| Jun 23, 2005

Feature article, June 23, 2005

Feature article June 23, 2005

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Back to the Future: Trousdales in Sydenham

by Jeff Green

Its not much of a stretch to call Trousdale the name of retailing in Sydenham. The family business started up in 1836, making Trousdales 31 years older than Canada.

This history has been keenly observed by Ginny Trousdale, who took over management of the store this past winter, freeing up her husband John to concentrate on the IGA and Home Hardware stores that the family owns a couple of blocks away.

Ginny has been swept up by the history of the store, which was built in the late 1920s by Johns grandfather Percy, after he tore down a smaller store at the same location.

While thousands of product lines have come and gone since that time, the stores display units and fixtures have remained in place, and it is these bones of the store that Ginny has been highlighting as she has been changing the look, and focus, of the store since taking over.


You can still get pretty much anything you need at Trousdales, from a can of soup or some milk, to a fan belt or a pair of work boots, and Ginny is committed to maintaining that tradition. But she is also turning the store into a destination in itself, a place where people can go to look around, experiencing the original wood floors, the pressed tin ceilings with wrapping string hanging down from them, and 19th and 20th Century tin containers.

Some new products maintain the historic theme, including a line of penny candy, which doesnt cost a penny any more, says Ginny Trousdale with a laugh. Cards and unique garden and home decor pieces mingled with fabrics and toys have been brought in, all displayed with artistic flair. The store is also carrying out an ongoing search for local artisans and one-of-a-kind specialities.

Although Ginny Trousdale has been involved in the family business since marrying John some 26 years ago, she was a social worker until this year, when she threw herself into this new venture.

She admits to being nervous in taking on a store with such a successful history, but points out that she is not the first to make changes.

Percy Trousdale tore down the store when it was too small and built this one. As it is located on a corner lot, we are limited in how much we can expand, and limited in storage, she said.

For the past 20 years or so, Trousdales has had a well-established reputation throughout the region and among Kingstonians for their appliances, and the space that has been made in the store for new merchandise has come primarily from moving the appliance business over to Trousdales Home Hardware.

This store has always been a general store, and that has been its strength, says Ginny Trousdale. We continue to offer a broad range of items. The basic general hardware and dry goods will remain at Trousdales, but the lumber and steel roofing are moving to the Home Hardware store.

What Trousdales offers to customers today is a bit of the fun of going shopping, and that is something that is becoming more and more unusual in the age of box store retail, where people run from one store to another to get a single kind of product.

At Trousdales, people can come in and look around at items they never knew they were looking for, wander upstairs past historic photos and old bins to find unique and useful items.

Not only has the Trousdale family been in business all this time, they are also pack rats! So I keep finding things in corners or underneath merchandise that are interesting, and that people might be interested in seeing.

One example is the old marble counter and case that is now used to display ceramic plates and bowls. At one time it was a soda fountain counter. One customer who remembers the counter is Eleanor Behm. Eleanor remembers coming to the soda fountain as a child for a taste of something cold and sweet on hot summer days. And Eleanor comes into the store most days still, for some milk or a little visit.

Trousdales has always had a major role in the vitality of the village of Sydenham. Now, with a new organic restaurant opening up across the street and the

Trousdale store undergoing a revitalisation, the Mill Street corner will be offering a kind of experience to people from Sydenham and the surrounding region, and tourists as well, that is not offered anywhere else.

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