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.
In the March issue, Downhome talks with photographer Stephen Lundrigan who is most inspired by the scenery in Newfoundland, which he feels is unmatched by any other place in the world. To see more of his great photography, visit www.stephenlundrigan.com.
Before the advent of modern medicine, people turned to their kitchen cupboards and the great outdoors to find cures for common ailments. While many of these "cures" remain today only as memories, some people still swear by these pieces of folk wisdom. Readers have shared their families' traditional remedies with Downhome over the years - and now we'd like to pass them on to you and yours. While these remedies may seem harmless, many do contain medicinal properties and can cause side effects. Thus, anyone interested in trying these remedies should first consult a family physician or homeopathic specialist.
• Skin irritations • Tea brewed from the bark or leaves of the witch hazel tree (also known as the spotted alder and the yellow birch), when applied as a poultice, is believed to speed the healing of burns and soothe skin that's come in contact with stinger nettles. A remedy for sunburn involves pouring milk (at slightly less than room temperature) onto gauze and applying it directly to the affected area. To heal cracked or chafed skin, collect turpentine from pine trees and apply to affected area for rapid healing.
• Chest congestion • A mustard plaster applied to the chest is believed to do the trick. Powdered mustard is mixed with warm water to form a paste that is spread on a piece of flannel material, applied to the individual's chest and held in place with a cloth binding wrapped around the chest and back.
• Toothache • Rinsing the mouth with vinegar is believed to relieve the pain from a toothache.
• Warts • Home remedies for warts abound in Newfoundland and Labrador, ranging from the natural (moisten a strip of birch bark and tape it, inner side down, over the wart) to the apparently supernatural (use chalk to make a mark on top of the stove; as the mark burns away, the wart disappears).
• Headache • Feverfew, a weed common in this province, has long been touted for its medicinal properties. To ease a headache, brew a tea made from two to three tablespoons of dried feverfew in a cup of hot water. Strain, and drink up!
• Fever • Steep two teaspoons of elderflower in one cup of water for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain and drink three times a day until the fever breaks.
• Stomachache • To calm a stomach ailment, people in this province traditionally turned to the trees for relief. Teas made from boiling juniper bark, alder buds and dogberries were commonly believed to cure stomach problems.
• Earache • Three drops of garlic oil and two drops of mullein oil poured into the affected ear three or four times a day is said to relieve painful earaches.
• Fatigue • To help you perk up, add barley or wheat grass to a salad. Both contain a high amount of natural chlorophyll and have the ability to concentrate nutrients from the soil.
• Arthritis • This cure is truly a case of "desperate times call for desperate measures!" Place a jellyfish in a container and allow it to dissolve into liquid. Rub the liquid in the affected area for relief.
• Insect stings • To soothe the sting and itch of a mosquito bite, dab a drop of white vinegar into the area, or rub with a slice of lemon. For bee stings, however, mud is the treatment of choice!
You'll be taking a step back in time with a visit to Bonavista's Mockbeggar Plantation, the former home of Newfoundland politician F. Gordon Bradley. Bradley played an instrumental role in Newfoundland's Confederation with Canada and went on to become the province's first representative in the Canadian cabinet. The Mockbeggar site, which Bradley occupied from 1939 until 1966, consists of a main residence as well as four outbuildings: a cabinet-maker's shop, a barter shop, a cod liver oil factory and the property's oldest structure, an architecturally impressive fish store built in the 1700s - affectionately known as the "big store." From May to October, visitors may tour the main residence, which has been restored to its 1939 charm and reflects the time when Bradley lived there. Friendly interpreters dressed in period clothes will answer any questions you have while you explore this historic home, built in the late-19th century.