Interview by Mai-Liis Renaud
Congratulations goes out to one of our Seeker contributors who has been with us, pretty well since day one of our publication and Julia and I are so happy to wish Sharyn, of Sharyn’s Pantry a “Happy 40th Anniversary” in business.
Sharyn is one of the warmest people I know, always a kind word and a big welcoming smile when you enter her store. I have had many phone conversations with her and I can always feel her smiling on the other end of the phone line. No matter what is going on in her life, she always has time to chat and give words of wisdom and when you enter her store (that always smells of spices and Grandma’s kitchen) she seems to know everything about cooking and guides you to where you can get the item that you are looking for as well as telling you new ideas on how to use it.
The beauty of visiting Sharyn’s Pantry, is the old fashioned feel you get that that you are a VIP customer and that is why Sharyn has so many regular and loyal customers. If you haven’t visited Sharyn’s Pantry you definitely need to do so that you know what a beautiful soul she is.
I had the honour to ask Sharyn our Seeker-style 5 questions and sadly on the day that I did, her little dog Teddy had just passed away and it was a very hard day for her and her husband. (seen in this sweet photo with their precious Teddy, taken a few weeks prior.) The Seeker Team send our condolenses and keep you in our prayers!
Here are my questions with Sharyn’s answers…
QUESTION #1 – Tell us a little bit about yourself. How and when did you decide to open this business?
I’ve been married to Gary, my high school sweetheart for 54 years. We have 3 daughters and 9 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. I love to cook and bake, I’m an avid reader, love animals and vegetable gardening.
I have been sharing recipes in all of the local newspapers for 26 years. Most recently in The Local Seeker for 10 years I believe – time flies when you’re having fun!. That’s a lot of recipes. I hope to have my very own cookbook published later this fall.
Just a coincidence, when Gary and I were dating, The Seekers, a singing group from Australia sang “I know I’ll never have another you” – that was our song then and still means the same now. Who knew I would be writing for The Seeker in years to come?
We were visiting friends in Peterborough back in 1980. We shopped in a lovely natural food store called The Main Ingredient. I fell in love with the whole idea and decided right then and there that we would do something similar in our home town Cornwall.
We enlisted our old friends Tom and Muriel to work together with us and opened our own store 0ctober 1, 1980. We had absolutely no experience at all but everything worked out OK. We opened Cornwall’s first bulk food store.
QUESTION #2 – What is your mission statement?
My mission statement: I try to do everything I can for all of my customers: not just supplying quality products, but as my grandson Ryan who worked with us all summer said, I give advice about everything I have in my store. It’s all about helping people with their recipes, etc., not just giving them what they need to make them.
QUESTION #3 – What is unique about your business?
While other businesses may offer some of our products – they do not give complete service that we offer everyone. We have a very intimate relationship with every one of our regular customers. It’s almost as if they are visiting me while they shop for their groceries. I love to chat with everyone and know many by name, how their health is and how are their families. I remember recipes that they have tried and shared with me or vice versa. They may have started as customers but now they have become my special friends.
QUESTION #4 – How does your business improve or change our community at large?
Our store provides it’s own sense of community. I have customers from Ottawa and Kingston as well as the 3 united counties. I value all of my customers so dearly and I think that these sentiments reach our beyond my store. Giving everyone the tools and info that they need to prepare delicious meals – this seems much more communal than just ‘ordering in’. There is something special about getting together with the one you hold dear to make meals together, not just special occasions but everyday common meals. Each is important.
Cooking and baking is a great common ground for people from all sorts of backgrounds to share a common interest.
QUESTION #5 – Define success and what do you think have been the biggest changes that have occurred in your business and the business world in the past 40 years?
Success to me means I still look forward to going to work each day, even after 40 years of business. I work with my family, my daughter Tammy and Gary my husband who does all of the behind the scenes of ordering and bookkeeping.
We have an honest and caring business. That to me defines success. I am content.
The biggest changes in the past 40 years: As the years have passed, we have tried to bring in locally raised foods: maple syrup, honey, farm eggs, organic kefir and yogurt, beef and poultry. We do try to support our local farmers. Our wide range of spices and herbs come from all over the world. We have sold vitamins and herbal remedies, Canadian products only, for over 30 years. Just last week, I was told by a customer from Montreal shopping in my store for CLEAR JEL, a product used in home canning of fruit pie fillings that we were only 1 or 3 stores in all of Canada selling this special product. We have mailed some of this all the way to Alberta last month. Isn’t that something? Now we carry more organic flours, grains and legumes, kefir and yogurt.
Bonus question – How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your business?
We didn’t miss a day of business since Covid-19 struck. With our doors locked we provided curbside service to many many customers. Throughout the spring and summer, we sold countless 20 kg. bags of flour and lots and lots of yeast. Large grocery stores had none or very little for anyone. Just to note: Every bulk item in our store was immediately bagged up by our staff for safety reasons. No one could contaminate any food item. With all safety measures in place we opened our store doors and allowed the shoppers to enter and grocery shop to their heart’s content.