ST. ANTHONY, NL – It was like working with family: that’s the view expressed by many of the now-former employees of the Grenfell Co-Op in St. Anthony.
With the historic store closing its doors after 105 years in business, none will miss it more than the 17 individuals employed there.
Not only did the region lose a vital service with a rich history, but people lost their livelihoods and a special working environment that, to some, was like another home.
The Northern Pen spoke with four of those workers about their time at the Grenfell Co-Op, how they felt about it closing, and what the future holds for them.
Like a family
Alma Noble, Wavey Dawe and Dora Patey all felt the Grenfell Co-Op created a family environment.
Noble, 65, worked at the Grenfell Co-Op over the last 30 years, starting out as a cashier and later becoming the deli bakery manager. She retired last year but remained a part-time employee.
Noble says she knew all the customers and always enjoyed their chats as well.
She feels “really sad” to see it go.
“I’d say Dr. Grenfell is rolling over in his grave,” she commented, on the store’s closure.
Dawe, 63, also described the Grenfell Co-Op as a “wonderful place to work” and said they had a great boss in manager Boyd Manuel.
She had been there for nearly six years as the bookkeeper.
Patey, 64, worked at the store for the past 20 years doing file maintenance. She ran the promos and did the pricing.
She describes it as a “very demanding” job but also felt it was a wonderful working environment, where the staff was like family. She also felt Manuel was a “phenomenal” boss as store manager.
Looking for work
Some of the staff are now looking outside of the region and province for work, while others will be seeking employment at home.
Boyd Manuel, 55, of Quirpon was store manager for the past seven years.
He says he and some of the other workers already have potential jobs lined up in Alberta.
He believes he’ll be starting up his new job around March or April. But, if that falls through, he hopes to have an opportunity in Labrador City as a back-up plan.
He would commute back and forth between Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador for the near future, but in the long-term says it would make more sense to settle where his job is.
For those planning to stay home, there isn’t much opportunity to find a job in the St. Anthony area this time of year.
For Noble, Dawe and Patey, who all intend to stay put, the next few months are a bit up in the air.
At 65, Noble receives her pension but says that won’t be enough for her to live on.
“I got to keep the house up and by myself, so I have to buy oil, groceries, all my electrical bills, phone bill,” she said.
For employment, she’s asked around a little at different businesses, but says there’s nothing available right now.
And because she worked part-time over the past year, she doesn’t have enough hours to draw employment insurance benefits.
“Now, I don’t know what I’ll do,” she said.
Dawe intends to put some resumes out but doubts anything will be available until early spring.
“There’s not much in town and it makes a little bit of stress because you don’t know if you’re going to find anything or not,” she said.
In the meantime, she can draw employment insurance over the next few months.
Patey says she has applied for employment insurance for the first time in years and hopes to get approved for it soon. She hasn’t looked for new employment quite yet.
Right now, she’s going to “wait and see” what is available.
For Patey, she says she’s close to retirement anyway, but she worries for some of the younger employees who have many years of work ahead of them.
She described the whole situation as “pretty devastating.”
“It’s a real blow to us all and the community.”