End of an era in La Salette

Byer’s Gen­eral Store a fix­ture since 1951

The Delhi News-Record - - NEWS - MONTE SONNENBERG MSon­nen­berg@post­media.com

LA SALETTE – When Bernie and De­bra Byer closed their gen­eral store in La Salette Fri­day, the lights went out for good.

Byer’s Gen­eral Store on La Salette Road has been a land­mark in the vil­lage since the late Wally and Genevieve Byer started the busi­ness 67 years ago.

Their son Bernie and wife De­bra have main­tained the store since the mid-1980s. But Fri­day evening, the pair locked up one last time and headed into re­tire­ment.

“We’ve been look­ing for­ward to this for the last cou­ple years,” Bernie Byer, 65, said Thurs­day. “When the time is right the time is right.”

The By­ers ini­tially put the busi­ness up for sale as a go­ing con­cern.

How­ever, prospec­tive buy­ers con­cluded they couldn’t gen­er­ate enough in­come from the store to pay for the mort­gage.

Plan B in­volved sell­ing the six­acre par­cel for hous­ing. A Delhi cou­ple who are try­ing their hand at de­vel­op­ment have bought the prop­erty and in­tend to build new homes.

Bernie Byer says there is a pos­si­bil­ity the new own­ers might sever the busi­ness and sell it sep­a­rately. He added, how­ever, that these mat­ters are out of his hands.

When asked what they in­tend to do with their re­tire­ment, De­bra Byer said “Not a damn thing.”

“We’re free now to do any­thing we want,” she said. “We haven’t had a va­ca­tion since 1989. Bernie says he’s owed 99 weeks of va­ca­tion – three years for ev­ery year we’ve been here.”

The By­ers will re­main in La Salette.

Bernie Byer is su­per­in­ten­dent of the La Salette Ceme­tery be­hind the for­mer Our Lady of La Salette Ro­man Catholic Church. He is also chair of the La Salette Ru­ral Roots com­mit­tee that main­tains the for­mer church prop­erty as a com­mu­nity fa­cil­ity.

What­ever hap­pens, Byer will re­main busy.

“I’ve never been with­out a job,” he said. “I was born when my par­ents were work­ing here so -- in a way – I was work­ing in the store be­fore I was born.”

It is dif­fi­cult to over­state the im­por­tance of the store to the ham­let.

It served as a Canada Post sub­of­fice up un­til two years ago. When the mail came to the store, De­bra Byer said she and her hus­band would see most everyone in the vil­lage on a daily ba­sis.

And like gen­eral stores in small com­mu­ni­ties ev­ery­where, Byer’s was a place where everyone re­con­nected and shared the events of the day.

The store’s clo­sure is the lat­est in a se­ries of changes re­lated to the on­go­ing evo­lu­tion of La Salette into a bed­room com­mu­nity.

Big changes in re­cent years in­clude the clo­sure of the church and the parish hall and the clo­sure last year of Our Lady of La Salette ele­men­tary school.

The con­gre­ga­tion was folded in with Our Lady Queen of Mar­tyrs Church in Delhi. The stu­dents in La Salette were wel­comed at St. Frances School, also in Delhi.

MONTE SONNENBERG /DELHI NEWS-RECORD

By­erís Gen­eral Store in La Salette closed Fri­day af­ter 67 years in busi­ness. Own­ers Bernie and De­bra Byer have cho­sen to re­tire and have sold the prop­erty to devel­op­ers in Delhi.

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