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The Stone Store in Guelph, ON celebrates forty years

For 40 years, the Stone Store in Guelph, Ontario has worked its way into the hearts and minds of the people in this "green, granola" city. What began as a loosely undefined coop in 1970, it has become a well-known fixture in Guelph's downtown core.

For 40 years, the Stone Store in Guelph, Ontario has worked its way into the hearts and minds of the people in this "green, granola" city. What began as a loosely undefined coop in 1970, it has become a well-known fixture in Guelph's downtown core.

Owners Candice Pergolas and Brenda Aherne have been there almost from the beginning. "I had come to Guelph in June of 1970," says Candice. "In the fall, I met someone who said she was part of a group that was starting a store and asked if I was interested. The previous year, I had spent three months in London, England, working at a health food store that was 100 per cent organic. It was a very good starting point for what was to come"

The coop, then named the General Store, opened at the end of that year and everyone took shifts to cover hours. Some people left, but Candice remained and became even more involved.

Still run by volunteers, the store moved to a bigger location in 1973 and that is when Candice met Brenda. "We used to have open monthly meetings and Brenda came to one of them. She grew up in Acton, had gone to University of Guelph and knew a number of the people involved. She, too, became more involved with the store."

Eventually, Candice and Brenda decided to break away from the group and start their own store. When they announced their plans, they were surprised to learn none of the group wanted to take a leadership role in the existing store, so by default, The General Store became theirs. They renamed it the Stone Store and after 11 years at their second location, they moved it to their current downtown location.

Customers like building's character

The 3,000 sq. ft. store (2,000 sq. ft. of retail) is appropriately located in an old stone building that was originally the Crowe Foundry. The building is partly what makes the Stone Store stand out, says Jen Pergolas, Candice's daughter-in-law and employee of 18 years. "We have been told that our store has a lot of character, being in an older stone building. And that just adds to the ambiance of the store."

But customer service is what has really kept customers coming back for 40 years. Staff is trained on all the newest products and trends in the market, says Jen. "Having a knowledgeable staff is really important, especially when customers are coming in for health related reasons."

And if customers can't find what they are looking for on the shelves, Stone Store staff will do their best to find it for them. "We are able to make 'special orders' for those odd items that you can't get anywhere else, so if by chance we don't carry it, we try our best to find a supplier and order it in for the customer," says Jen.

Chances are however, customers find most of what they are looking for because Candice says although their focus is organic food – locally sourced if possible – they have so much more. This includes an extensive supplement section, a great health and beauty area, water bottles, candles, yoga mats, as well as things like diapers and wipes.

Candice says having this much of a selection in a small store has been one of the biggest challenges for them. "It is hard to keep up with everything that is new in the industry. There is so much choice out there now."

If their 40 years of business is any indication, Candice, Brenda and staff have done just fine overcoming any and all challenges. Customers are happy and keep coming back. "We have managed to keep it feeling like a small, intimate place where we hope customers can feel comfortable and happy when they leave," says Jen.


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