At this store, the right-handed were left behind

In 1977, the owner of The Sinister Shoppe, a store for the left-handed, showed Peter Gzowki a few things.

Left-handers found tools they could use at The Sinister Shoppe

Corkscrews, can openers and bread knives are among the items Lawrie Weiser stocks at the Sinister Shop. 2:55

Ned Flanders had the Leftorium. But years before The Simpsons debuted, Lawrie Weiser had the Sinister Shoppe.

Both stores, fictional and real, catered to the minority of the population whose dominant hand is the left — known variously as lefties, southpaws, or left-handers.

Weiser's store was so novel in 1977 that Peter Gzowski, host of the CBC late-night program 90 Minutes Live, invited him to the show for a demonstration of the merchandise he sold.  

"All of this gear that is in front of us is for left-handed people," said Gzowski as the pair stood in front of a table on the show's set.

Correct, not right

Peter Gzowski attempts to use a left-handed corkscrew with his right hand. It didn't work. (90 Minutes Live/CBC Archives)

"That's correct," replied Weiser. "I can't say 'that's right,' I have to say 'that's correct.'"

Weiser preferred to shake hands with his left, too.

Formalities aside, it was time for Gzowski to try out some of the items Weiser had brought in.

A corkscrew looked much the same as a conventional wine opener, but when the right-handed Gzowski tried it, it didn't work — probably because he grasped it in his right hand, then resorted to turning the bottle rather than the tool.

The cork broke when he tried to extract it, and Gzowski wondered aloud why he couldn't just turn it backwards. 

"The strength of your wrist is the other way," said Weiser. "You should be pushing with your thumb." 

Serving southpaws since 1976

According to a profile printed two months later in Maclean's, the Sinister Shoppe had opened in 1976 in a corner of the Weiser family's Queen Street wallpaper store.

Weiser was planning to franchise the concept, with stores lined up in Calgary, Vancouver, Windsor, Ont., and Fredericton.

Besides corkscrews, it said the store's inventory included left-handed wristwatches, no-smudge felt pens and books on knitting, crocheting and needlepoint for lefties.

Gzowski tried his hand — or, more precisely, both of them — at a left-handed can opener and a vegetable peeler, with less-than-successful results.

But he somehow managed to slice bread with a left-handed bread knife using his right hand.

"Fooled you, right?" Gzowski said. "I had to do it backhand."