Food for thought

Port Morien gro­cery stores filled with sto­ries

Cape Breton Post - - Glace Bay/new Waterford & Area - Ken Mac­Don­ald Port Morien Ken Mac­Don­ald is a re­tired school­teacher and ad­min­is­tra­tor, and a com­mu­nity vol­un­teer. His fam­ily can be traced back seven gen­er­a­tions in Port Morien, where he has lived al­most all his life. He can be reached at morien­bay@gmail.c

It’s hard to imag­ine Port Morien with nu­mer­ous gro­cery stores, but that’s the way it was back in the 1930s when the Shore fam­ily of Glace Bay ex­panded its re­tail op­er­a­tion to our vil­lage.

They set up shop in the for­mer O.J. Spencer’s store, the site of the for­mer Hop­kins Garage. Shortly af­ter, they moved to a build­ing they had pur­chased from Ed Peters on the cor­ner of Main and Break­wa­ter Streets. Si­mon Landry had op­er­ated a store on the site. Lob­ster can­nery oper­a­tor Al­fred Tren­holm pur­chased it, and it was sold to Peters. Of­fer­ing a large va­ri­ety of goods for sale, the Shore’s store be­came very suc­cess­ful and they em­ployed a num­ber of lo­cal res­i­dents.

In the early 1940s, a young man by the name of Don­ald “Hopper” MacLeod ar­rived at Shore’s to work as a meat cut­ter. He had pre­vi­ously worked in that trade at Harry Sa­muels’ Meat Mar­ket in Glace Bay, which was owned by his grand­fa­ther. He later worked at Shore’s in Glace Bay. Hopper even­tu­ally set down roots in Port Morien. He mar­ried Ruth Peach, and they had three chil­dren – Don­ald, Bucky (Laird), and Betty. Af­ter a few years, Hopper be­came man­ager at Shore’s.

Busi­ness was good for a num­ber of years, but the gro­cery busi­ness was chang­ing. In the 1960s, larger stores of­fer­ing lower prices and greater va­ri­ety started to ap­pear in lo­cal ur­ban cen­ters. By the late 1960s, Shores de­cided to close the Morien op­er­a­tion, so Hopper pur­chased the busi­ness.

Hopper was a good busi­ness­man and good at pro­mot­ing his busi­ness. Bucky de­liv­ered fly­ers ad­ver­tis­ing weekly spe­cials to lo­cal house­holds. Hopper posted no­tices in the win­dow and had an out­door sign high­light­ing prod­ucts for sale. “Fresh Meat a Spe­cialty” was his theme. He of­fered a ser­vice that was com­mon at the time. If you called Hopper’s with your gro­cery list, the staff would pack your “or­der,” as it was called, and de­liver it the same day. It ar­rived in card­board boxes, with fresh meat wrapped in pa­per tied with string. Over the years, he di­ver­si­fied; sell­ing wood stoves, cloth­ing and dry goods. He also part­nered with Harold Wad­den to op­er­ate a lo­cal store called “Mod­ern Cloth­ing.”

In 1979, a wind­storm caused se­vere dam­age to the store and it needed ma­jor re­pairs. Hopper had the en­tire up­per floor re­moved. For him, it was busi­ness as usual. Dur­ing this time, he’d be wait­ing on cus­tomers while wear­ing a snow­suit, with part of the store open to the win­ter weather as work­ers made nec­es­sary re­pairs.

Hopper was truly a char­ac­ter. He had a great sense of hu­mour and en­joyed a good time. He was also a ded­i­cated com­mu­nity vol­un­teer. He served as fire chief and pres­i­dent of the com­mu­nity fair. He was an avid out­doors­man, ac­tive in the Fish and Game As­so­ci­a­tion. He was one of the founders of the Eastern Sub­ur­ban Lit­tle league and coached the Port Morien team. On warm sum­mer nights, you’d see Hopper’s pickup truck, with wooden cab and benches, filled with young base­ball play­ers head­ing to their next game. While in his 70s, Hopper was cited for brav­ery. He res­cued his good friend Wen­dell McDon­ald from drown­ing while fish­ing close to Wen­dell’s home.

By the 1990s, age was be­gin­ning to catch up with Hopper. His chil­dren were al­ways in­volved in the op­er­a­tion of the store, and they grad­u­ally took on more re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. Hopper made daily ap­pear­ances at the store well into his 80s,

but he was no­tice­ably slow­ing down. He died in 2000, leav­ing be­hind count­less sto­ries, some leg­endary, of his many years in Port Morien.

Bucky and Betty, with help from Don­ald, took over the op­er­a­tion. They con­tin­ued to serve the com­mu­nity faith­fully, of­fer­ing ex­cel­lent ser­vice; sell­ing tick­ets and goods for every or­ga­ni­za­tion and pro­mot­ing any­thing that went on. The store was a lo­cal gath­er­ing place, where peo­ple ex­changed news of the day. It had evolved to a con­ve­nience store, but it was hard to com­pete with larger busi­nesses in Glace Bay. In 2011, Port Morien’s last store, Hopper’s Gro­cery, closed its doors.

Upon en­ter­ing the store, the com­mon ques­tion of many cus­tomers was, “How are things, Hopper?” His re­ply was al­ways the same. “All the time good; some days bet­ter than oth­ers.”

That pretty well sums up Hopper, his fam­ily, and his busi­ness that served this com­mu­nity so dili­gently and de­vot­edly for al­most 70 years.


Hopper is shown be­hind the counter at the store.


This was Shore’s Store.

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