Iconic landmark sees new beginning
© Harry Sullivan – Truro Daily News
Kayla Conoley and Brent Halverson invite visitors to drop into the Earltown General Store on Highway 311 where they say locals can continue to purchase the same type of items they have become accustomed to along with new offerings to be introduced in coming weeks.
EARLTOWN - Walking across the threshold into the Earltown General Store is akin, in some respects, to stepping back in time.
From the old wooden shelves and the antique canisters and other items they hold, to advertising signs that shriek out marketing messages of year's gone by; to the old iron stove near the back and the well-worn steps that lead up into the upper floor, this well-known landmark that for nearly four decades has been known as "Murphy's" store, is without doubt a journey into the past.
"Just like, to a lot of people, it's a pretty iconic landmark and it just stood out in my mind," says Brent Halverson, who along with his partner Kayla Conoley, recently purchased the store from previous owner Murphy Stonehouse.
According the locals, the store has been in operation since about 1890 and there are many in the area who can still remember its days as a dropping off point for fresh milk and cream destined for the Tatamagouche Creamery.
Halverson, who spent his early days in St. Margaret's Bay, recalls boyhood visits to the area on summer weekends, when stopping at Murphy's was simply a regular part of the trip.
"And every time we'd pass by, we'd pick up a big bag of chocolate macaroons. I always remembered that," Halverson says.
So too, when he moved to area as a teenager and made daily stops on his way to and from high school in Truro.
"I'd drive by here every morning and afternoon and we'd stop for jerky on the way home, things like that," he says.
For the past 10 years, Halverson has worked at a bicycle repair shop in Halifax and it was there that he met his soon-to-be bride Conoley.
For some time he had attempted to negotiate a purchase of the family run bicycle business where he worked. But when he eventually realized that would not be feasible proposition, Halverson turned his interests elsewhere.
And then opportunity came knocking when Stonehouse, an old friend of Halverson's mother, mentioned that he was planning to sell the business.
"When he decided to put it up for sale, he put the bug in her ear and she put it mine. And I decided I would be silly not to take him up on the opportunity."
Halverson and Conoley both grin broadly and talk eagerly of their plans for their new/old business.
"Lot's of potential and lots of work ahead of us," Conoley says, with a chuckle, of her initial thoughts after they had taken ownership.
"And excitement, you know," Halverson adds, "because this place is just packed to the ceilings with accumulated ... just stuff, from all the year's of Murphy's owning it, his antique business. And one of my favourite things to do is just sort through stuff, organize it, find new homes for it," he says.
Where else, for instance, can you walk into a general store these days and see a stuffed bear head on the wall? Or old hornets nests, retrieved from local forests, complete in some cases with tree branches still intact.
"Some of it we will hang on to, to maintain the history of the building and show what has been sold here in the past and some of it we will be willing to part with," he says.
Overall, there will be "a little bit of the old and a little bit of the new," Halverson says.
Local Earltown cheese will continue as a mainstay along with the very popular type of beef jerky that Halverson came to love as a teen.
"People come from miles around to pick up their jerky here," he says. "People seem to be drawn here to get it instead of the regular grocery store or other corner stores that might sell similar products."
The couple also plans to turn one section of the store into a restaurant - initially as a takeout deli style - with homemade soups and sandwiches. By next summer, however, they hope to be able to expand that section into a small restaurant.
"It's going to have a penny floor," Conoley said, of just another unique option the old building will continue to offer.
That effort will require 55,500 coppers, she says, of which so far they have collected about 40,000, thanks to donations from friends and family.
Halverson is also thinking about starting a bicycle repair business at the site.
For the moment, however, he and Conoly are busy poking and sifting through hidden treasures of anything and everything, from old coins to antique canisters and whatever.
"I'm sure that there are dozens more that we'll find tucked in drawers or hidden in boxes," he says, with child-like wonder etching across his face. "There's so much stuff in here and I still haven't seen it all. We're still digging through it and discovering new things."