BARRY’S BAY – Sitting along quiet Stafford Street, it is hard to fathom Yantha Enterprises as anything but a place to purchase quality furniture and appliances.
But at one time, the building was a popular butcher shop, where
families could get their groceries for their workweek or turkeys for Christmas and Easter.
The local business has a wealth of history during its 70 years of operation in the valley.
Sometime in the early 1940’s, a man by the name of Jack Fitzgerald purchased the chunk of land where the building sits today. He was from Maynooth and was a cattle buyer as well as an honours graduate from Loyalist College’s business program.
In the spring or summer of 1942, Fitzgerald’s Meat Market and Groceries was open for business.
Marie Yantha, his daughter, was born that same year. While she does not know exactly where the original building came from (which is the front of the store today,) she said it was purchased and rolled down to its current location using poles.
There were several other grocery stores in Barry’s Bay when Jack decided to start one of his own. But the new butcher shop was well received by the community, Marie said.
She remembers Pat Fitzgerald bringing in 100 turkeys at Christmas. Jack would put them on boards in the basement and wait for them to be sold. Marie laughs now at the thought of it all.
Marie and her brother John lived with their dad and mother, Valentine Martin of Whitney, in the house next door to the business. They went through many successes and tragedies together, and Marie still remembers the good times and the bad.
She remembers when there was a gas bulk station across the street. One day, a leak caused gas to run down the road. The family was evacuated from their home and moved to the Balmoral Hotel for a month.
But that did not stop business as usual, and Fitzgerald’s remained open during the incident.
Inventory was typically received by train. Marie remembers Frank Cybulskie coming to the store several times a week, delivering items with his boys.
Over the years, the focus of the business began to change. It eventually evolved into Fitzgerald’s Furniture and Appliances.
In 1959, the business fell victim to a fire. Marie said while the cause of the blaze was uncertain, the building was heated by an oil stove, which was likely the culprit.
Most of the inventory was destroyed, and it took months for the business to recover.
The founder of the business passed away in 1967, and his son John took it over. But less than one short year afterwards, John perished in a house fire in 1968.
Marie and her husband Alphonse Yantha decided to run the business, and renamed it Yantha Enterprises in the summer of ’68.
A major addition was put on in 1986; there was an upstairs added and a warehouse as well. The entrance has always remained in the same location, Marie noted.
Story continues in the June 20 issue of The Valley Gazette.