Whether you need a hammer, cleaning supplies, shoes, or sheets, Michaud and Levesque in Sturgeon Falls still caters to its customers after 125 years.
The products have changed since the general store opened in the town in 1887, but family ownership hasn't. Paul Levesque, the current owner, represents five generations of retailers.
His great-great grandfather, Georges Levesque, teamed up with Joseph Michaud to offer Sturgeon area residents general merchandise. In the early 1920s, the Levesque family purchased the Michaud interests.
“We didn't realize what we were sitting on here,” said Levesque. “There's a lot of history that goes with the store.”
In the current marketplace of big box stores and malls, the store manages to stay true to its roots. It is currently associated with TRU Hardware and has maintained an association with Stedmans (currently V&S) since the 1930s.
“We are still independent which allows us to continue offering the community what it requires,” Levesque said. “This business model is not seen much anymore. A lot of places now become good at one thing and we still seem to be a general store. That format has allowed us to be successful throughout the years or at least be relevant in our community.”
The store still has a lunch counter where customers are encouraged to have a meal or a coffee and then spend some time browsing and shopping.
“It makes it a nice place to come and spend a few hours instead of just picking up something and leaving,” he said.
The original building on the town's Main Street burned in 1919 but was rebuilt the following year on the same block. Since then, a few additions have been added.
Over the years, the family also operated a garage, sold Ford automobiles, ran a grocery store in the building and a butcher shop. In the 1960s, Ski Doos and Sea Doos were available and boats and motors were once available.
At one time, there was a bowling alley on the second floor, which was later sold and dismantled, and an elevator that no longer exists.
But despite the changes Michaud and Levesque has gone through, its focus has always been on the customer.
“We carry one or two of a lot of things instead of big box stores which have a lot of very few things,” Levesque said. “We have the odd-ball things that we don't sell a lot of but still manage to satisfy the needs of the customer.
“Many say, 'I knew I could find it here.'”
From 1918 to about 1923, Michaud and Levesque operated a 72-foot steamer, the Queen of Temagami, as a supply ship on Lake Nipissing.
“It was just another way to serve the customers,” he said.
Many people in the area remember the store as the place they got their first pair of skates or their first bicycle. And throughout the years, many people worked in the store as teenagers, including Levesque.
As part of its 125th anniversary celebrations, the store is trying to identify those that have been employed.
“Everyone in town has had a relative work here, if not themselves,” he said. “It seems everyone has a connection and it is interesting how it has touched people throughout the years.”
In November, murals on the side of the store were unveiled which depict its 125 years in the community and the history of the community. A book was commissioned that will combine the store's history along with that of the community, and a series of events, such as sales and contests, will wrap up in March.
As for a sixth generation of the family involved in the business, Levesque said it's too early to tell.
He has two sons aged eight and five.
“We will have to wait and see. I might be around for the 150th anniversary.”