To skiers and four-season vacationers, the Ravenna General Store is a quaint, countryside haven, offering a wide variety of gourmet foods, fresh bakery, local produce, crafts and staples.
It also sits nicely on Grey Rd 2, which is great if you happen to be trekking up from Toronto. To local farmers and residents, the store is at the centre of this tightly knit rural community. To the Russell Family, the purchase of the store in November of 2004 was the start of a two-year roller coaster that shows no signs of stopping.
It wasn't that they had planned to move to Canada. Helen Russell, a business consultant, came to the area for her niece's wedding. On her way, she stopped into the store to buy one of the famous apple pies and discovered the store was for sale. Within weeks, and with the aid of a fax machine in a small Cornish Library, and the fact that a local sale was unforthcoming, the deal was sealed. Their property in a small village community north of London (UK) was sold in record time, and Helen, Paul and their son Daniel were in, with work and study permits and not much else in hand.
"It was an on the spot decision. As soon as I discovered the store was for sale, we moved heaven and earth to come here", said Helen. "I've traveled back and forth from Canada for 30 years visiting with my extensive family here, so it is like a home from home to me". Husband Paul Russell is an author and music journalist (obsessive) and had left a successful landscape gardening business. "It's still amazes me the conversations that happen when I wear a Beatles t-shirt in the Store! In the middle of nowhere I'm surrounded by music fans, and we have made many new friends", said Paul. Paul sells his most recent book on the rock group Genesis in the store and if he is there when you come he will happily sign it for you.
The Ravenna General Store has long been famous for its fresh baked pies and magical aroma's. The Russell's have significantly expanded the range of delicious home-made gourmet meals, and added their own cookies, butter and pecan tarts, banana bread and muffins. The magical aroma is always there, as it wafts over the customers when they enter the store - a sale is almost guaranteed. By using several local suppliers as well as making and baking on site they are always able to offer a deliciously varied menu of delights. They also serve inexpensive hot and cold lunches during the week, be it a crunchy salad in the summer or a hot bowl of chilli in the winter, another favourite is the freshly baked pizza. "The store used to sell some rather sad looking ready made frozen pizza's but what could be nicer than seeing a fresh baked deep crust coming out of the oven, meat or vegetarian it's become a Friday tradition!
Located between The Blue Mountain Ski Hills and the Talisman Mountain Resort The Ravenna General Store is in a perfect location to cater for the hoards of hungry skiers, snow boarders and local businesses alike. They have also introduced catering for private functions, training sessions and business meetings.
The store in its current location was built in 1946, celebrating it's 60th year this Fall! It has a two pump gas bar which on numerous occasions has rescued a "running on empty" motorist,' a post office, bakery and general grocery departments. They also have DVDs to rent and even sell the maps for Kolapore Ski Trails.
Earlier on this year, The Russell's were nominated and successfully achieved several awards for the significant benefits and contributions they have made to the community. A Special Merit Award for Community Involvement was presented by the Chamber of Commerce, one for Business presented by the Simcoe Grey MPP and MP, and a Certificate of Appreciation presented by Mayor Ellen Anderson of the Town of Blue Mountains Council. "We are very proud of these awards and look forward to continuing to work with the local community with even more events and activities in 2007" says Paul.
Many locals were wondering how the Russell's would manage the mountains of snow, wind and rains since these conditions are unusual in native England. They seem to have settled in very quickly and are set up for the harsh weather the mountain often brings! Daniel their 9-year old son who attends Beaver Valley Community School is now a proficient snow boarder and an enthusiastic member of the local soccer team, and both Helen and Paul are keen to learn all the outside activities this wonderful four-season area has to offer.
And, it is not hard to see why they came – the view of the Beaver Valley hills from their home conservatory is a daily beautiful and persuasive reminder.
NB: Help the Russell's raise money for the Alzheimer's Society on Saturday 23rd December by visiting Father Christmas when he comes to the Ravenna General Store between 11am and 1pm! Purchase a ticket by phoning them at 519 599 2796.