KAGAWONG—It was a “crazy” summer for Bridal Veil Variety and Esso’s new owners Betty Ann and Alin Lefebvre, who took over on May 14, just before the Victoria Day long weekend and the beginning of the Island’s busy season, but they are thoroughly enjoying themselves.
The store and location was a good fit with their family values. “We like to travel,” Ms. Lefebvre said. “We’ve gone to Florida for 12 years now. In the winter we can do that with this business. We never used to travel. We travelled here.” They’ve owned a camp on Grandor Road for the past seven years but are very happy to be here year round.
“We wanted semi-retirement,” Ms. Lefebvre said. “A calmer place for the kids. It’s more peaceful here, even though it’s a bit crazy in the summer.” They live on site, and the biggest change they’ve faced is downsizing to a smaller home, and “the iPads are pretty much obsolete” for their two girls now.
There have been changes to the business as well. “We’ve brought in more groceries, more of everything,” explained Ms. Lefebvre, who noted that her buying connections have been beneficial. “We come from a dollar line and bring to the table access to different products and lines, all at a reasonable cost.”
The Lefebvres are no strangers to the retail environment. Ms. Lefebvre ran five stores at once in the Sudbury and Chelmsford area, including four dollar stores and a video store. The Lefebvres still have one other store, A Little Bit of Everything, located in Espanola. “There are crossover lines, so that also helps with buying power,” she notes.
“We are looking to bring in things that accommodate everyday needs so locals don’t have to go out of town for things like toilet paper, foil pans, hair brushes, pet supplies,” Ms. Lefebvre said. “When people run out, we’ll have it at a decent price. They won’t have to pay a fortune.”
The full range of offerings will include confectionary items, take-out and grab and go food, kitchen supplies, pet supplies, hardware, automotive goods, greeting cards, sunglasses, jewellery, toys: a little bit of everything.
Passersby will have already noted the expanded parking lot that will also accommodate overflow from existing Bridal Veil Falls and municipal parking areas. With the addition of a second dock they are now able to accommodate more boaters. Next summer they will offer e-bike rentals and there is also potential for canoe and paddle boat rentals.
As well, apartments above the store will be available for seasonal, weekly and overnight stays next year to cater to a rising need for accommodations in Kagawong.
“Now that it’s died down, we can get caught up. We’ll have time to organize. We’re moving things around, sprucing things up. Food is next on our list,” Ms. Lefebvre continued.
Ice cream offerings have been expanded to 32 flavours in the summer and will be available year round although they will be cutting back to 16 options over the winter. “Next year we’d like to have a whole food centre, offering ice cream and with a food take-out window.”
The meatball subs currently offered are already a hit, as are the morning breakfast bagels.
There’s a pizza oven in place, it’s not hooked up yet, but they are expecting to begin serving homemade pizza within the next couple weeks and are considering delivery within the Kagawong area.
The full menu is still a work in progress. “We also want to expand our coffee line and add treats,” Ms. Lefebvre said. Funnel cakes are another item they’re looking at.
Supper nights are another item under consideration. For example, Thursday would be a spaghetti dinner and Friday would be a fish fry. “We’ll keep it simple,” noted Ms. Lefebvre. “Something people can pick up so they don’t have to cook that night.”
Some things will stay the same. The gas pumps are still there. They will continue to operate an LCBO Agency store, although with an expanded product line. The bottle return centre will also remain, and the ATM machine has been reconnected.
There’s a sitting area inside the store, with a comfortable loveseat and some tables and chairs. “We want people to drop by, have a coffee, play cards. Come in and relax,” invited Ms. Lefebvre. “Drop in often, see what’s new.”
Bridal Veil Variety’s hours are currently 7 am until 9 pm, seven days a week.