In the November 2014 issue of Downhome, Shannon Duff and Dennis Flynn speak to the fine folks behind some of Newfoundland and Labrador's longest running businesses. Here they share the stories of two more experienced retailers.
Got ’er Knocked at Nic Naks
Lorraine Welsh, proprietor of Nic Naks store in Green’s Harbour, Trinity Bay, says with a smile, “The building is approximately 100 years old and the original owner was a Mr. Harry Green. He was a general merchant and you could find everything you needed to run the fishery or a home here. Mr. Green went teaching for a year or so after he finished school, but decided he wanted to be in business for himself so he returned home and opened his store. It flourished and at one point he had over 200 people ‘on his books’ (an old-fashioned way of saying customers) and it would take him two full days just to deliver groceries around the area. He stayed open for around 60 years and my mother actually worked here for over 20 years helping in the shop.”
The next owner, Bill Green, operated a grocery store in this building for another 20 years after that. When he retired, the building was vacant for about a year when Lorraine entered a rent to own arrangement with him and she’s been in business for almost 18 years now. Her shop is filled with quite the assortment of goods, from beautiful replica dories, ships in glass bottles and knit goods to a large assortment of quilts that share shelf space with eclectic antiques (including vintage stereoscope viewers).
“I love it,” she says. “It is mostly seasonal, but I have been here since the ‘year of the tow out’ (a local expression for the 1997 move of the Hibernia Gravity Base Structure from the construction site at Bull Arm to the offshore oil fields) and the people are wonderful. I have a niche specializing in the high quality local craft industry and we see people from all over the world. I have had folks from Egypt, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and everywhere really. We have even had a few famous visitors including Shaun Majumder (of “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” and “Majumder Manor”) and he was really nice.” – Dennis Flynn
Generations of Grocers
Many of the smaller markets from our grandparents’ days are long gone, but there are a few that have held their own and weathered the storm in this ever-changing globalized, digital marketplace with its big box stores. One of those mainstays is the family-owned Coleman’s Group of Companies, owned today by Frank Coleman, a third-generation Coleman businessman. Coleman’s is now the largest, fully integrated, independent wholesale/retail food operation in Atlantic Canada. Its beginnings were much humbler.
Arthur James Coleman and his wife Maggie first opened for business in 1934 in a former school house in Corner Brook. It was a family operation in every sense. As soon as the Coleman children were old enough they were put to work in the store, as were subsequent Coleman descendants. “It was always a business where you had to work hard, specifically in the food business because it was so demanding every day,” Frank told Downhome in a past interview. “My brothers and cousins and I did a little bit of everything.”
Over the years, the Coleman’s enterprise has really branched out with 12 food stores, four furniture stores and two clothing stores operating from Port aux Basques to St. John’s. Frank says the company has a unique relationship with its customers and it’s one of the reasons they keep coming back. “It’s people that we work with and people that we serve that have a shared group of customs and expectations, and we treat them that way, and I think they feel that way when they come into our business. It’s a very unique place that we occupy in the minds of the consumer, and it’s a place that we work very hard to maintain.” With a fourth generation employed in the company, it’s likely Coleman’s will remain a hallmark of the food industry in this province. – Shannon Duff
When Tanya Northcott goes on vacation to Newfoundland and Labrador, so does her camera. Really, it’s an adventure for her camera, which doesn’t see much action back home in Ottawa, Ontario.
“My camera is not really used anywhere else but when I’m in Newfoundland,” Tanya admits. “When I’m in Ottawa it just sits on the shelf. I’m working on changing this, as there are many beautiful places in and around Ottawa, too, but it just doesn’t inspire me the way Newfoundland does.”
Tanya was born on the mainland and was introduced to Newfoundland and Labrador by her adoptive parents, who raised her there.
“I’m a descendant of Ojibway ancestry. My birth family once lived on the Wabigoon Lake Reserve, which is South of Dryden, Ontario. I was adopted by a wonderful Newfoundland couple who were living in Thunder Bay at the time, but after living there for a few years they decided to move back to Newfoundland and that’s where I grew up,” she explains. “I’m very happy to have grown up in Newfoundland; it’s a beautiful place with very friendly people.”
Her first experience with photography was during a vacation to the southern United States and Mexico in the 1980s, when she was gifted an Olympus camera to record her experience. “During this trip I was really inspired by the beauty of the ocean and landscapes,” Tanya says.
