By Jane Livingston, Special contributor
In late April, a 130-year-old landmark of Knowlton quietly closed its doors. I refer to the General Store at the corner of Victoria and Maple. The most recent owners, Kevin Barnes and Chantale Lajoie moved their Home Hardware outlet from there to a larger site on Knowlton Road. Their new location, is the former Jimmy’s grocery store (as many villagers remember it), and more recently, Korvettes’ dollar store. I wish Kevin and Chantale every success. Although excited for them, I cannot help but feel a certain sadness at the loss of the general store tradition at 39 Victoria. No longer will residents be able to pop in for their milk, licorice or hardware supplies.
The store has been through many incarnations. Built by Mrs. Rodden in 1881, it reflected the ‘Boomtown’ style of architecture very popular at the time. The style was characterized by decorative false front coverings typical of many buildings in the North American west at the turn of the 20th century (www.vilna.ca). Mrs. Rodden’s niece, Mrs. J. N. Davignon operated a general store there for over thirty five years.
The store has changed hands many times since then, from the Harrison family to the Staples, to the Wallets, to the Flanagans and finally to the Barnes. The building has always contained apartments but the store size grew or shrunk depending on the various owner’s needs. Many of our readers will recall Wallets as the special ‘go to’ store for both contractors and ‘do-it-yourselfers.’ They provided a special need, particularly during the ice storm of 1998, when they were practically the only business in town operating. Telltale numbers of candles, bottles of water, kerosene and other essentials were sold. The Wallets ran the store from 1974 until the Flanagans purchased it in 2004.
Under their ownership the building underwent a complete exterior restoration and extensive interior renovations.
The Flanagans ran the store for eight years, continuing to sell just about everything from St. Viateur bagels to Benjamin Moore paint. The Barnes carried on in that tradition and grew it to such an extent that they needed more space in which to grow. The retail space that once housed all these owners, who were such an integral part of the Knowlton community, now lies vacant waiting for the next operator. Who knows what incarnation it will take next? As you walk by the now silent store, remember it with fondness.
Correction: The store was owned for a short while in the 1970’s by Jack & Aline Flanagan ( different Flanagan). They sold it to the Wallet’s.
Photo: Brome County Historical Society