CODROY VALLEY - E. W. Gale Ltd. is a locally owned general store nestled in the beautiful Codroy Valley in Newfoundland and the Gale family has been serving the area for decades.
"Hockey'' is the third generation of Gales who took over the store in 1980, and after running the business for the last 42 years, will be retiring in September and closing the doors for the very last time. Gale may have taken over the family business in 1980, but it has been around a lot longer than that.
"It was in 1893 that my grandfather started the carding mill, and that was right in the same spot here. Then they opened a small store and then, in the early '50s, he moved to Ben's Siding and built that store over there, Galloway's, and retired from there in '69 and came back to Millville here and bought a tiny store in the same spot, and we've been there ever since,'' said Gale. "I was third generation. Never made it to the fourth one. Gerard, my son, came home last year and gave it a shot, and he liked it, but it wasn't for him, and his company that he worked for were chasing him to go back, so he's back there,'' explained Gale.
The plan is for the store to remain open until around the 21st of September.
"I turn 66 on that day and we thought it would be a good day, if we're ready by then and have most of the goods sold at the store by then, things like that,'' said Gale.
There will be sales and discounts on remaining inventory for patrons to take advantage of until then.
"We're starting Monday (Sept. 5) with 20% right across the board, then we are going to go to 30 and 40 and 50. I'm offering 50 on a lot of things now.''
Gale explained that the decision to close the doors was not due to lack of community support.
"People still go to Port Aux Basques and Stephenville a lot of times to buy their groceries, but we've had great support from the locals over the years. Without them we certainly wouldn't be there, that's for sure. It held on for a number of years. We made it through without having to go into bankruptcy or anything. We came close a few times over the 50 years.''
Gale shared that, to his surprise, they have actually been busier now than ever before.
"Our last few years, probably the last four or five years, have been the busiest we've ever had. Our sales have never been so high as they have been lately, but the time has come. We've got to try and get out and enjoy what time is left.''
As with any business, especially a small family-run business, there are hardships and challenges that must be overcome.
"The biggest problem we've got at the store is getting anybody to work. Getting employees is pretty much impossible,'' said Gale. "There's really no one to work. First time I've seen it in the years I've been there, it being so hard to get people to come in.
"It seems like it really started during COVID, maybe a little before COVID even, but COVID really helped it along because people were getting paid to stay at home, more or less.''
The decision to retire and close the store was not an easy one to make, but Gale and his wife, Geraldine, are ready to start the next phase of their lives.
"We want to be able to go and come as we please. We've been tied to the store for so many years. It will be a huge change. Just going to get groceries is going to be a big change for us because we've never had to go further than 100 feet, so now we're going to have to go shopping and it will be a whole different kettle of beans,'' said Gale.
There is a bit of chatter about selling the store, but no final decisions have been made on whether or not they will lease or rent the property in the future.
"We did have people interested in buying or leasing. We haven't written leasing off the table. The building will still be there after we sell mostly everything off. All the fixtures and things are still there, so there is a possibility we may lease it or rent it,'' said Gale. "We didn't want to sell it because it is right in front of our house and we'd have to sell the land. That made my decision easier because once you sell the land, anybody can do anything they want with it. If it wasn't right in front of our house it wouldn't be so bad, but leasing is a possibility for the future.''
Gale said retirement will definitely start with some travelling before the winter hits.
"We bought a motor home last spring and we are going to use that and do some travelling. We've got children in Alberta and Halifax, so we will be visiting for a little bit and then hopefully we will get into a nice, warm climate for this winter.''
Even though he is excited to move into retirement, Gale admitted that he will miss the store.
"I will miss the camaraderie of seeing so many people around, chatting with everyone. We will miss that more than the store, I think. Hopefully it will work out. So many people were depending on the store. We are the only one now in the area, so everyone in Codroy and Searston, Great Codroy, depend on our little store, and once it's gone it's gone, I guess. They are gonna miss it,'' said Gale. "We did put out a letter and thanked all of our customers for some many years of putting up with me. Other than that, I just want to thank them for all their support over the years.''
Gale also wanted to give a special shout out to his wife, Geraldine, who put in many years of hard work and dedication.
"She raised the children for the first 25 years in the house here. Then she came to work. She did a lot of work at the store. My wife has been a big part of the business for the last 20-odd years, thank God for her.''