These days, Tanya captures scenes using her Nikon D-90 with its AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm lens. She also uses a Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens and an AF-S Nikkor 55-300mm zoom lens. While her camera gear has changed over the years, what she trains it on has not. She is still is irresistibly drawn to the sea and landscapes.
“My favourite subject to shoot would be Newfoundland outports and landscapes simply because it’s so beautiful: the ocean, beaches, cliffs, wildlife, wharfs, boats and colourful houses…the only thing I need to do is to capture good composition and good lighting – the natural beauty of the land does the rest.”
She makes it sound simple, but to get the right composition sometimes means clamouring over cliffs or crawling beneath wharfs. And that great lighting? Well one could be waiting for hours or even days – sometimes even returning in a different season – for the best light. But it’s all worth it, as Tanya and every other photographer will tell you, when you get that perfect shot, that image that inspires you and others every time you see it.
Click here to view a slideshow of images taken by Tanya.
Adventure Canada, an expedition cruise line that’s been bringing passengers to Newfoundland and Labrador for two decades, has perfected many aspects of the cruise experience. One is the wake-up call.
No, it’s not a monotone voice on the other end of the phone gently nudging you from your cabin. At least on the morning this Downhome editor was aboard the Sea Adventurer, it’s the booming voice of the captain over the PA, announcing to passengers that the ship is sailing past a pod of orcas. I’ve never witnessed so many people (myself included) so eager to rise from slumber at 6 a.m. Sure enough, reaching the top deck I could just make out the black dorsal fins in the distance.
Downhome, as well as other media and tourism industry staff, was invited aboard the Sea Adventurer in late June for a special one-night sailing from St. John’s, Newfoundland to St. Pierre, France, in celebration of the company’s 20th year bringing cruise tourists to the province.
Others along for the ride include Newfoundland author Kevin Major, local storyteller Dave Paddon and a host of other famous faces from home. But this isn’t their first (and won’t be their last) Adventure Canada cruise. They are members of the company’s stellar resource team – typically locals with some area of expertise – who sail with cruise passengers to add that extra ounce of local knowledge and charm.
“For our guests it makes it very real. It’s not just the tour guide spiel,” Adventure Canada vice president Cedar Swan, a B.C. native now living in Ontario, tells me as we sail. “They’re actually getting the perspective of somebody that lives there, the pros and cons and the real-life situations, and I think that’s what people have come to know us for is for providing that type of insight.”
Food & fun
Throughout the journey I keep thinking that as we all filed onto the ship we must have looked like hungry souls, for they keep feeding us – and feeding us and feeding us. From hors d’oeuvres aplenty and a gigantic barbecue buffet on deck to a gourmet meal in the dining room, it’s a wonder the ship didn’t sink like a stone with all of us on it. (Still, I would have made off with the entire dessert buffet if I thought I could have done so without creating a scene.)
Canada’s literary queen, Margaret Atwood (another fixture on Adventure Canada’s resource team), is also on this trip. Shortly after we’re out to sea, the three wordsmiths – Paddon, Major and Atwood – go head to head in a game of “Nautical Bluff” in the ship’s lounge, which leaves everyone in stitches.
Late into the evening we’re treated to musical performances from talented members of the ship’s crew (which includes a saxophone-playing horse – seriously, I couldn’t make this up if I tried) as well as Juno-nominated Tom Barlow.
In the morning, as if on cue, humpbacks greet the ship upon our entrance into St. Pierre Harbour (perhaps the 6 a.m. orcas notified them of our impending arrival).
Canada, and especially our little corner of it, is indeed an adventure – one that’s best appreciated from the water. Next time I’m planning a cruise vacation, I might just consider sticking a little closer to home. – Ashley Colombe
Click here to view a slideshow of photos from the cruise.
There’s an interesting symmetry to Gerry Farrell’s life. In his first career, as x-ray technician, he spent his days studying images and looking at the human body in a different way than most of us do. His work inspired a new hobby, photography, which allowed him to capture images of other areas of life, often with a new perspective. And not surprisingly, he preferred to shoot in black and white.
Gerry’s photography passion continued as he transitioned from black and white to colour, and, fairly recently, from film to digital equipment. He also changed careers, graduating from Memorial University with a degree in medicine in 1974. After placements in Grand Bank, N.L. (not far from his hometown of Marystown) and Pictou, N.S., he’s currently a palliative care physician in New Glasgow, N.S.
