Article by Erin Power
Perched high on a hill in downtown St. John’s, sits Flower Hill Grocery, a neighbourhood convenience store with as much personality as product.
Owners Doreen Taylor and Marcella Hickey are an integral part of the community, and are well respected by those in the neighbourhood. “I would say that we know about 90% of our customers by their first names,” shares Doreen when speaking about their loyal customer base.
While the deed on the building dates back to 1897, the two took ownership in 1993. For the first five years, Doreen and Marcella worked in the store every day while still holding careers in the fishery and the publishing industry, respectively. “During that time,” laughs Marcella, “we would close early on Sunday nights just to have a bit of a break and maybe go to Schroeder’s for supper. Then we’d be back at it on Monday morning.” Today, they have the support of two employees, Brenda Babij and Chris Evans, whom are huge assets to the store.
The connection that the two women feel for their community extends outside the daily life of the store. Marcella and Doreen have long been actively involved in preserving the history of the area, from helping to organize neighbourhood reunions to sourcing funding for the mural that sits atop Flower Hill. Over the years, they have hosted back-to-school barbeques, have attended countless weddings and funerals, and have shared many meals with those in the neighbourhood. “There’s a lot of history here on the street,” says Doreen. “A lot of families grew up here and they will drop back just to check in on the neighbourhood store and to ask questions about different people who grew up here and lived here.”
Both Doreen and Marcella have seen great changes in the area over the past twenty-two years, and yet the connection that they share with their customers remains. A whiteboard sits behind the counter, and there they make a list of customer product requests. “If someone needs something for a recipe and it’s something they make often, we’ll bring it in for them,” explains Marcella, “and if it doesn’t all sell by the time it needs to be sold, then all of a sudden we’ll be making that recipe.” Doreen laughs, adding, “We share a lot of recipes around here, for sure!“
Without a doubt, it is clear that the women of Flower Hill Grocery care very deeply for their work and for their community. They are strong supporters of local arts and carry locally sourced products … and some infamous bbq sauce. “You treat people the way you want to be treated and, believe it or not, it works,” says Doreen. That certainly seems to be the key to their success.