. I wrote here, for instance, about the car – yes, a whole car! – that he built; other well-known local projects include the metal sign over the historic cemetery at Hazzard’s Corners Church, and Queensborough’s new street signs. Among many, many others.
Anyway, in the Country Roads profile the magazine’s co-publisher and co-editor, John Hopkins, reports on Jos’s background, his coming to Canada from his native Netherlands, and how he ended up buying the former general store owned for many years (including in my childhood here) by Bobbie (Sager) Ramsay and setting up his own business there. He also pays tribute to the careful work that Jos and his wife, Mary Kay, have done in restoring the old store (which is now their beautiful home) and notes that they have plans to one day open a bed and breakfast there. (Which, I will say right now, I think would be a wonderful thing.)
In my view Hopkins nails it with this description of Jos:
He is a difficult man to cubbyhole. Imposingly tall and slender, Pronk at first seems to fit the image of a rigidly severe and serious scientific mind, a quiet man who thinks in terms of numbers, equations and tolerances. But after only a little conversation that cloak disappears, and one is also aware of an artist’s appreciation of the natural world and a strong sense of community and history.
Standing contentedly in the recently restored living area of the general store, looking out a window that perfectly frames the Black River across the street, Pronk emphasizes the pretty scene.
“We [Mary Kay and I] love what nature has offered us here,” he reflects. “That view is like art, but you don’t have to pay for it. This village is like a secret place.”
Nicely said, Jos!
I also like how Hopkins captures something that I like to say about Queensborough to whomever will listen – about how great it is that, thanks to Jos and Mary Kay’s business, the old general store, for so many years the heart of the community (along with McMurray’s store, which was directly across from it), is once again a place of activity and gathering. I’ll let Hopkins paint the picture:
For all his creative and material contributions to the community of Queensborough, whether they be street signs or repaired farm equipment, Pronk’s greatest contributions may, in fact, be more spiritual. They are reflected in the warm wave of his hand extended to every car or motorcycle that passes the machine shop, the casual conversation about the weather with a farmer who has come to pick up a repaired piece of equipment, or the welcome given to a resident who has taken a seat just outside the shop to read the newspaper on a summer afternoon.
“This business is almost like a cornerstone of the community,” Jos points out, “which is what the building once was.”
I think we in Queensborough are awfully lucky to have a successful and widely respected small business like the Queensborough Machine Shop anchoring our “downtown” – not to mention the other businesses that one can find here in the village and in the surrounding area. There are more of them than you might think, and sometime when I have some spare time (yeah, right) I’d like to compile a listing of them so that the people of Queensborough, and visitors, can support our very local economy by patronizing these skilled craftspeople, artists, tradespeople and horticulturists.
But meantime, thanks to Jos and Mary Kay for making our community look so good and keeping things hopping in the core! And thanks to the folks at Country Roads magazine for making their way here and shining a spotlight on a much-deserving operation.