The Store

The Lakefield Pantry was born on November 1, 1980, at 108 Queen Street in Lakefield. Within the first year, it moved to its current location at 44 Queen Street and has been a main street presence ever since. It was started by Cam Fraser and his wife, June as a way to give people a choice about the quantities, quality and packaging associated with their food. Cam and June quickly found a loyal following in Lakefield.

After nine years, Jennie and John MacKenzie bought the Lakefield Pantry and continue to operate it today. It is managed primarily by Jennie with John’s ongoing support and help. Now, over 30 years later, Jennie says, “I still love every day I come to work in the store.  It has been my joy and privilege to know and serve the residents and visitors to Lakefield and the surrounding area.”

The store has seen many changes over the years, often mirroring the stages of Jennie’s own life. The cake decorating phase, when they had young children. The homeopathic, herbal medicines and gluten-free phases, for their family’s good health. The bakery phase, which started when Lakefield’s last dedicated bakery closed and which has blossomed into the Pantry Bakeshop and Jen’s Home Baking. Always, there has been a commitment to supporting local food and local producers. “We like to think that the best of all of these transitions remain in the store today.”

The Lakefield Pantry is identified as much by the people who have worked and continue to work there as it is by the quality of the products it sells. People who are passionate about our beautiful area and who care about the people in our Community. The care they have taken in the store has often had them mistaken as the owner and their commitment is truly appreciated by Jennie. Thank you to Margaret, Marilyn, Jane (Jennie’s Mom), Annette, Ashley, Angela, Carolyn, Marni, Heather and Beth. Thank you also to the many students who have kept us young and lifted the heavy stuff.

The phrase most often heard from people who are visiting the store for the first time is, “This is an amazing store! I had no idea you had so much in here!”

Jennie invites you to drop in to meet us and see for yourself. We’re happy to help you find your way around the store and the community.

The Owner, Jennie

My Mom always said I should be a shopkeeper. And you know what, as Mom’s often are, she was right. As a young girl growing up on the family dairy farm near Buckhorn, I would take a chunk of wood from the woodpile, hammer some nails into it to fashion a cash register, then badger my younger brother into playing store with me.

When John and I bought the store in 1989, our two boys, James and Shawn, were 3 years old and 3 months old. As you can imagine, this made for a very busy life for a number of years and the boys did a fair amount of their growing up at the store. They even set up a play store in the basement for a while and dragged my customers down there. Thank you to those customers for your patience.

The store has certainly been a family endeavour over the years. I was fortunate to be able to work with my Mom for a few years, my husband and father helped build bins and do renovations as we grew. My sisters have helped with baking and volunteering at some of the community events I am involved in. This support and family commitment are at the core of what makes the Pantry so special. I feel like one of those lucky people who has been able to do something she loves and call it her job.

One of the best things about being part of a smaller Village is how easy it is to find ways to give back to the community. I and the Lakefield Pantry are ongoing supporters of the Lakefield Food Bank and many local festivals and events.  I have been involved in organizing or assisting with the Lakefield Ice Sculpture Competition since 2004, the Polar Paddle Canoe Races since 2008, the Lakefield 5km Run/Walk since 2012, the Lakefield Farmers Market since 2010, the Lakefield Canada Day Celebrations since 2015 and Lakefield Ladies’ Night Out since 2009.

Volunteering adds such a dimension to my life. You meet other volunteers and start to understand how many people are involved in making those extra things happen in a community. When you see how many people are out there just helping their neighbours, beautifying the Village, preserving our heritage and organizing special events, it’s mind-boggling and you can’t help but feel you want to do your part.

If you have never visited Lakefield, I hope that you will and that you will stop in and say “Hi”. If you live in Lakefield or area and have never stopped in, I hope that you will stop in and say “Hi”.  If you are a regular customer, I thank you and look forward to seeing you when you stop in to say “Hi” again.

The Building, 44 Queen Street

THE HISTORY OF THE BUILDING AT 44 Queen Street – The storefront of this building certainly has not changed much from its early beginnings over 150 years ago. This building is the north half of a much larger building that was built in 1860 by Percival Hunter. It was originally a private residence. In 1864, it became a hotel, known as the American Hotel and later known as the Globe Hotel, which for some years served liquor and other years, was a temperance house. Then in the early morning of December 3, 1890, a major fire broke out destroying much of the west side of Queen Street – everything between the Globe Hotel and Robert Graham & Son’s Store was lost. 

Thomas Zachariah Webster purchased this property on September 27, 1898 from the Hunter family.  After taking possession, he opened a General Store and Bake Shop and remained in business until about 1910.  On March 4, 1911 he sold the property to Samuel J. Charlton and William Charlton.  The Charlton Brothers took over the operation of the General Store and  were in business until the early 1930s. By the early 1930s, Joe Porter, Alan Clark and Judson Hull owned and operated The Porter Bread & Grocery Store. It had a large bakeshop run by Charlie Lake and assisted by Archie Ward, which did a big business. Many loaves of bread, buns & pastries were transported by horse and wagon to the boat docks for summer trade on the lakes. It was during this time that the Clementi Masonic Lodge 313AFAM moved from the Sterling Bank quarters to two rooms over the Porter Company’s Store. The annual rent at this location was originally $120 including a cord of firewood. They continued to meet here until the 1970’s when due to dwindling membership, they joined the Peterborough branch. 

Next came Judson “Mucker” Hull as proprietor of the store for the next couple of decades. The most popular shopping time was ‘Saturday Night’ – everyone came to town to shop and get caught up on the latest news. The store had a long counter with the brown wrapping paper pulled out before your purchases were made and the large ball of twine/string hung from the ceiling to tie your parcels. Judson had a room fixed like the “Hot Stove League” where he and the men folk would sit around the woodstove, smoke cigars and tell stories while the women did their shopping. The wooden floors were always well oiled and the ceiling was a beautiful tin pattern. 

After about 70 years as a general store, a variety of businesses operated out of this fine old building – an Automotive Store, Jalaine’s Crafts & Gift Shoppe during the 1970’s, Dependable Cleaners operated their business from this location, the Lakefield Gallery – Arts & Antiques from 1978- 1980. 

In 1981 the Lakefield Pantry moved into the main floor space at 44 Queen Street.  Within a year, the store floor space was divided down the centre and the Lakefield Pantry was established in the south half of the building. Cam Fraser and June McCartney created an old-fashioned general store while supplying a modern selection of products in bulk, organic and fair trade products. Eleanor’s Yarns & Books was established by Eleanor and Richard Heyden and operated out of the north half of the building starting in 1982. During 1985, The Chronicle newspaper rented the upper floor for printing their weekly newspaper. 

Eleanor’s Yarns & Books was purchased by Edna Whitehouse in late 1989 and she continued to operate the store until 2003 when Martha Whatley and Julie Dillon took over the operation and re-named it Happenstance Books & Yarns. After Martha & Julie’s retirement in 2011, Susan Twist took over the book and yarn shop in January 2012 offering a variety of books, yarns, patterns and supplies.

Jennie & John MacKenzie purchased the  Lakefield Pantry business on July 1, 1989 and Jennie has acted as proprietor since then. She continues to offer the choices of a bulk food like store combined with the selection of a specialty food boutique. The little store boasts 100+ different kinds of herbs and spices, Jen’s Bakeshop, local products from over 20 local producers, a huge selection of cooking and baking needs and a surprising selection of unique items. (Courtesy of the Lakefield Historical Society – August 2020) (Updated and supplemented by Jennie MacKenzie)

A glimpse of the past of 44 Queen Street…