Big City Perks in Our Small Town

By Cam Mather

When you move to a small town you expect a reduced level of service compared to what you receive in a city. This is a given. There simply will not be as many stores, professionals, doctors, mechanics, just about anything you can think of. It’s part of the trade off and as we try to limit our levels of consumption, living away from a commercial center is a bonus.

This was our reality when we first moved to Tamworth twelve years ago. Although it had many more amenities than most some small towns it lacked a grocery store. The closest grocery store was a half-hour drive away and so Michelle had to get into the habit of doing a large shopping trip once a week. Then local entrepreneur Doug Bearance built a grocery store in town and it was a very welcome and needed addition. Kim and Larry have since purchased the grocery store and continue to offer new products and services including a greenhouse with bedding plants in the spring.

Even when we first moved to Tamworth there were lots of great places to eat including “The Bakery”, “The Devon Tea Room.” “The Corner Store Snack Bar” and “The Grindstone Pizzeria.” Unfortunately these restaurants were primarily breakfast/lunch or take out places and so Tamworth lacked a place to sit down and enjoy a meal in the evening. “The Penalty Box” has since opened which offers great roadhouse fare and is open in the evenings. Now on those nights when neither Michelle nor I feel like cooking, we have someplace local to eat. Living off-the-grid and not having air conditioning, this happens most often during summer heat waves.

Unfortunately the lumber yard that was here closed shortly after we arrived, succumbing to the fate of many small operators who can’t compete against the big box Home Depot-type stores that often destroy the heart of small communities nearby, just like the Death Star in Star Wars.

After the lumber yard closed, Jim Biggs opened a hardware store. For someone like me, with as many projects as I get into, the store was convenient, and Jim was a great coach. He taught me things like how to get solder to run up hill and what GFIs are. Jim was eventually ready for retirement and so he sold the business to a newcomer to town, Kuhlwant Singh. I thought it was great that a woman bought the hardware store and interesting for someone from India to buy a store in such a homogenous small town. As a WASP I often feel like I’m in the minority when I visit my daughters in a multicultural city like Toronto, but the opposite is true in Tamworth.

The hardware store only required about half of the space of the building that it occupies, so eventually Kuhlwant moved to the unused section and leased out the other half. Tamworth now has a full service pharmacy/drugstore. In a town with an aging population it’s nice to no longer have to drive half an hour to a pharmacy in the nearest city.

Kuhlwant eventually purchased the Corner Store. The Corner Store also contains a lunch counter and Kuhlwant then turned an underutilized section of that building into a dining room. Now on the first Sunday of every month she hosts an Indian Buffet dinner!  One of the things we missed most when we left the city was our previous proximity to a good Indian restaurant. We are big fans of Indian food. Sure we can make it ourselves but it’s a huge amount of work, and we still haven’t got the spicing right.

We enjoyed the buffet this past Sunday night and the food was as wonderful as always. Not only do I look forward to the Indian dinner but Kuhlwant always offers desserts including fruit and rice pudding. On Sunday night she also offered my absolute favorite dessert called  “Cherry Delight,” with a graham-cracker base and a whipped cream/cream cheese/marshmallow filling topped with cherry pie filling. This is a dessert from my childhood as my mom always made it when we had dinner guests. My mother conned us into thinking that it had to “set” for 24 hours before eating it (otherwise there wouldn’t have been any when the guests arrived.) And yes I know it’s not Indian but I’m not complaining. I’m just a plain old white guy who grew up on Kraft Food-engineered products so I’ll never argue when I run into one.

Having a hardware store and drug store in Tamworth is fantastic. Having a restaurant that serves Indian food is absolutely amazing. There are lots of great things happening in our small community and when people from other cultures move in they enrich our community. Let me know if you want me to pass on the local real estate agent’s name.

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About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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