Long-time shop to be demolished

Long-time Meadow Lake resident Norman Cookman, who also serves on the Meadow Lake Thrift Mission board of directors, stands outside 301 Centre St., a close to 90-year-old building owned by the mission that, in the near future, will be demolished. The Jack’s Depot Café sign was recently uncovered when siding was removed from the structure.

Long-time Meadow Lake resident Norman Cookman, who also serves on the Meadow Lake Thrift Mission board of directors, stands outside 301 Centre St., a close to 90-year-old building owned by the mission that, in the near future, will be demolished. The Jack’s Depot Café sign was recently uncovered when siding was removed from the structure.

by Phil Ambroziak

Jack’s Depot Café.

It’s a name residents of Meadow Lake haven’t heard in a long time, but one that fuelled feelings of nostalgia when the sign that once adorned the front of the popular downtown business re-emerged recently during efforts to prepare the structure for demolition.

“It was known as Jack’s Depot Café when a fellow by the name of Jack Ward was in there,” explained Meadow Lake resident John Skopyk. “He was a barber back in the heyday of the 1980s. He ran a sort of restaurant out of the building, as well as the old bus depot in the back. Barbering was his main trade, though, and he had a little room in there that served as his barber shop. All of us guys would sit around in there and share stories while waiting for our haircuts.”

Ward, who has since passed away, is only one of many business owners, however, to operate out of the building situated at the corner of Centre Street and 3rd Avenue West. Skopyk himself was no stranger to the building prior to Jack’s Depot Café. His father once ran a novelty and hobby shop from that location.

“At one time, it was also a clothing store of some kind,” Skopyk added. “There have been quite a number of businesses in there over the years. That building has a lot of history.”

Until recently, Meadow Lake resident Elton Magee operated an antique store there. When he decided to close up shop earlier this summer and take his business on the road, however, the Meadow Lake Thrift Mission – which owns the building – decided it was time for it to come down.

“The building has started to fall off its foundation,” Magee said. “I had already given notice I was leaving, but when they (owners) came in to look around, it was determined things weren’t safe anymore.”

According to Norman Cookman, a member of the Thrift Mission board of directors, the shop’s north and south walls are indeed sagging. He also said the walls were discovered to be in even worse shape once exterior siding was removed. The building, he said, is likely to be demolished by late November or early December. The lot will then be placed on the market.

“It is sad to see it go,” Cookman said. “I figure it’s about 90 years old. Graham Pearson and his wife built it originally – they had a children’s clothing store in there. I’m 82 years old, but I can remember my mom taking me in there.”

Neither Skopyk nor Cookman could recall every business that once called 301 Centre St. home, but they were able to note some to have come and gone over the years. Among them were a rug shop, flower shop, another café, a hair salon, grocery store, a second-hand store and the Thrift Mission itself.

“It’s such a phenomenal piece of local history,” Magee remarked. “While I was there, I had people come in who could recall purchasing their first pair of school shoes there. I’ve also met ladies who had their first kiss in that building.”

Magee went on to reiterate his disappointment in knowing the building will no longer be part of the downtown streetscape. Cookman agreed, noting it could have lasted longer if it had been properly maintained.

“If efforts had been made to fix the building 20 years ago, when it would have been less costly, instead of covering up all the bad stuff with siding, things might be different,” he said.

In spite of his affinity for the past, however, Skopyk believes the loss of the building should be looked at optimistically by the community.

“If someone builds a new building, it could help perk the main street up,” he said. “That, in turn, could add to the commerce downtown.”

Last week, the Jack’s Depot Café sign was donated to the Meadow Lake and District Museum.

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