The last day of November will be the end of an amazing business run for Dola Parsons and her daughter, Rosanne Parsons.
On that day their grocery store, L. Parson & Sons in Southern Harbour, will close its doors after 41 years in operation.
Dola and Rosanne Parsons stand behind the counter of their store, L. Parsons & Sons — a familiar sight for any Southern Harbour resident. — Photo by Kevin Curley/The Packet
The mother and daughter have been running the store since 1972, and in all that time did not need to hire a single employee to assist them.
Dola ran the store out of her house for the first two years until her husband, Lindy Parsons, who owned and operated Parsons and Sons Trucking, constructed a new building to give his wife more space.
Business is still good, especially now with workers nearby and an influx of people in the community, but the Parsons family feels that after 41 years, it might be time to take a break.
“I’m not getting any younger. My daughter doesn’t want to take it over. We always said that we would retire together, ’cause she went to work when she was 12 years old,” Dola told The Packet.
Rosanne has five brothers and three sisters, but she is the only one of the family who worked at the store. At 12 years old she would get out of school at lunchtime to work at the store and then return after school let out for the day at 3 p.m.
She finished school at 16 and has been working full-time ever since.
The two say they could write several books about their experiences and the people they’ve met over the years.
At one time, they sold lumber, building supplies, furniture and gas, although they gave that up as bigger furniture stores started opening in Clarenville.
In the early days, many of their customers were seniors. Not many in the town owned vehicles. The store had its own van and would pick up the seniors and help them cash their pension cheques, assist in getting their groceries and then bring them back home.
The store’s hours have remained consistent, opening six days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Usually the two women are there together for the day, and alternate on weekends.
Residents of Southern Harbour will now have to make the 20-minute commute to Arnold’s Cove to get their groceries. Locals haven’t expressed any concern over the inconvenience, just shock that an establishment that has been part of their small town for so long is closing.
“They don’t know what they are going to do. We started telling people we were closing on the first of September,” says Dola.
“She’s tired of it now, so I told her, ‘Mom, you’ve got to set a date on it.’ We said at the last of November we’ll close, then we can enjoy our Christmas,” Rosanne says.
She says she enjoyed her years working at the store and will miss the people the most.
It wasn’t just dry goods and groceries that were traded across the counter, but interesting conversations as well.
“Most times you felt like you were Dear Abby. People would come in and tell their stories and problems and you would try to help them if you could. There are people that would come here and might end up staying an hour. They would come just to chat and pass away the day,” says Rosanne.
The mother and daughter say many of the items they have sold over the years have changed. There was a time when they sold milk, flour and sugar in bulk, but these days very few people bake and people will opt to buy frozen pizzas instead of making their own.
“These days people come and buy five or 10 pounds of potatoes. It used to be that people would buy whole sacks of potatoes and a case of milk. People would buy in bulk every month,” says Dola.
Up until the school closed and relocated in 2001, kids lined up at lunchtime right out the door of the store. They still have plenty of children come in for candy, but not as many as they did a few decades ago when every household had nine or 10 children.
“Sometimes I’ll go somewhere and an adult will recognize me and say, ‘Oh Mrs. Parsons, do you remember me? I used to come to your store for the penny candy.’ Everyone remembers the one-cent candy,” says Dola.
She says the store is still fairly busy in the evenings, usually from 5 p.m. until close, with workers from other businesses getting off work and coming over.
“It would be a good opportunity for someone to start a store now. A convenience store in the community would be good. There are a lot of people that are renting and boarding,” she says.
The pair says they are going to miss getting up every morning to meet the people. they say in their 41 years they never got stressed out and their relationship never got strained.
When Dola turned 65, her children started telling her to retire, but she kept on minding the store for another 13 years.
In 41 years, Dola and Rosanne did not get the opportunity to take a vacation together. So, shortly after the closure of the store, the two plan to travel together to New York. They are booked to visit the Empire State Building, will visit Central Park, will see the popular broadway show “Mamma Mia” and will take in a concert by the pop sensation Pink.
“This will be our first trip together. It will be fun to travel, since we got along so good for the last 41 years,” says Rosanne.
Rosanne isn’t sure how she’ll spend her time after the store closes, though she has no plans to work. She says she feels she deserves a
“I have two boys. They are worried I am going to drive them nuts. I told them they will be on speed dial,” says Rosanne.
Her two sons, Jordan and Dustin, are now in their early 20s. They, too, grew up in the store. Rosanne didn’t want someone else to raise her children and didn’t want to go on maternity leave. So they set up a playpen in Dola’s office and the boys became a part of the store until they were old enough to go to school.
“All the customers used to love to come in and talk to them. A lot of them would come in and want to take them for a walk in the stroller,” says Rosanne.
Rosanne will work on the store’s last day open on Nov. 30, and she says it is a safe bet that when she locks the door that night she will be crying.
Rosanne and Dola say they are thankful to all the customers and friends who helped them over the years. They have many people who have been customers since the day they first opened.
“They are still our friends so they are welcome to our house to visit any time. They just can’t take our groceries,” laughs Dola, adding, “I guess if they needed a can of milk I could help out.”