Two great little stores that are all about community and country living

General stores and markets have always functioned as places of local commerce, but they are much more than that. Indeed, there is a palpable desire in small towns and villages to bring people closer together as the world’s stage becomes more threatening. Recently I paid a visit to two unique stores that provide an unparalleled service at the very heart of their communities.

Kimberley General Store

You can still see the names of boys and girls etched in the bricks of the Kimberley General Store going back a century. In the last four years this little gem has come back to life with gusto as the vision of the owner, Stacie Howe, has come to fruition. Whether you are a resident of the Beaver Valley, a tourist driving by, walking the Bruce Trail, cycling or downhill skiing, the friendly staff encourage you to feel at home.

You only have to go up the wooden steps onto the patio and peer through the large original windows to know that not much has changed since the store first opened its door in 1905. The prerequisite wooden floor, large lighting fixtures and high ceiling (which will be getting an original tin finishing soon), the wood stove in the corner, heaps of vegetables from local farmers in the spring, summer and fall, and homemade fare from pies, sandwiches, and butter tarts to locally crafted chocolates make for a cosy setting for this colourful, community-oriented store.

In 2015, Kimberley General Store more than lives up to the expectations of a store at the turn of the twentieth century: it has all the essential provisions – and much more – that a self-reliant community would have needed to get by before the automobile made it possible to go over to a larger centre such as Collingwood to shop. Like all general stores it sells flour, tea, eggs, milk and other staples, but it also boasts a variety of locally made frozen entrées, cheeses and yogurts, ice cream, hats, bird seed, soaps, essential oils and kitchen needs, all in a small space with a warm and welcoming ambience. On certain days of the week home-cooked foods such as soups, cinnamon buns and pizza are also available. There are delightful and quirky presents to buy and engaging books to read, and an excellent array of teas and locally roasted coffee to enjoy while you peruse one of the daily newspapers. A catering service is also available.

Now that the store has bought the adjoining land and built a covered patio, Stacie believes more people will be coming by to shelter in inclement weather and sample the new pizzas with such enticing names as Mamma Mia, Cherry Bomb and Smokey Delight that come out of the wood-burning oven on Friday nights.
Stacie says: “Come by the Kimberley General Store for a taste of village life. Beautiful setting at the base of Old Baldy rock face, with hiking trails close by. Light lunches, curiosities, groceries, local and organic selections. Strong coffee and treats.”
The store is located in the village of Kimberley, 235304 Grey Road 13, in the centre of the Beaver Valley, 30 minutes from Collingwood and 20 minutes from Thornbury.

For more information and store hours see www.facebook.com/KimberleyGeneralStore or call 519 599 3451.

Ravenna Country Market

“Since opening our doors just over five years ago, we have grown into what you, our customers, have asked for: a destination where you can come for nutritious, delicious, homemade treats, lunch, dinner-to-go or to just grab an energy-boosting snack during an active day. If you have not yet stopped in to visit, we hope to see you soon.” Monica Wolf, co-owner of Ravenna Country Market

The little hamlet of Ravenna hasn’t changed much since the Walter family arrived in the 1840s and the following generations kept it thriving. Although it is only 15 minutes from Collingwood and Thornbury, the elevation of the land, the proximity to Kolapore Wilderness and the pure farming character of the place make it still feel that Ravenna hasn’t yet joined the twenty-first century.

After you ascend from Georgian Bay on Highway 2, it is gratifying to see a welcoming sign inviting you into Ravenna Country Market. At first sight or even after looking at a map it may be hard to believe that a store that is located in such an out-of-town place could find such a following of people prepared to make the windy journey. For most of us who do, it is exactly what we wish to find: an oasis of plenty and good cheer. Perhaps an energetic bicycle trip or a car ride out to the country makes those pies and soups even more enticing, but whatever the reason for dropping by, the market is a resounding success.

My visit on a Sunday in February found the store bustling with people sitting down for soup and sandwiches as well as others coming in to choose from the wide assortment of pies and other baked goods for sale. It is clear that the market’s customers are interested in having high-quality food, whether to eat in or to take home with them. There is an impressive range of gourmet frozen entrées, all made on the premises, such as goat cheese stuffed chicken, braised beef short ribs, salmon fillet, Sicilian meat loaf, osso bucco and lamb shanks. The menu changes weekly. These takeaway meals are the mainstay of Ravenna Country Market. Happily, vegetarians will also find a good selection there.

Monica Wolf, who is co-owner of the market with Roy Genoe, gave me a good insight into how the store has evolved since she and Roy bought it in October 2009. Besides carrying out a top-to-bottom renovation of the space itself, the owners have kept up with the need to expand their business to cater for an ever-widening spectrum of visitors. This spring and summer will find many more places to sit outside to accommodate the hundreds of cyclists who stop to have a drink and something to eat. Monica described to me their plan to have freshly pressed vegetable and fruit drinks available.

Besides home-cooked foods, there is a colourful assortment of local jams, honey, maple syrup and even clothes for sale. Monica and Roy also offer an extensive catering service for both large and small events.

The market is located at 495972 Grey Road 2 and is open seven days a week. For more information, visit www.ravennacountrymarket.ca or call 519 599 2796.

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