As a photographer, Gerry says, “I am early morning person and like to take advantage of the ‘golden hour’ of sunlight, either at sunrise or sunset.” The tools he relies on to capture the best images include his Canon 5D Mark 3. “I use a variety of lenses, but my most frequently used is a Canon 24-105 f4 series. I enjoy wide angle shots and use a 17-40 lens for same,” he says.
Something more significant than good equipment that Gerry credits for his quality of photography was a special experience he had a few years ago.
“About five years ago, I spent a week with world-renowned photographer Freeman Patterson, and his inspiration made me a much improved photographer,” he says.
Gerry most enjoys shooting landscapes and, particularly, water features.
“Waterfalls have been an enduring subject for me, and I have visited many of the ones in Nova Scotia, and just returned from a photography adventure in Iceland, where there are waterfalls around every bend,” he says.
He and his wife (also a Newfoundlander, from Brig Bay on the Northern Peninsula) return to the island on a regular basis, where Gerry finds inspiration along the seashore. One of his favourite images was taken during one of those trips home.
“One image of sea urchin shells on the rocks along with seaweed at the Arches on the Northern Peninsula was made in the pouring rain two years ago. I wanted to make an image as a wedding gift for a friend. It included two shells and I titled it ‘Nestled,’” says Gerry.
“I always enjoy going to Newfoundland and Labrador, and walking along the seashore and photographing things I find there. Also, the fog in the early morning light creates a wonderful mood and makes one appreciate all the beauty around us.”
Click here to view a slideshow of photos taken by Gerry.
As if conjuring up the courage and will power to make resolutions isn’t bad enough, keeping them can also cost a bundle. Well, here’s a New Year’s resolution you can take to the bank: resolve to make (and keep!) cheaper resolutions in 2012. Here are some of the most common resolutions made by well-meaning folks every January 1, and tips for keeping them…on the cheap.
After lazing your way through a leisurely holiday, you can barely walk the length of yourself – not to mention your “love handles” aren’t looking so lovely. Time to get fit, methinks?
Regular resolution cost: Approximately $600 for a full-year membership at your local gym.
Resolution on the cheap: Unless you’re absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt sure you’re in this for the long haul, don’t be swayed by savings promised by purchasing a full-year gym membership. Some estimates state that as much as 60 per cent of gym memberships go unused, so start out paying month-to-month instead. Only commit for the long term once visiting the gym has become part of your routine. Or, if you really want to save money, work out at home; do sit-ups or go for a daily jog in the crisp winter air. Afterall, fancy gym equipment is NOT necessary for getting fit.
Spend more time with family.
Between your job (and the overtime from your job), Christmas shopping, and completing home improvement tasks, you barely recognize your family members anymore. Perhaps a little quality time is in order in the New Year.
Regular resolution cost: The sky’s the limit. Although tickets to movies, hockey games and other events and activities may seem cheap in the moment, over time, the costs add up.
Resolution on the cheap: Instead of going out to spend time with your family, see how much fun you can have staying in: Have a family board game night, cook dinner with your kids, build a snow sculpture together. To stay in touch with relatives living away, use Skype to communicate and cancel your long-distance plan.
Get your house organized.
Putting your boxes of Christmas decorations back into the storage room is like a complicated game of Tetris – everything has to fit JUST right, or it’s game over. If this sounds like you, you need a little order in your life in 2012.
Regular resolution cost: Hundreds of dollars for extensive shelving, or rental of a storage unit.
Resolution on the cheap: Half the battle to getting your home more organized is getting rid of what you don’t need. Donate your unwanted items to charity, or hold a garage sale and make money off this resolution. Use this general rule of thumb: if you haven’t used or worn an item in more than six months, it’s got to go!
Make 2012 the year you finally kick the habit once and for all. We’ve found some cheaper ways of quitting – and this is the one resolution you can’t afford not to keep.
Regular resolution cost: There are many and varied methods smokers use to help kick the habit, from laser therapy (approximately $300 - and up), to smoking-cessation drugs (approximately $350) and everything in between.
Resolution on the cheap: Seek free counseling and support in your area. In Newfoundland and Labrador, call the Lung Association’s Smokers’ Helpline (1-800-363-5864) – a free, confidential telephone-based service. They can set you up with free information and resource materials; you can even arrange to speak with a cessation counselor for advice and support. If you’re seeking help from cessation drugs, check with your insurance company, which may cover their cost. And if you’re a techie, check out the Best Apps to Help you Quit Smoking.
This is a true story from my youth. I wonder how many people remember it as clearly as I do?
