Tom Stewart and Wife General Store opened its doors nearly 100 years ago in the mid-1930s, according to grand-daughter Patty Stewart.
Photo – Duncan Stewart opened the new grocery store in Webbwood in the 1930s.
Patty says the store originally called Duncan Stewart Store was a gathering place for the community of 600 providing everything from clothes to farm implements, pound nails, food, staples and so much more.
Her dad, Tom and wife, Madeline, took over in 1964.
Patty says she and her seven siblings, four boys and four girls, ran the store, provided deliveries, school busing services and had a butcher shop.
It has adapted to the times she says and now features the local postal service as well as an LCBO agency.
Patty says with most of the younger Stewarts no longer living in the vicinity, the decision was made to sell the store with Jim, Sarah and Sean Kim officially taking it over last Friday.
Patty says the selling of the store is poignant and bitter-sweet for the family, especially with her mother, Madeline’s 93rd birthday just around the corner where many of their memories will be shared as part of the family celebration.
Photo – Madeline Stewart with her family members celebrating her 90th birthday three years ago.
Her grandfather, Duncan and his wife, Bernetta, started their family and the new family business back in the mid-1930s. Her father, Tom, ran a store in Sudbury while her grandparents ran the new Duncan Stewart Grocery Store in Webbwood.
“My father returned to Webbwood following his service with the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1945 at the end of the war (World War Two). He began work as a postal clerk, but eventually started working with his dad at the grocery store.
“He met my mom in 1946. She was working as an operator for the Canadian Pacific Railway. The two married the following year in 1947. Both of them worked in the store through the 1950s.”
Photo – Tom and Madeline Stewart were married in 1947 and ran the store for several decades.
And they had children, eight in all: four boys; Jim, Peter, Tom and Bill, and the girls; Bunny, Marylee, Fran and Patty.
“All of us were involved in the store in some way or another. In the early 1970s, my brothers ran the butcher shop. It was a full service operation offering all cuts of meat as well as Thornloe Cheese, which was very, very popular. Customers came from far and wide for the deli meats.”
Her father also ran a transportation service.
“He drove up the K.V.P. road to make deliveries and the family also provided school busing throughout the 1950s and 1960s. All my brothers helped with the transportation side of the business as well.”
The new sign, Tom Stewart and Wife General Store was erected in 1964 and caused a bit of a furor with the boys in the family, Patty recalls.
“When the boys asked dad why the sign did not read Tom Stewart and Sons, he had an answer ready for them. He said, “When you boys do as much work as the wife does, you will get your name on the sign.”
The sign has become iconic and is recognized coast to coast to coast.
Photo – The iconic sign is recognized across Canada. The Kim family will be retaining the name, so the signage will remain in place.
The store adapted to the times. In the mid-70s, they even provided space downstairs for local kids to hang out, play pool and pay a whooping twenty-five cents for three songs on the jukebox. Patty says sadly her father passed away in 1990.
“He had just come back from a run to National Grocers and told mom he was going home to have a sandwich. She found him and he was already gone having suffered a heart attack. He is missed every single day.”
His legacy lived on in the store, which changed up its services once again. It stock continued to adapt to meet modern needs with brother Jim becoming postmaster in 1976 with the post office being relocated out of the store.
“My mom took over as a postmaster a year later and ran the post office until 1992 with another family member, Lynda, retiring as postmaster in 2016.
“We became an official L.C.B.O. outlet in 1995 and continue to provide both postal services and liquor to the public today.”
Asked if she had a special message she wanted to share with customers, Patty stated, “the Stewart family would like to thank all of our customers for their support over the years. We have so many fond memories. We have raised a couple of generations ourselves. The children we served then, we now serve their kids, especially the candy bags, which they all love. We formed so many great friendships over the years and we treasure those and the memories. Thank you, to each and every one of you. The Stewart Family.” July 19, 2020
Photos provided by Patty Stewart and Rosalind Russell
Photo – Patty Stewart says thank you to all their customers, visitors and supporters over the decades. The support of the store was, and is, greatly appreciated.