On any walk toward Stirling-Rawdon’s covered bridge in the middle of the downtown, visitors will see some unfamiliar storefronts that suggest a step back to a time when independent businesses and “mom and pop” operations were the order of the day.
It’s more than just a suggestion in this area where shoppers have come to expect prompt and personalized service, a variety of products and a majority of shop owners and operators who are immediately available to respond to any customer queries. The community is known for its professional theatre company and world class agricultural museum, Farmtown Park out at the Fairgrounds, but many of the more eclectic attractions lie in the downtown core.
Recognized as Hastings County HOT Spots in 2014 were a pair of local stores that both only recently opened their doors. A Little Taste of Paradise Bakery and Café and Chickadelic Salvage and Design have attracted the attention of both local and out of town shoppers through a variety of innovations and creations. A Little Taste of Paradise is renowned for its butter tarts and baked goods while Chickadelic is described as “a vintage-inspired lifestyle shop and creative gathering space designed with chick thrifters in mind.”
But there are many other independently owned shops in the downtown core where service and customer satisfaction are at the forefront. Regular customers are often greeted by name as they buy flowers, antiques, clothing, accessories, candy, novelties or books, cards and gifts or stop by Stirling Feed and Seed where the farmers regularly meet. There are specialty shops for winemakers, antique and art collectors, homeowners and hobbyists.
The whimsical Stirling General Mercantile offers up domestic and imported candy by the bagful as well as games, toys and novelty items unavailable in many chain stores. Boutiques and salons provide a range of services, both walk-in and by appointment, gift ideas abound and locally made products are stocked on many store shelves.
The village’s historic Grand Trunk Railway Station continues to draw visitors though the tracks have been gone for many years. Home to the Stirling-Rawdon Farmers’ Market on Saturdays and Wednesday nights, the historic building also features a tourist information centre, art gallery and a gift shop, often staffed by one of the featured artists. The station, which was moved and refurbished, has maintained many of its historic details including the upstairs home for the station master and his family
Arts and crafts shows are held regularly in church basements, community halls, parking lots and gathering places and the village’s annual summertime Art in the Park event, hosted at the Henry Street Park, provides a glimpse at some of the local talent and an opportunity to speak with the artists themselves.
A walk just beyond the downtown reveals the stately architecture of some of the village’s early homes and churches that have been lovingly maintained and kept, some for more than 150 years.
Past municipal initiatives helped beautify the downtown and allow for the installation of many heritage signs and façade improvements to local businesses, creating a shopping experience reminiscent of the past but with a focus on the future.
Pause at the covered bridge and see what inspires you.