The highlight of a rural road trip is often the impromptu stop at a small town general store where you can find everything from pickled eggs to popsicles, and where penny candy begs for a sampling. General stores are a staple of the rural countryside in Ontario, peppered here and there in and between small communities that to this day depend on these have-one-of-everything shops.
Of course, these gems aren’t always on the beaten path and they often don’t have websites or social media pages either (which makes them even more fun, doesn’t it?). This spring or summer take a #roadtrip to seek out these iconic Canadian landmarks and snap a few pics, pick up a few treats and thank these folks for keeping up the good fight as the backbone of rural Ontario.
14222 Hwy 41, Cloyne
Formerly Grand’s General Store, Finnegan’s is a quintessential country store, built more than 100 years ago and has been family owned and operated ever since. This cute shop is filled with fun things like ice cream, coffee, seasonal flowers, and even pizza, as well as those staples like milk, candy, and home baking. Pick up some of the Cloyne memorabilia that’s found here and be prepared to spend a few minutes browsing the works of local Canadian artists.
3103 Old Hastings Rd., Coe Hill
This place is more like a museum than a general store! Browse their selection of old games, penny candy, woodworking, crafts, art, and more. This is a one-stop-shop for everything your heart desires, with loads of gifts and antiques to choose from found in 11 specialty themed rooms. Be sure to plan a visit leading up to Christmas and visit their Christmas-themed room full of holiday inspiration.
2862 Tatlock Rd., Clayton
If you haven’t been to Clayton in Mississippi Mills, this is your chance. This tiny general store still pumps gas, and as with most general stores, they have a little bit of everything, including fresh baking, and an on-site LCBO. Pick up some sweet treats and then walk across the street to the small park next to the dam on Clayton Lake and sit and watch the water.
35513 Hwy 28, McArthurs Mills
This store is worth a trip to McArthur Mills especially if you’re making the drive between Bancroft and Denbigh. Known for their peanut brittle you can also stock up here on everything from fishing tackle to beer, wine, and meat snacks. Fuel up with gas or diesel available on-site.
2284 Loop Rd., Wilberforce
Celebrating 100 years in 2021, the Agnew’s you see today in Wilberforce may not be the original general store, which burned to the ground in 1938, but it’s a great representation of an old fashioned general store. Browse their clothing and gifts section and don’t’ forget to fill up on Kawartha Dairy ice cream before you go! This is a great cottage resource, with everything you need to fill the long hours by the lake or campsite.
22353 Hwy 41, Denbigh
This café and store used to be known as 41 Stop and is a local favourite for a quick bite to eat, gas, or when you run out of milk. If you’re into homemade donuts, head here to pick up a baker’s dozen of these delicious sweet treats of all flavours. If you’re looking for a last minute gift, Rosie’s has got your back. Browse local swag, furniture, and other giftware.
25832 Hwy 41, Griffith
Here is another general store that also features an on-site LCBO, just in case patio season is calling for a beer or cocktail. In the warmer weather don’t leave without one of their giant ice cream cones to go! You can also fuel up here, and pick up everything from gardening supplies to feed, clothing, or hardware. If you need it, they probably have it, just ask.
75 Hastings St. N., Bancroft
If you are a candy and sweet lover, this will be your paradise. Step back to yesteryear and pick up a Pop Shoppe, and choose from a selection of penny candy that includes everything from sponge toffee to gummy bears, and nerds.
1061 Main St., Dorset
Voted Canada’s best country store, this general store located in the small village of Dorset is a must visit for anyone driving through the Haliburton County area. This store has been owned and operated by the same family for 100 years and has grown over the years from 1,200 to 14,000 square feet of space. If you love shopping unique items and specialty goods, this is a must-see.
B&T’s Hopetown General Store (Hopetown)
5531 Hwy 511, Lanark
This store may actually have everything you could need, no matter the emergency. Need fuses? They’ve got you covered. A little motor oil? Yep. Gas? Yes, they still pump gas, and even diesel. They also serve homestyle meals in their small on-site kitchen. You’re likely to see a semi out front as this is a frequent stop for truckers to fuel up on some good, homestyle food.
3895 Loop Rd., Harcourt
Known for having the best coffee in the Algonquin area, visitors are often surprised by the full espresso machine that makes everything from lattes to café americano by an experienced barista. This is a great place to stop for a quick caffeine pick-me-up, ice cream cone, or home baking while on the road. You will even find local art here!
26 W. Front St., Stirling
This mercantile is a sister shop to Bancroft General Mercantile and it shows – they carry the same amazing selection of candy and sweet treats, and have that same old-fashioned feel as the Bancroft store. If there is something you are dreaming of from your childhood candy days, drop by and see if they have it (most likely they will).
BONUS: Highlands Country Store
5639 McDonald’s Corners Rd., McDonald’s Corners
The McDonald’s Corners General Store (formerly known as Hill General Store) is now reopen under new management! Drop by to see what the new owners have been up to and what new products they’ve brought in to make sure you find just what you’re looking for.