As a boy, I spent a great deal of time with my best buddy, Hal Hunter, in Topsail Pond, where his family had a summer home. Every time the weather was fine, sailboat owners would take their craft out on the water. Hal and I would sit on the shore wishing we had a sailing boat of our own.
Every so often we'd watch an elderly couple sail up the pond in a gleaming white boat, sails billowing in the wind; it would silently sail by us like a majestic queen of the sea. Hal and I wondered how a couple obviously well up in years could maneuver a sailboat so effortlessly and easily - eventually we found out, to our dismay and disbelief.
One day, Hal and I were exploring a remote part of the Topsail Pond shoreline when we stumbled upon a most unusual sight: the rotting remains of what had once been a sailboat. On the stern, we could just pick out the name Emma. "I wonder how long that's been here?" Hal said. "I don't know," I answered, "but the name Emma is strangely familiar; I just can't place it."
When I told my dad about finding the wreck, he didn't seem surprised. "You and young Hunter stumbled on a well-known but little-talked-about story, Son," he said.
"I don't understand, Dad."
"The old couple you've seen sailing on Topsail Pond were Elias and Emma Osmond. Mr. Osmond was a retired trawler captain, and both he and his wife loved being on the water. After his retirement, the Osmonds settled in Topsail Pond, bought a sailboat and spent as much time out on the water as they could; he named it Emma after his wife. One day while on the pond, a sudden gust of wind caused the yardarm to swing about. It hit Mrs. Osmond, knocking her overboard; he jumped in to save her, but he was an old man, and quickly became exhausted. Sadly, they both drowned. Their sailboat drifted and grounded where you and Hal found it. That was many years ago."
That was where I had seen the name Emma - it was painted on the stern of the boat Hal and I used to watch sailing up the pond. My father never lied to me, and as incredulous as it sounds, I believed him. I haven't been back to the Topsail or the Conception Bay area in years. Do sailboats still sail on the pond, especially that of Elias and Emma Osmond?
The story in January’s Downhome (2009), "Life of an East Coast Skiff," brought to mind my father's boat, which seemed almost identical to the Hollo. It had two sails and a jib, and was 33 feet long. It was also powered by a 7 Acadia engine. My father's boat was always painted black with white trim, and the sails were made by my mother on her old foot-pedal sewing machine.
My father was Arthur Burry of Greenspond, Bonavista Bay. He was a fisherman, but during the Depression years he went to New York to work. When he returned and resumed fishing, he felt he needed a bigger boat. To get the necessary building materials, he had to go "up the bay," which was around Locker's Bay or Indian Bay. He would then cut the logs and bring them back to Greenspond to be sawed into timber. Money at that time was very scarce and he had to sell his overcoat, which he had bought in New York, to get enough money to pay for having the logs sawed at the sawmill.
It took him two years to complete the boat. I well remember the day he launched it off the slipway. Several of us young ones climbed aboard to have the thrill of feeling it splash into the water of Pond Head. He named his new boat the Moil, meaning "toil and hard work." But to all of us the boat fondly became the Bully, and as long as the boat was anchored in Pond Head, that's what she was called.
When the fishing season was over, my father used the boat to go "in the bay" and bring home firewood for his family and other families. On the last trip he made, he would cut down Christmas trees to bring home, since trees were scarce on Greenspond Island. This would bring smiles to everyone's faces.
His new boat had a cuddy equipped with a little stove and benches. One of my fondest memories of the Bully was the cook-up on her when the vegetables were harvested for the year. As the moon shone and the aroma rose from the cuddy, we would dance on the deck, keeping step to our own singing. Later in the winter, with Pond Head frozen, the boat became our resting place while we skated in the moonlight.
One winter, a severe windstorm came up and the swell from the ocean started to break up the ice through the tickle leading into Pond Head. Early one morning we heard a terrible banging on our door and men yelling, "Arthur, come quick! The Bully has broken loose!" When Pop looked, the ice had broken up and the boat was drifting out the tickle to the Atlantic Ocean. Fortunately, with the help of those men, my father did save his boat in that awful storm.
Upon retirement from the fishery, the boat remained anchored in Pond Head for a few years. It was eventually sold to a man living in nearby Wareham. What remains for my family is this photo of the Bully and a model of it made by my uncle, Andrew Wornell. I hope this brings back as many fond memories to the people of Greenspond as it does to me and my family.
Submitted by Mary (Burry) Eveleigh of Comfort Cove-Newstead, Newfoundland