Janice and Gary Scharf had an idea to create a store to sell all the things that are made in the County – a sort of one-stop shop for County stuff. They worked hard to develop a list of all the local growers, artists and local businesses to contribute to what is now called The Local Store. After renovating their original dairy barn built in the late 1800s, sourcing out local producers at markets and events, and distributing rack cards inviting participation she started getting phone calls and emails every day requesting application forms. “We signed up 80 vendors in no time at all,” she marvels. Just a few weeks after opening, The Local Store has over 130 Prince Edward County artists, artisans, authors, potters, jewelers, woodworkers and artisanal food producers.
Many folks had talked about the idea over the years as Prince Edward County grew in popularity. But it took the Scharfs to make it happen. Janice, a Sonograrpher by profession, travels across Canada as a clinical educational specialist for Philips Healthcare, flying 95 times in 2015 alone. She loves to see what places have to offer and she knows how hard it is to see everything you want to in a place. Hence the idea for The Local Store to showcase authentic, original Prince Edward County products – and only County products. They have had many inquiries from artists outside the County, but Janice and Gary are strictly adhering to their mission statement of showcasing and promoting only products made in Prince Edward County. There is fine art, ceramics, jewelry, photography, woodwork, fabric art, local books,– yes – perhaps the largest selection of local food, too. The Local Store is in a beautiful historic barn on their property on County Road 12, one of the main roads to Sandbanks Provincial Part. It’s been lovingly updated to accommodate the expected traffic, cleverly sectioned into food, antiques, children’s activities, fine art, crafts and more, without destroying the original magnificent architecture. Artists can rent stalls on the main floor as a kind of indoor marketplace, and there’s a big, bright hayloft upstairs, illuminated by huge windows overlooking a marsh. It’s perfect for artists’ demonstrations and events. Kid friendly, there is a Children’s Animal Book Nook and colouring station as well as a small herd of goats to visit.
Janice is not a County native, though you’d never know it to talk to her. Her passion for Prince Edward County runs deep. She moved here in 1981, both her daughters are county-born and she worked for years at Picton’s beloved local hospital. But she remembers when moving to Picton first came up, her response was “What’s a Picton?” When she did drive down to explore, she recalls “one of those October mornings when you turn the corner and see the lake and the sun coming up over the pumpkins and you’re like ‘Oh my God, it’s so pretty!”
Over the years it became apparent to Janice that it was becoming impossible for visitors to possibly have enough time to cover the more than 400 square miles to see the work of The County’s best. The Local Store, was made possible by growing interest in The County as a tourist destination.
Janice put together a solid team of contractors, electricians and more to help turn her barn into a business, and Gary, an IT specialist, is a strong partner in The Local Store. He created the impressive website, that promotes vendors at no extra cost, and an impeccable bar coding system for the very diverse stock. As well as providing a terrific showcase for her participants, Janice will handle all The Local Store related business and marketing for all the artists. “Most artists don’t have time to focus on marketing or anybody to help with it.”
Janice says she and Gary decided, “Let’s just pull the plug and do this!” She says they jumped right in, but anyone who knows her can imagine the planning that went into it. .
The Local Store opened with a huge positive result on the May long weekend. Everyday people flock to see what all of the chatter is about.
Visit 768 County Rd. 12 to find out for yourself what is local in Prince Edward County.
For startups or businesses looking to expand or re-locate to The County, you can fill out this Business Inquiry Questionnaire, and the Community Development Department will respond in 48 hours.