Happy days coming for recently reopened Hockley General Store

September 11, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Hockley General Store has finally re-opened, its owners, the Wookey family are so happy to announce. This follows slightly more than a year of complete reconstruction after the fatal collision into the building by a single vehicle last August. 

“It was a shock for everybody in the the community,” Linda Wookey told the Citizen in an interview this week, “The police never gave us any information, but the car went right through the store. The store was completely destroyed, all the way into the kitchen.”

She said, “It was a big job to get everything out of the store; there was a lot of structural damage and then Covid-19 hit – then, that was the slow down. It really took time, getting material was difficult. It was like a bomb had hit it.

“We thought we’d be able to open in the spring of this year but Covid made everything more difficult.”

Certainly the reconstruction has resulted in a very new look in the store. Mrs. Wookey outlined the thinking behind the rethink: “We did the store with definitely rustic and natural stone, terrazzo flooring that’s so beautiful. It’s a much cleaner look than what we had. We did the store with materials that are just more practical for the amount of traffic we had through the store –and hope we will again!

“In terms of strength of the materials, we wanted a practical, rustic but clean and modern too – this is 2020. It’s 20 years since we first bought the place and reconstructed the old Driveshed.”

Finishing the work during the coronavirus pandemic brought its own problems: “We just chose materials and they took more time to come and trades had to come at different times. So, we just opened on Sunday; we’re still stocking up.

“It has taken so long,” she commented, “we wanted to open up.” 

Adding to the narrative, “There’s a lot more merchandise coming; we’re still bringing in goods. Anna Rita is coming back and Chris who was working in the store, in the kitchen is returning.”

With all that said, Linda Wookey does have excellent family news: “Ari [Davis] is my daughter Katie’s fiancé. They’ve both moved back from California. They’ve really streamlined our whole business; streamlined everything with our accounting. They’re super excited about this time. They came here right away [in March] before Trudeau closed the borders.

“We were very happy to see them,” said she, still a bit giddy with it all. “They got their MBAs and were working in tech companies down there. They’re ready to settle down here. Ari’s family is in New Zealand;– getting married here in Hockley would be Katie’s dream but it all has to wait until people can travel again.”

In fact, it was Ari Davis who gave us the tour of the store so far. A growing number of shelves, including bottles of wine lined up without the enclosure that was required up until recently. 

“It’s not needed any more,” said Mr. Davis. “The beer is still kept in the cold room that originally housed it.”

An increasing stock of all that one might hope for in a General Store, with regard to groceries and household needs. The refrigerators stood ready with dairy and other products, including meat pies made by Howard the Butcher in Caledon East; Mr. Davis informed us that the plan was to purchase grass fed beef from Howard’s as well.

A few cushions and mats (“Hope you like dogs”) are on shelves, but Mr. Davis assured the Citizen that more goods and gifts were on their way.

At the moment, the interior restaurant is closed, awaiting cooks, although there was some mention of a “breakfast sandwich,” but hot and cold drinks are ready to be served in take away containers, as are some baked goods, muffins and the like. 

The beautiful enclosed breezeway, running between the two main entrances is open and pleasant as always and all this will be expanded, keeping in accord with Covid-19 safety measures.

According to local historian, Jacques Brooksbank, the original General Store was built in 1837 and has passed through many hands in that 163 years. The old building stood until the roof collapsed when the builders were working on it, after Ian Wookey had purchased it. His subsequent new construction gave it a Muskoka look, beautiful and substantial.

Although the interior has a more up dated look to it, cases for bakery, more shelving and, when there are many fewer restrictions, there will be service at the tables in the dining room. 

“It’s only because we just opened, the restaurant is small,” Mrs. Wookey remarked. “They’re putting in a glass case; we’re just introducing the rebuilt store to the community. We put a push on construction and we couldn’t let any chefs in or cooks until the construction was done and they’re finished. A couple of weeks and we’ll have all our staff back.” 

For the sake of practicality, she told the Citizen, “We want to offer take home meals; there’ll be great meat pies and lots of options for meals, as well as baked goods. People are eating more at home and it’s a long enough drive to any town that they will appreciate being able to buy ready made food from the store.”

For a time line, she told us, “We’re pretty well ready within the next couple of weeks, when all our orders come in. It’ll be the end of this work and the beginning of what we had. Today our chef started with a couple of sandwiches and, then next weekend, there’ll be chilli and adding on to the rest. We’ll definitely be on, that we’ll be stocked up before Thanksgiving.”

There are still question marks about people eating in the restaurant. At the moment, everything is for take away, although sitting in the breezeway to consume is alright. 

Yet, Linda Wookey longs for the breakfast crowd: “I would love to go back to what we were doing, as soon as people are coming out and we can do what we were doing for breakfast. With going back to school, if everything stays healthy and good, we’ll be fine but at the moment, we’re being careful. But our outdoor patios could be used. Maybe we’ll get those heaters for outside.

“We’re totally going to offer take out and get the online going as well for pick up. Then, we’ll go for table service but not for another two or three weeks .”

Openly excited at the prospect, “I can’t wait,” she admitted. “It was always fun, was like having a pretty, people coming to a big party. All week, it was preparing for that week’s weekend breakfasts.

“My standards for clean were always high and, now, everything’s brand new and if you really take care, it’s straight forward to keep it clean. And our tables were always that distance anyway, out in the breezeway. People can book the small room beside the breezeway if they don’t want to be with the public.”

She clarified, “We could have waited until everything was done but we just wanted to open. It’s a nice community – I’ve always felt good about the store – everyone comes to meet each other.”

About those weekend breakfasts, she promised the Citizen,“You’ll be the first to know once we get the whole thing ready. We have to hire new servers, now we have the front ready and once we get a good server, we’ll be good to go.”

Said Linda Wookey, “I’m looking forward to feeding Hockley again.”

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