About a month ago, I received a message from a Gary Michaels wishing me well with opening a new shop. He shared that his family had lived at 102 Fairmont from the 1930s until the 1970s when it was George’s Corner Store. I was so excited to hear from Gary because it meant I could find out more about the building and the corner store. (Little did I know that Gary was the Gary Michaels well known and loved Ottawa radio personality!)
I only knew that the McBains were the first owners in 1923. Gary told me that his parents rented from the Davids (surely no relation?) as early as the 1930s and the Davids had purchased from the McBains. When Gary’s father George Zahab passed away in 1960, his mother, Hazel Zahab purchased the building from the Davids and changed the name to The Fairmont Confectionery. Gary said he has fond memories of living above the shop as a child and working in the grocery store.
I have some idea of what that must have been like. My husband’s parents owned a bakery (now my brother-in-law owns it) that is attached to their house, and I know from seeing my children’s excitement how exciting it is to live in a home attached to a shop. When my kids were little, visiting Oma and Opa’s house and running downstairs into a shop filled with so much activity was magical. The shelves were stocked with bread, pastries, jelly donuts, drinks and even candy. As older children, working alongside their grandparents during a summer vacation or Christmas holiday, was the best.
In the corner store of Gary’s childhood, his family enjoyed a very busy grocery business. The Zahabs actually grew their own produce on a fifty-acre farm in Carlsbad Springs that they purchased in the late 40s. They grew tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers and more. In front of the shop, George had a display shelf built for the fresh corn they sold. Gary remembers fondly spending two summers at the farm with his grandfather and sister. In George’s Corner Store, there was fresh produce on the south side of the store and items like popcorn and chips were on the north side of the doorway. There were two checkout registers on either side of the middle aisle. The Zahab family worked hard, growing their produce and selling it. Unfortunately, it was the supermarkets opening on Sunday and staying open late that changed the course of their business. Hazel Zahab sold the shop in 1972.
When I first saw this building, I could envision a production kitchen for The Merry Dairy in the back part of the shop. At first glance, space was quickly taken up by a freezer, ice cream equipment, and work areas. The front, however, is all about the scoop shop and people walking in from the street for a frozen treat. I have had so much help from Stefania Crilly, owner of Spruce Design in creating this space. There will be outdoor seating and a few spots to sit inside along the front window. The best part of the shop? There will be three kinds of ice cream: in addition to Midwestern style frozen custard being made in the first continuous batch ice cream machine purchased now five years ago, there will also be soft serve custard and regular hard scoop ice cream in the dipping cabinet.
Here’s what the storefront for The Merry Dairy will look like. As work continues over the next few weeks, you can see how we are building on the brand originally designed for the truck by Brandbot Digital Marketing. Inside pics coming soon! (ps – want to learn more about Kitchissippi’s history? Visit the Kitchissippi Museum blog!