40 years of History

The History of Robeson’s Country General Store:

Doug Robeson loved to go to auctions. He had an eye for unique and unusual items but as time went on, the garage became very full. So in 1978 when Barbara Robeson (Robertson) complained to her Dad that she was too young to get a summer job her Dad (Doug Robeson) had the perfect solution. They started having yard sales at their home on the Thousand Island parkway where they lived. With the help of her dad and her brother Jim, Barbara had herself a job. The yard sales went quite well. People loved to look at the extraordinary items Doug would get at auction and were always trying to get a deal. Some of the furniture needed to be refinished or repaired. So it seemed like it was destiny when during that first summer at one of the yard sales, Doug and Jim were approached by a person who owned a furniture stripping franchise called Velvet Touch furniture stripping. Doug felt this would be a perfect addition to what they were doing. He felt this could be a very lucrative business move. So he asked his son Jim if he would like to go into business after he completed High school.

Doug and his wife Lois sold their home on the parkway and purchased the original building at 197 King Street and started the business called Touch O’ Country and Velvet Touch Furniture stripping. Once out of High school Jim went to St. Catherine’s for training on stripping, refinishing and repair of furniture.

Originally both Linda Robeson(Yuille) and Barbara Robeson (Robertson), along with Jim worked at the store with their mom and dad. In 1981 things got very difficult interest rates went on the store to 28% and on their home 18%. They realized something had to change so Jim went looking for a job.

When he went to man-power he met a lady named Mrs. Briscoe. She told Jim that in tough times people don’t have extra money for furniture and collectibles but they do have to eat. She suggested things like homemade muffins, soup, and tea or coffee might work.

So they took 2 Singer sewing machines apart and put a top on each of them to make 2 tables. And put 2 chairs at each make shift table. Jim purchased a coffee percolator from A&P for $23.00 and remembers thinking that was so much money, but it was something they needed in order to start their new venture.

Jim Remembers telling Mrs. Briscoe at man-power they now had coffee, tea and muffins. She came over and was our first customer and later that afternoon, she brought her co-worker over and that’s how it started.

Over time, they brought in homemade fudge and candy, and Lois (Mom Robeson) started baking homemade muffins and soup at their home. She would bring it to the store each day.

As time went on we broadened our menu to include homemade sandwiches with a deli counter selling meat by the pound along with Plum Hollow cheese. People could shop and talk about all the events of the day, while eating a homemade meal.

In 1988 we moved to our new location at 190 King St East and changed our name to Robeson’s Country General Store. We are still located there.

The Store has an honest feel. It’s like stepping back in time. The regulars come in every morning at 6am to get their coffee and catch up on the latest news. They often help themselves to refilling their coffee and leave there money on the cash register. If it got busy, our regulars would clean the tables and do their own dishes. That still happens to this day. If a customer liked a piece of furniture, Jim or Doug would suggest they take it home to see if it fit or suited their décor. They would say if you like it, come back and pay. If it doesn’t suit, just bring it back. They were never ripped off. The honour system was how Robeson’s Country General Store built there life and their business.

There have been many employees come and go over the years. But past and present, they have been more like our family and friends.

Our current ladies, Cathie, Jane, Meri and Raven are amazing. There are amazing cooks and there multi- tasking skills are legendary.

We started our “All Day Breakfast” in 2010. It became very successful. People come in and order their breakfast and while the ladies are cooking, they can shop. Tiffany lamps, antique, used and reproduction furniture along with the same unique and unusual collectables from our past.

We are open 365 days a year. We started offering a free Christmas meal to anyone who is alone or just want to enjoy a good meal. This will be our 5th year. It has been very successful.

It’s hard to believe 40 years have passed.

From Barbara’s yard sales to Touch O’ Country and lastly Robeson’s Country General Store. A lot of things have changed in 40 years. We are a little heavier and a little more grey but time has not affected Robeson’s Country General Store. When you walk through the door, you can feel it. It’s warm and inviting. It still operates with honesty and integrity.