Stores were unusual in the early Manitoba Mennonite villages and yet it was Steinbach’s first store that became the Mennonite Heritage Village’s (MHV) first building. Mennonites were almost exclusively farmers and believed that making a living from the soil was most desirable since it required little contact with the outside world. Small general stores, however, began to make their appearance and often became flourishing businesses. They were just big enough to fit a family out for a visit, a group of boys buying candy or a group of men needing a place to converse.
The Reimer store, in Steinbach, was started when Mr. Klaas Reimer went to deliver produce to Winnipeg one day and the merchant sent $300 worth of merchandise along with him, which he then sold to the villagers from his house. This continued to grow until he built the store. When this small building became the first museum in Steinbach, instead displaying goods for sale, it showcased artefacts that local Mennonites had preserved. This small building is now part of our village main street. My, how the Mennonite Heritage Village has grown since then!
Storekeepers provided early settlers the necessities for life on the farm. This saved them the effort of making a long journey by horse and buggy to a city like Winnipeg to buy supplies. For those not so agriculturally inclined, being a storekeeper was one the first options to do and be something else. You could not be a grumpy person and still have good results. Now good public relation skills were essential, as was knowing some English to do business with city merchants.
Villagers would order merchandise from the storekeeper who, in turn, went to pick it up in Winnipeg with a team of horses and a wagon or he would have a local farmer pick it up for him. There were more than just cash purchases at the store. Shoppers would often barter for goods using farm produce, mostly eggs, butter, and lard.
A fun feature of some stores was the underground pipe telephone. It was used to communicate between the house and the store. The person in the store lifted the cap and blew into the pipe, causing it to whistle through the tiny hole at the other end. Having gained the others’ attention, he could then speak loudly into the pipe and with his ear next to the opening the other person could hear what they had to say.
Come check out the Reimer store at the Mennonite Heritage Village this year! It’s a great place for a discussion with family and if your young ones still need candy, just go next door to the big General Store. April 18th-24th is also National Volunteers Week. A big thank you to all our MHV volunteers who truly make the museum-go-round!
Photo credit: Laszlo Markovics
- April 30, MHV Season Opener Auxiliary Drive-Thru Perogy Fundraiser. Help Mennonite Heritage Village kick-off the summer season with a drive-thru perogy dinner put on by the MHV Auxiliary. Meals are $15 each. Each meal will consist of 4 cottage cheese perogies, 2 pieces of farmer sausage, hot vegetables, coleslaw, and a dessert. This hearty traditional meal made with plenty of dairy, eggs, and wheat costs $15. Book in advance online or by calling 204-326-9661. All donations above the $15/meal are welcome. Donations of $20 or more will be receipted. Please bring cash or cheque when you come to pick up your meal.
- May 1, MHV’s outdoor village and Livery Barn Restaurant open for the season! Enjoy over 30 historic buildings and monuments, our Main Gallery and beautiful grounds.
- May 8, Manitoba Day. The actual day is May 12th, but we are celebrating it on Saturday, May 8th. More information at the link!