Historical Auntie Crae’s shutting its doors in December

Published on October 18, 2010
Auntie Crae's specialty food store will close after 33 years.
Alisha Morrissey/The Telegram

A downtown landmark will close its doors for good Christmas Eve.

According to owner and founder Janet Kelly, she’s not willing to sell Auntie Crae’s specialty food store, and none of her family members or workers want, or are able, to take it over.

“I’m just retiring and I have no comment on it other than that and I’m closing the store,” Kelly said Sunday. “I was never going to sell the business, ever.” 

Kelly confirms that certain Auntie Crea’s products will continue to be sold through other stores, although she didn’t say which ones.

“I’ll probably licence people to do some of the products.”

The store was established in 1977 in Churchill Square, but moved to its current Water Street location a decade ago.

Before being turned into the specialty foods shop, the Water Street building was a hardware store called Neyle-Sopers for nearly 100 years.

A part of the current store is now called Fishhook Neyle’s Common Room, where people are welcome to bring their own lunches and snacks or those bought at the store and socialize.

Elizabeth McRae, who the store is named after, lived from 1862 to 1927 and leased the building at 308 Water St., a document she’s believed to have signed in 1891 for a 10-year period for the sum of $650 per year.

Auntie Crae, Kelly’s great-aunt, was said to have fought the flames of the Great Fire with holy water and prayers as it lapped at her building.

And though it’s not nearly as storied, in recent years Kelly has had to be creative to keep her business running.

Kelly went public with her problems attracting staff and announced she’d be changing her hours as a result in 2008. She spoke on a panel called “The Disappearing Work Ethic: Fact or Fiction,” about a new generation of worker and she also recently posted a sign on plywood covering a broken picture window saying “smashed window compliments of George Street revellers,” and, below that, “Yes, we are open as usual. Auntie Crae’s.”

The store has played host to book launches and readings, and every Tuesday the “Auntie Crae’s Band” plays for the lunch crowd.

Now over 70, Kelly says it’s time to retire.

“It’s a work in progress right now.”