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Community celebrates reopening of Halls Harbour’s iconic Parker’s General Store


HALLS HARBOUR, NS - After several years of inactivity, residents and visitors in Halls Harbour are reliving the nostalgia and memories of an iconic community landmark.

Parker’s General Store, which has a history dating back to the 1880’s, has reopened under the management of well-known community members and former Kings County councillors Dick Killam and Madonna Spinazola. The store reopened with a celebration on Aug. 22.

The event was like a stroll down memory lane for Angela Schurman of Centreville. She remembers the store as “a friendly place to come” when she was growing up in Halls Harbour. She said she loves the store, which she describes as an institution in the community, and is glad to see the doors open again.

Schurman remembers piling into the store with kids who stayed in Halls Harbour during the summer. Owner Frederick Parker would call to his wife, Vilda, over the intercom system to come down and dish out candy for the kids.

“I spent a lot of time in this store and for one summer, Vilda was very busy and she got me to tend store for her, which was very nice,” Schurman said. “I got to meet a lot of people from a lot of different places and people were just amazed when they tried dulse for the first time.”

She said Frederick and Vilda are definitely missed and she is very glad to see that someone from the community was willing to reopen the store and bring some of the nostalgia back to the harbour.

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A family tradition

Store owner Craig Parker was on hand for the reopening celebration. He said the goods would come and go but the relationships forged would last forever. The store has always been a social gathering spot for the community. He said Killam and Spinazola are going to be fantastic shop keepers and would carry on the store’s tradition.

“Dick and Madonna are just amazing people, they’ve done so much for the community over the years,” Parker said. “I’m just fortunate that they were on board when I approached them about this opportunity and I know that they will carry on a tradition in line with what the store has meant to the harbour.”

Parker said it means a lot to him to see the fishing village carry on as a community and the store adds a lot of value and character. Although he lives in Toronto with his family, he said his heart is in Halls Harbour, which he considers home and remains a big part of his life.

His great grandfather, Max Parker, first opened the general store. Parker’s grandparents, Frederick and Vilda, took it over and ran it for many years. After Frederick passed away, Parker’s father, Garnet, ran the store with his mother for about 10 years. At 89 years of age, his grandmother had reopened the store in May 2014, shortly before she passed away.

“Having had my grandmother pass a few years back now, it’s very pleasing to be able to open the doors today and carry on a tradition here in the harbour that’s very unique,” Parker said.

He has several old records and journals from the store and community. Parker would someday like to see the memorabilia organized and displayed, perhaps in the store.

New managers excited

Killam, who has lived in Halls Harbour since 1974, said he and Spinazola are honoured to be entrusted with the store and to be carrying on the tradition. They plan to stock the same items that people associate with Parker’s, such as chips, pop, chocolate bars, penny candy and more. The new managers are open to suggestions if there are particular items that people want.

Killam, who will also be displaying and selling his photography there, said he is very excited about the reopening. The news generated a lot of excitement on Facebook, as well as a great sense of nostalgia for many.

“It definitely has impacted the community over the years, just by the response we’re getting,” Killam said. “There are people coming in here who lived here when they were children and they’re well into their senior years now…I’m amazed by how it feels for people.”

Killam fondly recalls visiting the store and chatting with Fred, Vilda, Garnet and other members of the Parker family. He said there are lots of good memories and stories associated with it.

Spinazola said it felt “absolutely awesome” to see the store bustling again.

“There is so much support and love in this community that it isn’t even funny,” she said. “It’s just like it’s meant to be.”

Spinazola said the store is extremely important to Halls Harbour. The overwhelming sentiment is that people missed it and are very pleased that it will be open again. People who used to visit as children to buy penny candy can now bring their grandchildren to do the same.

Spinazola said they’re taking in art and craft work from talented community members to sell on consignment and they’re carrying prints by Dusan Kadlec, recognized as one of Canada’s foremost marine and historical artists. He has been commissioned to paint several harbours over the years, including Halls Harbour.

Spinazola said they would be open daily from 10 a.m. to sunset, probably taking a break at some point during the day. She said they would leave a note on the door to let people know, just as Vilda used to do. They plan to remain open until late October or early November and they’ll reopen in early May. Spinazola said they might host a “Christmas in the harbour” event in December.

Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

Did you know?

According to legend, a pirate ship was terrorizing the small village of Halls Harbour during the early 1800’s and was temporarily captured by the villagers.

A chest filled with gold was taken from the ship by the villagers and buried for safekeeping. No one would dig it up the ill-gotten loot and, over time, the spot the gold was buried was forgotten. The treasure has yet to be found.

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