Ruth’s Gift Shop, now Cargo Thrift, started out as Tom and Agnes Tugwell’s bakery and housed many stores over the years, including: Irene Forbes’ shoe store, Ray Vose’s electronic repair shop and Ron Coulson’s electrical appliance store. (Photo courtesy of the Ucluelet and Area Historical Society)

SHORELINE COLUMN: Shopping locally is a time-honoured tradition on the West Coast

Back in the pre-road days, it was the usual modus operandi. And the goods invariably arrived by ship

SHIRLEY MARTIN

Special to the Westerly

Shopping locally is a timely topic.

Back in the pre-road days, it was the usual modus operandi. And the goods invariably arrived by ship.

In the late 1800s James and Ada Sutton ran a general store across the bay at Port Albion. Later August Jansen took it over. In the early 1900s a dentist named Morrison ran a store at Stapleby, a small settlement at the head of Ucluelet Inlet. Later Mr. Grant, the postmaster, also had a store there. Down at Spring Cove Mr. Morishita, Mr. Nishii and Mr. Saggers all owned stores.

Edwin “Ned” Lee established one of Ucluelet’s first stores in 1906. Vince Madden bought the store in the early 1930s, renaming it Madden’s General Store. Don and Betty Hillier bought Madden’s in 1964. In 1969 Don drowned off Long Beach in a tragic accident. Betty, left with five children to raise and a store to run, mastered the art of bookkeeping. Margaret Thompson, in what she describes as a big learning curve, took over managing the store, later buying it in 1972. Jan Draeseke bought it in 1988. Now called The Crow’s Nest, the store sells gifts and stationery, but the vintage charm of the old general store is lovingly maintained.

Ruth’s Gift Shop was another popular business. The original building, now housing Cargo Thrift, started out as Tom and Agnes Tugwell’s bakery. They extended the building so their daughter Ruth could open a gift shop. When the bakery closed Ruth’s business took over the building. Ruth’s was the go-to place for buying gifts for our moms. She knew the preferences of the local ladies, be it bath salts, clothing, or ceramic ornaments. Mrs. Minnie Lee was another kind and lovely presence in the shop.

Ruth eventually built a new shop next door. That building later became a doctor’s office, and, for years, Brooks Pharmacy was down below. West Coast Mental Health services is now located upstairs. Various businesses have operated downstairs over the years.

Many enterprises were based in the building once home to Tugwell’s Bakery and Ruth’s Gift Shop, including Irene Forbes’ shoe store, Ray Vose’s electronic repair shop and Ron Coulson’s electrical appliance store. I recall the thrill of buying my first Beatles 45 record there in the mid-1960s.

Later many local artists and craftspeople banded together to sell our products there, under a Rainbow sign proclaiming “Sandpiper Craft Co-operative”. We shared manning the storefront.

Boat days, when the Lady Rose docked, brought a flurry of business at noon.

The Payne brothers both had Ucluelet stores. Roy Payne was a commercial fisherman and ran a pool hall and barbershop. He later built a store with living quarters above, now home to Norwoods. Roy’s Clothing and Sporting Goods had lots on offer; our dads could buy fishing licenses, a dress shirt with natty coordinated tie, gumboots and shotgun shells, all in a one-stop shopping experience.

The store later became a gift shop selling souvenirs, many of them handmade by Roy.

Next door, Roy’s brother Murray ran Murray’s Grocery. He, wife Gloria and their ten children lived in a big house behind the store. Murray’s changed hands several times before Roy and Agnes’ son Bill took over his Uncle Murray’s convenience store, carrying on a family tradition.

Beside Murray’s stands the Wreckage, the vision of Norma Baillie, a former USS Home Ec. teacher. Norma’s store offered an eclectic assortment of books, art work, and treasures from the sea. Her warm manner and cozy woodstove welcomed visitors to stop and chat. Other enterprises, including Image West, have occupied the Wreckage, and it now houses Compass, a gift and flower shop.

Other long-term businesses in Ucluelet include the Co-op, Place T.V., The Gray Whale, Image West and many more, all with interesting histories and ties to the community. New enterprises add even more shopping options. In this day of time pressures and technology, people may choose online shopping. But by buying locally we are supporting our friends and neighbours, who choose to live here and need paying customers in order to do so.

READ MORE: SHORELINE COLUMN: Boat building on the West Coast

READ MORE: HERITAGE COLUMN: Princess Maquinna was a lifeline for Ucluelet

READ MORE: HERITAGE COLUMN: Tofino Clayoquot Heritage Museum in Summer

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