Photo by Chung Chow
Chris Carr, who has helmed the Steveston General Store for 35 years, has run her race and is ready for new challenges.
“It’s bitter sweet. It was not an easy decision to come to. I am going to have a sale soon and then I’ll be out the end of September.”
It’s been a family tradition, starting with Carr’s mother, June Lamond, who ran Thrifty Baby, a long term fixture, near Rod’s Building Supply.
“My mom opened the store in 1983, then The General Store, and I was here by about 1986. It was so important for her to provide such a good service for the community.”
Later, when Lamond wanted to retire, Carr continued on with the enterprises, including the general store her mother had begun.
Lamond is still alive but very much retired.
“It was a really nice time when we were here together,” she said.
“Most of the stock is because so many of our buying customers became selling customers. We’ve always been booked six weeks in advance with 15 boxes of merchandise a day.”
Carr makes exceptions for shut-ins, going to their home to appraise, gather and then give a cheque for the items she knows she can sell. She helps people empty their homes when downsizing and helps people furnish their new homes affordably.
“I feel I live at the store and have spent so much time here and so many hours here running the business. The village has changed so much that my heart will not quite be in it the same.”
She wishes she could spend more time at her favourite part of the business, interacting with customers: “It is an enormous weight on my shoulders that I can only be out there a few minutes. I work most nights. The work is incredible.”
Carr speaks of the march of time in Steveston: “When the store is gone and who knows what it will become, it will be sad. I have a little brick over at the interurban tram that’s the Thrifty Baby and the General Store. That will be all that’s left. Not many people will know what the village once was.
“It is certainly bitter sweet for me to be going. It’s very very hard for me when I hear all the customers speak of it. That is the greatest gift for me to hear. “
Carr relishes the times she can connect with people.
“So many customers over the years, sharing different stories of their family and their childhood, when they see an item and it takes them back. I have my customers to thank.”
After 35 years, working most days and most nights, lifting heavy boxes and furniture, Carr is ready for a break: “I never thought I’d be here for long. And I’ve been so blessed to meet and to deal with all the people who’ve come into the store.”
The store’s closing is bittersweet. “Another customer told me today that the store has such a lovely feeling. Those are the greatest things. It’s never been about money. Listening to these people, it’s a wonder I would ever leave. I’d still be here at 90,” says Carr.
What of the future? “It’s a wonderful exciting new time for me. It will be, no matter what I do, just because I will be going in another direction down the road.” Ruefully discussing the customers she rarely gets to interact with, “I’m a hugger. In my next career, I’m going to be a professional hugger,” she says with a smile.