December 22, 2022
By Rebecca Kornelson
Steinbach’s first store was originally situated on the present-day corner of Reimer Avenue and Main Street. It is now on the main street at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). In 1884 Klass Reimer felt the need for a local store so people would not have to travel to Winnipeg for supplies.
It was a morning near Christmas and the fire in the store needed to be built up for the day. Busy housewives would be arriving to buy sugar, flour, molasses, raisins, and other essentials for Christmas baking.
Maria looked at the fabric that had just been brought in by sleigh from Winnipeg. It would be nice to make an apron for each of the girls for Christmas. For her sons, she had been busy knitting socks. Her youngest son, twelve years old, would love the pocketknife she spied in the glass case. Another two customers came in and Klass whistled for help to his wife through the message pipe that connected to their house. Greta sent a daughter to help.
English farmer Mooney came from the Clearspring area. His list had razors (for shaving), molasses, salt, nuts, and a bag of candy for the children for Christmas, and something pretty for his wife. Ah, yes, a new handkerchief would be just the thing.
Anna’s mother sent her to get some Wonder Oil for Jakob’s toothache and some “burstremp” (felt boot liners) for Dad – the large size. She had coins tied into her handkerchief to pay for the goods. She unwrapped the coins and looked at them and saw the picture of Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria was the special person who had allowed the Mennonites to come and make a new life in Canada. Anna handed the money to Klass and he handed her a letter that had come in the mail. It was from some cousins in Russia, their old home.
Christmas was celebrated simply. A few old songs telling Christ’s birth would be sung in church. Some family would gather if they were able and eat whatever bounty the farm provided – perhaps only fried potatoes, fried ham, pluma mousse, bread and some cookies. Few gifts would be exchanged. Klass Reimer’s store made a few more items available for the people of this new community.
The store became a place to purchase supplies as well as a place to meet people. Oomkje (Mister) Fast said to his wife, Leina, that he was going to Reimer’s Store to pick up some window glass he needed to put into their new Somma Kjaakj (summer kitchen). Leina asked him to bring her some backe Pulwa (baking powder).
He might take a bit longer than he had planned because he wanted to talk to farmer Mooney from Clearspring about buying a calf. He had talked to Pieta Hoada and he said that Mooney was coming to the store on Tuesday afternoon.
Of course, the children Isaac and Mariechen wanted to come with him. They would go to play with the Derksen children that lived nearby while he did his business and visiting. So off they went. At the store Mr Reimer greeted them with a “goondach” (good day), “woo senn ye? (How are you?), oon woo es de Frue?” (and how is the wife?). After long conversations, it was beginning to get dark so Mr. Fast picked up the children from the Derksen’s and they hurried home for Owentkost (supper).
MHV Executive Director note: The general store was a hardware store, a grocery store, a pharmacy, and a meeting place. These stores became convenient meeting places too. At MHV we are currently working on winterizing our General Store so we can use it all year long. We look forward to providing you with some special winter activities this January and February with more to come!
MHV will be closed from December 24 – January 9. Thank you for an incredible year!
MHV Village Books & Gifts shop and Galleries are open Tuesday to Saturday.
Exhibit opening: “Resurfacing: Mennonite Floor Patterns,” January 18, 2023, 7 pm – Join artist Margruite Krahn for a presentation followed by a Q&A and exhibit opening.
12 Deals of Christmas November 15 – December 22 Every Tuesday and Thursday, check out our social media posts or our website at www.mhv.ca for some wonderful deals leading up to the Holiday Season!