Assertion, unsupported by fact, is nugatory. Surmise and general abuse, in however elegant language, ought not to pass for truth. Junius


Mourning the Norwood Co-op

Last I week I learned the Norwood Co-op is closing, a victim of poor sales and the general poor state of the family farm. The Co-op, for those from Toronto, is a combination hardware store, feed depot and general farm supply. The staff know all the locals by their first name, and we theirs. Have a problem with rats and don't want to use poison? The Co-op knows an answer. Need a thingamabob for the barn? The Co-op will have it, or knows where to get it. It's an unfortunate loss for Norwood, and one that is symptomatic of the genteel decline of small towns and villages all over the country.

Like most rural residents, I have a somewhat schizophrenic existance, shuffling between town and country, city and farm. Trips into "town" --- Peterborough, and the "village" --- Norwood, need to be thought out fo maximum efficiency of time and gasoline. Completion of multiple errands at once is always the goal. I was thinking of this making the trek into Peterborough the first time a couple of days ago for chicken feed; previously, always, I had gone to Norwood. I realized driving along Highway 7 I have hardly any reason ever to go into the village. Trips to the Co-op for scratch grain were always accompanied by stops at the hardware store or the grocery or the post office; in Norwood, if need be, you can fax a letter, order the Christmas turkey at the butcher's, buy liquor and get your computer repaired. It's remarkably self-sufficient. But for me at least --- and I suspect many other people --- regular trips into Norwood "to run errands" are about to come to an end, unhinged by the the Co-op's closure. Money spent in the village will now be spent in Peterborough, and businesses will further suffer and close, creating even less reason to go into the village --- the classic vicious circle.

Out of a sense of loyalty --- or guilt --- I will try to go into the village whenever possible. In practical terms, though, my conscious sporadic shopping in the village will hardly outweigh the money I regularly spent there, nor that of others who went into Norwood for the Co-op. In reality too, all the major expenditures of my life are carried out in Peterborough; there I bank, consult my insurance broker, shop for furniture, books, appliances; there I have my dentist and doctor. Norwood has always drawn a only a fraction of my income. But still I will try, and I hope others will too.

Norwood won't exactly dry up and blow away. It's an easy and convenient drive for commuters into Peterborough or even, for the adventurous like me, to the eastern marches of Toronto suburbia. "Heritagification" --- the transformation of the village into a heritage show piece like other villages in the region, like Millbrook or Warkworth seems possible too: Norwood has good bones and a likely location. But an importance piece of the village's identity and economic rationale is gone all the same. In a sense the closure of the Co-op symbolizes the end of a dream for small towns everywhere, of the prosperous family farm, of self-sufficient, snug little communties, the quintessential Ontario towns with red-brick store fronts proud of their history, idiosyncratic, and romantically and helplessly optimistic about their futures. It bespeaks a future of industrial farming, global economics and mass identity and consumption. For those of us who live in rural communties, the loss is incalculable and inconsolable.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How odd, to find out that the Co-op is closing via the internet. Hi neighbour. Since I sold my horses I've had little reason to shop at the Co-op. And TSC is only a short drive away, the grocery store, Home Depot, Tims....all together in a nice neat row.
Great post, you've explained how a difficult it is to make a go of it in a small town, and to keep that sense of community, with a growing city and all its choices only 15 minutes away.
Norwood is quickly becoming a bedroom community of Peterborough.
I predict the High School will be the next loss.

Saturday, 04 November, 2006  

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