Klaas Reimer built Steinbach’s first General Store in 1884, ten years after the first group of Mennonites arrived in this area. It causes one to speculate how people purchased supplies, food and other items, during those ten years. A trip to Winnipeg with an ox cart or even a team of horses and wagon surely was a more significant undertaking in that era than a trip to Winnipeg is today. Nobody stopped at the grocery store for a jug of milk and a loaf of bread on the way home from work.

   The original Klaas Reimer store is a valued part of our building collection on our Main Street. As Mr. Reimer’s business grew he needed more space and built a two-story building, very much like the General Store that is currently located right beside the Reimer Store at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). This new store became known as the “Central Store”.

   Village stores were a supplier of many of the physical necessities of life to the area’s residents, on occasion including a postal service. As a result the stores also became a meeting place for the sharing of all kinds of information.

   The General Store in our village is not an original building. It’s a replica building patterned after a general store of the early 1900’s, very likely Mr. Reimer’s “Central Store.” While the appearance of today’s store resembles the original store, the function is somewhat different. Our General Store is not a place to purchase the necessities of life, other than perhaps an ice-cream Revel on a very hot day, but rather a place to get souvenirs and hand-made crafts. It is, in-deed, somewhat of a meeting place where people come to browse and talk with the store-keeper and learn more about our village.

   The store-keepers are the artisans who make the crafts that are sold in the store. Last year there were 14 who participated, volunteering one day at a time to staff the store. Being the storekeeper involves selling all the items in the store which includes all items contributed by each artisan and many different types of candy contributed by the museum. The General Store is also the candy store. Each artisan receives a monthly cheque for the product that sold in the previous month.

   This is a win-win situation where the artisans have low-cost space to sell their wares to a large international audience and the museum gets volunteers to staff the store. This is also a great opportunity for our guests to browse for gifts and souvenirs in an early twentieth century setting.

   We are currently receiving applications from artisans who would like to join the program. Anyone interested in participating should apply to Jo-Ann Friesen at [email protected] on or before February 1, 2016. There are still spaces available.

Calendar of Events

February 7: Vespers Service – 7:00 PM

About the Author

Gary is responsible for the overall management of MHV. Guiding the staff, informing the board, and networking with officials, volunteers, corporate sponsors, individual donors and other guests. He has a business diploma and a MA in Global Studies from Providence Theological Seminary. With his family he did humanitarian work for 18 years in Asia, including being a CEO of a Compost Enterprise in China. He loves to discuss the Mennonite story and how it is relevant in our world. Learn more about the MHV.

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