Nos­tal­gia is the key to suc­cess

Ox­ford’s GJDE En­ter­prises main­tains the retro feel of many gen­er­a­tions

Truro Daily News - - NOVA SCOTIA - BY DAR­RELL COLE

Walk­ing into an Ox­ford va­ri­ety store is like tak­ing a trip back in time to when St­ed­man’s, Wool­worth’s, Woolco and the Metropoli­tan stores were com­mon names.

It hasn’t been easy, but Eric Mosher has carved his niche with GJDE En­ter­prises – al­low­ing him to com­pete with the big-box re­tail­ers as well as on­line out­lets.

“There has been a lot of per­se­ver­ance in­volved with this store,” Mosher said. “This is the 44th year of busi­ness and in that time there have been good times and bad times.”

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Mount Al­li­son Univer­sity and then go­ing to school in Rochester, N. Y., Mosher re­turned to Ox­ford. The fam­ily was only us­ing about half the floor space he’s us­ing to­day.

“It has been a slow, steady pe­riod of growth to the point I have the largest in­ven­tory I’ve ever had and it has also been the most suc­cess­ful year I’ve ever had,” Mosher said.

While many small stores are dis­ap­pear­ing for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, Mosher has “per­se­vered” with clien­tele from Ox­ford, Cum­ber­land County, across the province and the other Mar­itime provinces.

“There’s some­thing spe­cial about this place that keeps bring­ing peo­ple back,” Mosher said. “I think it has a lot to do with the at­mos­phere. It has a very retro feel, a feel-good store. It’s nos­tal­gic and a trip down mem­ory lane. I carry a lot of things that peo­ple re­mem­ber from when they were young.”

While he car­ries many tra­di­tional items – such as windup and me­chan­i­cal toys, candy and mu­sic boxes as well as the Drink­ing Bird that was a fad in the 1970s – he uses mod­ern tech­nol­ogy to help him advertise. His Face­book page re­ceives views from around the world and – while most of his or­ders come from close to home – he has shipped items out­side Canada.

He also of­fers retro ap­pli­ances that take peo­ple back to the 1950s and ear­lier.

Mosher said he care­fully se­lects items shoppers and vis­i­tors won’t see at other stores, along with things he re­mem­bers from his child­hood and those unique items that rekin­dle mem­o­ries of a by­gone era.

“I had a vis­i­tor from Cal­i­for­nia this sum­mer who asked me how many sup­pli­ers I had and I thought about it for a few min­utes and told him about 100. He was amazed. He said it’s a place ev­ery vis­i­tor to Nova Sco­tia needs to visit.”

There are chal­lenges, though; he doesn’t have a com­puter and frowns upon smart­phones. Also, dur­ing the golden era of sev­eral decades ago there were other stores and ser­vice sta­tions on Wa­ter Street, many of which have left.

He keeps rel­e­vant by deal­ing per­son­ally with sales rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

“That’s some­one’s job and the more you buy on­line or in the vir­tual world, the less jobs there are,” he said.

He’s al­ways look­ing for new prod­ucts, but main­tains he’s fo­cused on prod­ucts that have a lo­cal feel, in­clud­ing blue­berry and maple items. He’s also toy­ing with the idea of turn­ing the build­ing next door into a bistro of some sort.

The build­ing dates back to the 1850s. In 1897, A. E. Smith of Econ­omy pur­chased the J. H. Reid prop­erty on Wa­ter Street and opened what would be­come one of Ox­ford’s lead­ing gro­cers.

What started as a gro­cer and restau­rant saw a movie the­atre – the Fairy­land – opened on the build­ing’s third floor and the en­tire en­ter­prise was called a “grand em­po­rium” by the for­mer Ox­ford Jour­nal in 1908.

It was in the early 1920s when Smith built what is the present­day Capi­tol The­atre on Main Street.

The store was taken over by Bertha and Les­lie As­bell, Smith’s daugh­ter and son-in-law, af­ter he died in 1942. It was later taken over by Mosher’s par­ents, Ge­orge and Joan, and then by Eric, who has put his own dis­tinct touch on the build­ing.

“Dad man­aged the store in the 1950s, I think it was 1957 to 59 or some­thing like that. I was born in 1961 in Springhill and dad was with St­ed­man’s pretty much from then on,” Mosh­ers said.

Mosher said his fam­ily lived on the sec­ond floor of the build­ing and he now lives there.

The store be­came GJDE En­ter­prises in 1979 when the fam­ily left St­ed­man’s.

DAR­RELL COLE/ SALTWIRE NET­WORK

Eric Mosher dis­plays or­na­ments avail­able at GJDE En­ter­prises in Ox­ford.

DAR­RELL COLE/ SALTWIRE NET­WORK

Staff of A. E. Smith’s Store in Ox­ford in 1912.

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