Hanging Out At Barry And Eldridge’s Store

Hanging Out At Barry And Eldridge Store
The Place That Time Forgot

     Do you remember a place you used to visit as a child? You would stand for a long time looking longingly at the penny candy. Maybe you would buy an ice cream and enjoy it on the step outside under the warm afternoon sun. Then later, when you were a teen, it was where you and your friends met – joking, laughing, making memories.

The original Barry and Eldridge Store (on the right) in the 1930's. The
family home, standing today, is on the left.

    Places like that are a little harder to find now, but for the residents of Beaver Harbour there is a special place – Barry and Eldridge’s Store. Everyone is welcome to drop in, grab a cup of coffee or join in a game of cribbage. The centerpiece of the store is the table around which people gather during factory breaks or when off duty fishermen or retirees are about.
    The store is small now. The old building was built in 1902 and was owned by John F. Paul. The original store featured a docking area for boats at the back of the building. Fishing gear was supplied to the boats from there. A walkway was built along one side of the building and the second floor featured a dance hall. Many music shows and dinners were held. The old store was a true general store with groceries and hardware.
    The store was bought in 1919 by William Barry and Calvin Eldridge and renamed Barry and Eldridge’s General Store. Later Calvin left the business and journeyed to Boston where he married. Milton and Bette Barry acquired the building in 1959.
    By 1992, ninety years after its construction, the old building was in bad shape. The foundation was crumbling and Randi Barry, Milton and Bette’s daughter, decided it was time for the old building to come down. Randi did not intend to build again. Arnold Hatt had offered her a job at the Lake Utopia store and she thought she might take it.

Randi Barry, proprietor of the
Barry & Eldridge Store in Beaver Harbour.

    However the people of Beaver Harbour, noted for their tenacity, were not about to let Randi go. They said they would help her build again. David Hatt recommended digging into the soil bank and through the use of cement walls construct a building that was fuel efficient in winter and cool in summer.
    Randi ran her store out of a trailer while the store was being built because, as she says, “I didn’t want my customers to get used to going to the other store.” John Stevens was foreman on the build and his workers were the good folks of Beaver Harbour.
    “Everybody showed up,” says Randi. “They gave me a sink, flush, windows. Norvell Eldridge gave me these two big windows,” she says, pointing to the large windows that grace the front of the store. The old store was torn down on September 28 and Randi moved in to her new store on November 1, 1992. Randi kept the old counter from the original store. It can be seen to this day.

The new Barry and Eldridge Store built in the early nineties.

    The business continued to flourish but has slowed in recent years. There were eighty five to a hundred workers visiting Randi’s store when the salmon processing plant was operating. Now, with just the cold storage in Beaver, only twenty five to thirty workers drop in daily
Barry and Eldridge’s is a focal point for the community. This past Christmas saw the fifth Santa visit to the store. “We do candy for the Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve,” says Randi remembering that her mother did it before her for the children.
    Randi loves to see the children drop by. She remembers when she was a girl. “I was always popular with the kids,” she says, “because whoever came to the store with me got a treat.” Now she sells Scotsburn ice cream for a price that would astound a city ice cream shop – and the children and adults still flock to eat it. Every year Randi stocks the store with ice cream but not before the long weekend in May – a date that has become a harbinger of summer for ice cream lovers in the community.
    The store has its regulars. Doris Noddin and her family, Susie Greencorn, Jerry Paul, Osborne Hawkins, Ron Hawkins, Floyd Hawkins, Gib Eldridge, Wayne Patterson and Aunt Bert. The conversation flows and everything gets talked about. “Most of the problems of Beaver Harbour are solved at this table,” says Randi. “Boats are built, engines are changed.” “We haven’t operated on anybody yet,” says Osborne. Randi looks fondly at her friends gathered around the table and says, “The local people have stuck by me.”

Friends meet (left to right) Sonia Grant, Osborne Hawkins, Ross Hawkins & Joan Marceau (2004).

    And things are changing for the better. “More and more people come in now,” says Randi. “Fisherman drop by and tourists visit in the summer.” Maybe the visitors are coming because they yearn for a quieter time when people took the time to talk to each other – laugh and joke. Be a community.
    The people of Beaver Harbour are grateful for their little store and for Randi who gives them a place to step aside and rest awhile.

SOURCE: Homeport News (May 7, 2004 (Issue 2, Volume 1) - written by permission.

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