Trousdale’s General Store, located in the heart of Sydenham village is a treasure trove of unique finds. Push open the door and it’s impossible not to get swept up in the spirit of Christmas.
The oldest general store in Canada, its enchanting world is a reminder of a time and place that today still captures the joy of this magical holiday season.
The store has been owned and operated by the Trousdale family since 1836, originally a bakeshop and then a hardware and general store where customers came to collect their groceries and supplies.
John Trousdale and his wife Ginny carry on this tradition today. Ginny worked as a grief counselor for many years. But in 2004, after her children had grown and with the passing of Johns parents decided to help out in the family business. John was busy with the other new stores Trousdale’s Foodland and the Home Hardware.
“Back in the day, the store was the busiest on a Saturday night. All the chores done on the farm, people cleaned, dressed up and came into the store for weekly groceries. Some might bring a fiddle and the store stayed open late for much socializing,” says Ginny.
Ginny is an artist, a painter and photographer with a keen eye. She used these skills to recreate the old general store by reinstating original fixtures, artifacts and memorabilia.
The store has been opened longer than there have been shopping bags in existence.
There has always been a Trousdale behind the counter. John worked in the family business since a child. Where, long ago you would find his parents Noble and Marg Trousdale behind the counter.
“Customers would come in with their lists,” said Ginny. “You would advise what you required for supplies, Noble would then send John off in search of it behind one of the cubbies in the large walnut counter.”
You will discover the very same counter on your visit today. Search out the pictures of Winston Churchill or other vintage finds such as old tins, the original gas pump, fashionable hats and the old ice-cream parlor from the 30’s.
The store is a destination worth seeking out. Only a 25min drive from Kingston and a picturesque drive from Gananoque, Brockville and Ottawa. Sydenham village is buzzing from cottagers in the summer to the outdoor pursuits long into the winter.
The past meets the present here. The soft hum of your favorite holiday tune, greeted by a warm smile from the staff. The old shelves are lined with preserves, jams, jellies, olive oils and every kitchen gadget you can imagine. Best part is friendly assistance in finding the perfect gift for a friend, family member or a little something for you.
“A customer came in and said, ‘I’m looking for two bizarre things.’ Ginny laughed and replied, “Well, you’ve certainly come to the right place.”
There is something for everyone on your list. Shop for goods and goodies that are noteworthy, whimsical and useful. With a nod to the past or a look to the future – vintage toys, books, cards, women’s boutique clothing and jewelry, warm wooly socks, tea towels and special holiday decorations and even “Get Along with Your Co-Worker’ gum.
If you are a foodie this is paradise. Purchase beautiful full fruit preserves, British Yorkshire teas, Dundee marmalades in whisky and champagne, easy to prepare dips, and an Everything Sauce that literally can be paired with anything from bread, cheese, chicken and vegetables among other things. It makes boring old meatloaf and a plain sandwich memorable.
Cooking gadgets that make life easier are also available such as the handy silicone banana leaf lids. It’s BPA free and can be heated up to 428 degrees F. Super for cooking messy things in the oven that splatter or for transporting lasagna to a friends for dinner.
“I swear by the Daddios bake ware,” says Ginny. “I’ve been baking for over thirty years for years. Last year when my son married I volunteered to make the pies. The end result was a consistent golden crust, perfect in color.”
Stumble in. I fell in love with the Don Stinson wooden bowls and vessel sculptures. Trousdale’s has a range of designs. Stinson bowls are well sought after, you will find them in stores around the world each one a unique handmade design.
“Chocolate is now a food group,” Ginny says. “We have Newfoundland chocolate wrapped in charming images of the houses that line the streets of that region.” You will discover chocolate in all its forms, sinful and delicious dark chocolate and even Johnny Walker filled with whisky and crunchy chocolate popcorn.
Taste and sample while you’re here. I tried the Perth Pepper and Pestle products made into a warm Bombay cranberry squash dip from a recipe available in store and the Wildly Delicious pink peppercorn dip.
If you are looking for easy things to prepare, some selections you simply twist the lid, warm and serve.
Find the cold pressed artisan camelina oil from Three Farmers. Oil rich in omega-3 and vitamin E, along with family owned Ralo olive oils.
“Ralo oils are a local Ontario business. The owner travels to Greece and hand picks the olives used in his oils and then he hand delivers the goods to us. It’s just great that this style of trade still exists.”
Trousdale’s prides itself on customer service and quality products. The story goes that if they didn’t have it in stock they would find it for you. In the past customers would barter for goods and things were bought on credit. While bartering doesn’t happen anymore, what you will still find is good old-fashioned friendliness and kindness, what better reason to shop local.
The store is a museum in its own right. “It holds loads of memories,” says Ginny. “I remember when my daughter was born she was so tiny that we would bring her down each day to be weighed on the scales to be sure she was gaining.”
The store has changed but the high tin ceilings; old floors, doors and cabinets remain. When I push open the door, I can still imagine the history in those walls. The early starts to heat up the oven in the shop. The waft of warm butter and vanilla mingling in the air as John, the original baker or Percy would peel the loaves of bread and fresh baking from the large oven with the 12 ft peel.
“He would deliver the goods to the mica mines for storage or to the villagers. The old horse knew the path well and pulled the cart along the familiar route,” Ginny recalls. Today the original cart can be found in the window of the store.
As I leave the store, I turn back and see the warm glow of Christmas bursting from its windows. I love this time of the year; this little shop brings to mind how magical this season continues to be.
Trousdale’s General Store, located at 4395 Mill Street, Sydenham or visit the website for a glimpse inside at http://www.canadasoldestgeneralstore.com. Store is open daily from 9:30 am till 5:30 pm and on weekends 10 am till 4:30pm.
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