The Cornwall General Store
The Cornwall General Store
The general store in Cornwall, just like many other general stores in communities across Prince Edward Island, was the hub of the community. The store in Cornwall was located in the centre of the village, just off the Tryon Road (TCH) and was surrounded by the Cornwall United Church and the Cornwall hall. Over the years it became more than just the general store. It was also a post office, a telephone switchboard office, gas station and an electrical plant. The family who operated the store for the longest period of time and whom the residents remember the most was the Howard family.
Hazen Howard bought the store from the Scott family just before 1920.1 Some of the area residents recall the store as being a place where many of the older generation would gather to talk and socialize. As the store also housed the post office, there was always steady traffic in and out. It was a busy place and was known to sell anything you needed. Products like molasses, brown and white sugar and kerosene all came in large quantities and were sold in bulk. Molasses and kerosene would be pumped out of large drums and the sugar came in 100lbs bags. The sugar would be weighed out according to the need of the customer. Similarly, there was also a large supply of cheese which would have to be cut and weighed.2 The store also sold everything from chocolate bars, tobacco, bananas, and oranges, to seed, animal feed, and some hardware like nuts and bolts. Much of the groceries were charged and some paid for by eggs.3
Photo of original store sign, owned by Hazen's son Arthur Howard.
Photo Courtesy of Arthur Howard
The store also housed the post office which was just to the left upon entering the store. There was a small counter where stamps could be purchased, and mail picked up. The pigeon hole mail slots were located at the back.4 The Howards also ran a 3 line telephone operation out of the store.5 It serviced Cornwall, Meadow Bank and York Point. Hazen Howard’s daughter Alice Wilson often worked the switchboard. Alice recalls working the switchboards at the age of nine or ten. It operated seven days and week and someone always had to be available to run the switchboard.6 Both Alice and her brother Art Howard remember helping out in a lot of different ways around the busy store. The Howard family also had a barn behind the store which was used to butcher their own cattle. They farmed foxes close by as well. The family was indeed very involved with every aspect of the community.
When electricity came to the area, the Howards obtained a 32 volt delco plant.7 Hazen had constructed a small building to house the generator. This outlet provided light to the store (to which the Howard family home was attached), the church, and the home of Frank Howard, Hazen’s father who lived near-by. Two gas pumps also came in later years as automobiles became more popular.
Photo Courtesy of Norman Hermann - Second from left is Alice (Howard) Wilson, her father was Hazen Howard, Norma is Alice's niece
Hazen Howard and his family ran the store up until the mid 1940’s when he sold it to Keith Young.8 Mr. Young in turn sold the store after a few years to the MacKinnons, who then sold it to Andrew Gass.9 Many residents remember the Gass family running the store and the post office for a good number of years. The building itself housed several different stores or companies over the years. It was a Cut-Rite and I.G.A. grocery store. It currently houses Abegweit Outfitting.
Many residents also remember the Gregor’s store, which began as a restaurant/bakery. It was then sold to a man by the name of MacPhee who operated a store. The establishment was located where the current post office now sits. Walter and Margaret began the business as a restaurant with pheasant as its main dish. The restaurant eventually failed, at which point Walter turned the restaurant into a bakery. Mrs. Drake and Mrs. Jewel were hired as bakers. This business operated around the time of the late 1950’s to the early 1960’s.10 The Gregors also rented out freezer space. Members of the community were able keep frozen meat or vegetables at the Gregors and collect it as needed.
The old store is still standing in Cornwall, this is what it looks like today