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Mader’s store is about to close its doors after 110 years

BARSS CORNER — It was the tiny metal toy cars that first drew Peter Wagner to Mader’s general store years ago.

So, too, was the delicious LaHave Creamery ice cream going for five cents a scoop in the 1960s. It was a one-stop shop offering an exhaustive range of goods in what was a thriving rural community of Barss Corner — gas and groceries, yard cloth, linoleum flooring, farm feed, steel roofing, tires and more.

It drew all kinds, serving as the life blood of this Lunenburg County community for a solid century.

“I can remember coming here as a kid and just looking and staring at all the toys,” said Wagner, who now owns a local construction company and continues to frequent the location almost daily.

“The store has been very important to me over the years. I buy all my fuel here, we buy our furnace fuel here. We bring our grandchildren here in the summer for ice cream and they’re just as excited as I was, saying, ‘Is Marie going to be here to scoop the ice cream?’”

After 110 years in operation, spanning three-family generations, Mader’s Clover Farm Supermarket is scheduled to close its doors for good, next month.

No longer will Wagner have the luxury of fuelling up his tractor on the way to work in the morning, or stopping buy for a fresh cut of meat on the way home. But besides the inconvenience, he also laments a loss of another kind; an elemental piece of the community's history and identity.

“Mader’s Store and Barss Corner are linked,” he said. “It’s the place you just go to. The people in that store have always gone out of their way to find something for me. They apologize for not having a strange plumbing fitting that I needed. It’s important place for all of us.”

But it’s simply time to move on for owner Peter Mader. He arrived at his decision a couple weeks back after a few attempts to sell the operation. In some respects the decision wasn’t easy.

“I hate getting up at 5 a.m. but I will and I will miss not coming here,” he said with a laugh. “I’ll miss the characters. We’ve had farmers, woodworkers, fishermen over the years, people with great accents, great storytellers. There’s been so many. Most of the guys are gone. I’m proud of the fact that it lasted three generations.”

Howard Mader, his grandfather, became tired of toiling as a blacksmith when he built and opened the first family general store, Mader Heritage Enterprise Ltd, in 1908. Back then, bulk barrels of molasses and kerosene arrived by train. Surviving the depression, Howard steadily built the business.

Peter’s father, John, took over the store after returning from his Second World War service overseas in England and Italy. A graduate of Acadia University’s bachelor of science program, he built the existing store and offered delivery to the surrounding communities.

Peter would take over the business in 1984. He’s tried his best to keep it a one-stop family shop but factors beyond his control have mounted — rural depopulation, the impossible task of competing with big box stores. He also doesn’t have children who could inherit the business.

“It’s been good to me but those factors add up and it’s tough. But having such a wide variety of goods to sell helped me survive in an environment where most other communities have not been able to do the same.”

Krystal Young, one of the store’s employees, says she’s enjoyed every moment serving locals.

“I have a wonderful boss and I’ve gotten to know a lot of the community members in such a great way,” said Young. “I’m disappointed it’s closing but am happy for Peter because he deserves a rest.”

For the occasion of the store’s 100th anniversary, The Mader Family wrote and shared a three-page thank you letter to their customers. The document serves as a point of pride for Peter.

“In a small community customers become our friends and our lives touch; isn’t that why we look back so fondly at the past,” read part of the letter. “We strongly believe that rural living shouldn’t mean being isolated without services and we will continue to offer as many products as possible.”

It’s imminent demise is not something Jerome Fancy, a faithful customer of over five decades, is looking forward to.

“I’m here every day and it’s part of my day to sit and talk and have a coffee, pick up odds and ends,” said Fancy.

“I don’t know where I’m going to go. If there was any way under the sun I could buy the store, I would.”

Although its doors are set to close, Mader is willing to consider an offer of sale that would keep the store open under new ownership.

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