For me, as well as my dad’s side of the family, home is Simcoe County, including Barrie, the Midland/Penetanguishene area, Stayner, Wasaga Beach (“wa-SAW-ga”, not “wa-SAG-a”) and our birthplace of Collingwood. After we moved to the Peterborough area in late 1986, we continued to visit the Barrie & Collingwood areas on a somewhat regular basis, often for a combo of shopping in Barrie and visiting family and friends in Collingwood and Stayner.
A typical MacMurchy family shopping trip in Barrie usually began with a visit to Kids World, a warehouse-style children’s clothing store in the then-new Cedar Pointe Plaza, off Dunlop Street at Highway 400. At the time, I didn’t like clothes shopping, and it felt like forever that we were at, as mom called it, “the Kids Warehouse”. After Kids World, we would sometimes drop in at Crissa Bakery (Wellington & Anne Streets), Al Zaba’s “A&M Super Food Store” at Yonge Street & Huronia Road, near Minet’s Point, or a thrift store near Bell Farm Road & Alliance Boulevard… mom loved shopping at thrift stores. Finally, we headed out to the busy Bayfield strip, usually spending some time at Georgian Mall, including (in my early school years) picking up some educational workbooks at Moyer’s on the main level, near the escalators. From there, once our shopping was done, we would sometimes grab some lunch at the McDonald’s at Bayfield & Livingstone, near the Brown’s Bush water tower, and maybe go back into the city proper for some playtime at one of Barrie’s many parks, my favourite being St. Vincent Park, between Blake Street and Kempenfelt Drive.
Around 1993 or ’94, I was in Barrie with my mom and sisters, on a day trip that included a visit with a close friend of hers in Stayner, and we had visited a newly-opened No Frills location in a very retro 1950s-vintage plaza on Blake Street, not far from my parents’ early ’70s home, also on Blake, just east of Collier. It wasn’t until very recently (2020) that I finally figured out what that store, most definitely a grocery store, had been in a previous life: it was a Dominion location.
But wait, there’s more!
Earlier this month, with some help from Google and the Barrie Historical Archive, I discovered even more cool facts about that old Dominion supermarket at Blake & Johnson Streets. Turns out the store closed about 1986, shortly after A&P Canada acquired the chain’s remains from Con Man Black, and that particular location was still (in 1986!) using old-school electro-mechanical cash registers, as opposed to the all-electronic Data Terminal Systems registers at Barrie’s newer (1973-vintage) Dominion store at Georgian Mall, or even the scanner-equipped NCR 2126’s at A&M. Very recently, the BHA shared some video from Barrie’s CKVR (ch. 3), a Total News item by reporter Greg Lubianetzky on the impending closing of the Blake Street Dominion store – the clip (click here to view it) was provided by former CKVR photog Steve Miller.
When in Collingwood, the town’s Towers department store in the Blue Mountain Mall was a regular destination for us, as was the IGA store that also anchored the mall. I also seem to remember a little musical instrument shop near the mall’s west entrance, and I believe it was there that my dad bought his Yamaha keyboard, a PSS-170. Last month, I came across a pretty detailed profile of the mall at 55 Mountain Road, shortly after opening around 1980 – my wife’s alma mater, Montreal’s McGill University, maintains a very large archive of annual reports from corporations across Canada, including the Oshawa Group, Towers’ parent company and the then-franchisor of IGA stores in much of Canada, and a report released in the early ’80s showcases the Blue Mountain Mall, notably the four stores which Oshawa owned, franchised or supplied: Towers, IGA, Drug City, and the Jug City convenience store. What a blast from the past! I remember the mall’s blue “M” logo very clearly, and last saw it around Christmas 2002, when I was in town to visit my grandparents. The archive’s main page can be found here, and that Oshawa Group annual report is here, as a PDF.
Today, the mall is an open-air plaza, still with a grocery store at the east end – that supermarket is a Freshco location, while the rest of the former mall has been split up into a few other stores. When we visited in summer 2015, the plaza consisted of Freshco, Dollarama, Winners, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Sport Chek, but of course with everything that’s happened in the world since early 2020, the tenants may have since changed.
Looking back, I kind of miss these shopping trips, and how shopping in general seemed to be a more enjoyable experience then. What do you miss about shopping pre-2000? Sign in to your BMacBroadcast.ca account and leave a comment below!