Wilberforce landmark changes hands
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | February 15, 2018
Agnew’s General Store in Wilberforce has been a family-run business for nearly a century. But recently, Mary Barker and her siblings, Cathy and Wynne, decided it was time to put the business up for sale.
On Feb. 6, Frank Meurer, a long-time visitor to the area, officially purchased the store.
“We didn’t know how long it would take to sell the store so we decided we had better start the process while we were semi-sort-of capable of mentally and physically doing so,” said Mary in an interview. “Our parents were still working 60-hour weeks in the store when they died. We didn’t want to go out that way and leave the chore of selling the store to our children.”
The siblings are experiencing a wave of emotions with the sale.
“Sad, happy, relieved, anxious and a little guilty,” she said. “We wonder if our grandfather F.G. [Fred] Agnew would have approved of the sale and we know that our grandchildren have expressed their disappointed. There’ll be no more afterhours forays into the darkened store to raid the ice cream freezer.”
In 1921, their grandfather took over the general store from his employer, S.W. Reynolds. The original store burned in 1938.
Later that year the business reopened at its current location on Loop Road. Mary and her siblings’ father, Murray, his wife and brother Gary also operated the store. Frank will be at the store on weekends and will eventually move to the area so he can be involved in the business full-time, said Mary. “He has a great job elsewhere and plans to keep it for a while,” she said. Cathy has agreed to stay on and manage the store. Mary will continue to look after the post office. Her husband, John, has decided to retire.
In a post on Facebook, Frank said it was rock hounding that first attracted him to Wilberforce. “Right from those first days I was in love with both the community and this store so I want to thank the people that have made Agnew's General Store what it is today,” he said.
Frank also said he’s looking forward to learning from “the Agnew family, our friends and customers.” Frank has “lots of great ideas” for the store, according to Mary. One is to expand the ice cream shop. Agnew’s employs 10-15 people, depending on the season.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.