A reporter noted that Duffy’s closure brought “sadness to (our) collective sweet tooth.”
Founded by Mrs. Patrick Duffy, “scores of people remembered the delight of chewing on toothsome taffy, manufactured as only Duffy’s knew how to make it.”
One client remembered how children would “race up from (Central) school at recess to get a pennyworth of Mrs. Duffy’s delicious white taffy.” Another client reminisced about Duffy’s “…large, flat cake, and it was the school children’s delight to get hold of a mouthful of this taffy.”
J.P. “Jack” Duffy related how they “used to make most of our own candy…and our biggest seller was homemade taffy. Favourite kinds were vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, both in chunks and in jaw-breaker form.”
Even the 1919 fire, which gutted the store couldn’t stop the Duffys from rebuilding. The business was most deeply affected by World War II rationing. Jack Duffy said this combined with advancing age were the determining factors that led him to regretfully “see the old place go,” and close, a decision that was capped by an auction of the store’s contents in April 1946.
Duffy’s may be gone, but the local sweetand bakery tradition is alive and well at Riley’s Bakery, founded by the Riley Brothers in 1905 and operated by various members of the family until it was sold to Robert Grant in 1969. In 1989, the bakery became a lunch time destination when Rob and Ana Curran acquired it. Initially worried about the loss of foot traffic when the City dismantled the Pitt Street Mall, the Currans were relieved of their worries when construction workers, turning the Mall back into a street, discovered the bakery.
Ana recalled that “Someone asked us to make a sandwich on thick bread, and we never looked back.” Immediately attracting those with “eyes bigger than their stomachs,” Riley’s big sandwiches are famous across Eastern Ontario.
The Currans expanded their reach with the purchase of Daily Bagel in 1984, and hiring the baker, allowing them to sell fresh bread wholesale to local restaurants and businesses. Even with this expansion Rob had time to bake the weekly apple-cake for the tea room at Inverarden Museum.
The Currans provided such wonderful lunch trays that many of us working downtown looked forward to lunch time committee meetings so we could enjoy one of their trays filled with sandwiches and desserts. On one committee I served on, the chair insisted that we buck municipal tradition that “allowed” taxpayers to pay for our lunch, not wanting to go without, we all voted to chip-in for our chance to enjoy Riley’s noon-time offerings.
The Currans retired in 2021, passing to the tradition onto Marc and Christine Champagne and family, ensuring not only the continuation of the big sandwich, but Cornwall’s first class century plus bakery and sweet shop.
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