The 12 employees of the store found out Jan. 18 that the business was opening for the final time Feb. 1. A sign out front is thanking customers for their loyalty.
Regular customer Bruce Young of Centreville said he would miss the convenience of the store. He said, “The girls here are really good.”
“I’m really going to miss them,” Young said. “I come here all the time. It’s the closest thing for us around here.”
Melynda Bezanson of Centreville visited the store and diner with her grandmother, Ruth Bezanson of Kentville, on closing day. Melynda said she finds the closure sad because visiting the business is like visiting family.
“It’s a shock,” Melynda said.
She doesn’t drive and said she’s probably not the only one in the community who doesn’t. She’ll miss the convenience of walking there with her kids to get ice cream or lunch. Melynda said she always liked the relaxed atmosphere, which she described as “warm and cozy.”
Ruth said she feels “very disappointed.” She’ll miss the diner, where she ate “all the time”, as well as the women who worked there.
“The girls would come up and they’d give you a big hug,” Ruth said, pointing out that they made her feel like more than a customer.
Former employee and now regular customer Betty LeBlanc of Coldbrook said her favourite meal is pan fried haddock and vegetables. She stopped in to enjoy it one last time at the diner Feb. 1. LeBlanc said she would miss the social aspect and sense of community.
She was hired on the spot when she stopped in to the store on her way home one day in 2004. LeBlanc was looking to augment her income, as she was on strike from her job with Bell Aliant and lived in Centreville at the time. She said manager Vicki Johnson was “a wonderful boss.”
“I liked working here so much that even after five months and going back to work at Bell Aliant, I remained to work here one night a weekend every other weekend,” she said.
She said she met and reconnected with many people she hadn’t seen in a long time while working at the business. LeBlanc said she used to take her children there when they were small and later took her grandchildren. The penny candy was a big draw.
She said perhaps her fondest memory working at the store and diner is giving smiles to customers having a hard day, waiting on people and helping them. She said her last visit to the business wasn’t to say goodbye but “see you later.”
“It’s going to be a huge loss to the community, a huge loss,” she said.
Manager Vicki Johnson said closing day was emotional for customers and staff alike, sort of bittersweet. The staff wore pyjamas because they wanted everyone to feel relaxed. It somewhat unintentionally symbolized putting the business to bed.
“I’ve seen a lot of tears this morning, even with customers coming in when they give you a hug,” Johnson said. “It’s a sad thing for the community and a sad thing for us.”
She’s been doing her job for close to 18 years and described the loss of the business as “heartbreaking.” Johnson said the women she’s hired aren’t like her staff anymore, “they’re part of my family.”
Johnson said there couldn’t possibly be better people to work for than owners Kees and Greg deGraff and Cory Coffin of Canning and the closure is just as sad for them. She said it’s disappointing that they have to close due to the economic situation in the area.
“I can deal without doing the paperwork and the orders and all that stuff. It’s the customers that I had interaction with on a daily basis,” Johnson said.
Storefront manager Patty Hopkins said she thinks of Johnson and the other staff members as sisters and she’s going to miss the working atmosphere. She said it would be hard to find that anywhere else.
She was happy to see so many familiar faces on closing day and said she would miss seeing the customers and staff on a daily basis.
“It’s been a lot of laughing, hugging and crying, sometimes in the same conversation,” Hopkins said. “I’ve had a few people stop in just because they were going by and they wanted to say goodbye and that they’re going to miss you.”