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Charlotte and Wendell’s Tidnish Country Store renews family tradition

Ken and Linda Grafton have given new life to the former general store at Tidnish Crossroads. The store, that has had many names dating back to the late 1910s, is reopening as Charlotte and Wendell’s Tidnish Country Store – carrying on a tradition in Linda’s family dating back to the mid-30s when her grandparents operated a store in Hardwood Ridge, N.B.
Ken and Linda Grafton have given new life to the former general store at Tidnish Crossroads. The store, that has had many names dating back to the late 1910s, is reopening as Charlotte and Wendell’s Tidnish Country Store – carrying on a tradition in Linda’s family dating back to the mid-30s when her grandparents operated a store in Hardwood Ridge, N.B. - Darrell Cole

Former convenience store closed in 2014 gets new lease on life

TIDNISH – Ken and Linda Grafton are continuing a family tradition dating back to the mid-1930s when Linda’s grandparents opened a general store in Hardwood Ridge, N.B.

Last November, the Wakefield, Que. residents purchased the former convenience store in Tidnish Bridge and have been working away since then restoring the building that’s getting a second chance as Charlotte and Wendell’s Tidnish Country Store.

“We’ve been coming to the Tidnish area every summer for many years and we noticed several years ago that the general store was closed, leaving a hole in the community,” Ken Grafton said. “We’d been toying with the idea of reopening the store, so when the opportunity came up to purchase the store we jumped at it.”

Ken said a lot of work has gone into fixing the building up. The store, he said, was abandoned by the previous owner in 2014 with product still on the shelves and perishable food items, like orange juice and milk, still in the fridge.

A contractor went into the store in January and took five weeks cleaning it out so renovations could begin. Since then, contractors have been working to bring the building back to life.

While they originally planned to operate the store as a seasonal business they soon discovered the community wants the operation to be year-round. It’s also something that’s favoured by the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation as well as Wilson Fuels, which has installed new gas pumps.

“The response has been tremendous from the community, overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “People have been commenting on the Facebook page and telling us how much they appreciate the store coming back to the community.”

The Graftons have big plans for the business, including opening a restaurant on the second floor as well as a café on the main floor along with the convenience store, gas bar and liquor agency store.

They are also hoping to offer a music venue and the farmers market will be returning to the store from the community centre.

“We want to create a community meeting place where people can come and chat, have a coffee and see notices for community events,” she said. “We feel this can be a focal point in the community just like my grandparents’ store was. What I learned about service, I learned from working in that store.”

They have a long-time connection to the community in that Linda’s aunt is Edith Anne Purdy and she would spend summers as a child at Tidnish Cove.

Although the past few years have been rough ones for the retail sector, especially convenience stores, the Graftons are very optimistic they will be beat the trend.

“The demand is there. We have looked at the numbers and with fuel, alcohol and lottery we know we can make it work,” he said. “That’s 70 per cent of the revenue of any convenience store and we’ve been told that the loss of the store was really felt in the community. We know it can be successful.”

As for the name, Linda said her grandparents opened up a small store near Minto, N.B. in 1936. That store soon became an integral part of the community. The family lived on the second floor of the store and worked the business. With the tough times of the 30s, the family extended credit wisely in support of the community and Charlotte’s hospitality was legendary – offering hungry travelers a home-cooked meal.

Their daughter, Edith-Ann, took a job as a medical lab technician at the former Highland View hospital in Amherst. She married Amherst lawyer Bill Douglas and began spending summers at the Douglas family cottage at Tidnish Cove Lane.

Linda remembers coming to the cottage and spending time at what was then Greeno’s store and she was sad to see it had fallen on hard times in recent years. With her retirement, and an inheritance from her late mother, she decided that she and her husband would purchase the business and reopen it.

“I used to work behind the counter at my grandparents’ store and I will be working behind the counter at this store,” she said. “It’s the family tradition.”

darrell.cole@amherstnews.ca

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

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