Nfld. & Labrador

Auntie Crae's waves farewell

The woman who has run one of the best-known stores in downtown St. John's is closing her doors permanently Friday, and she unabashedly has a smile about it.
Janet Kelly, left, says she has no regrets as she prepares to close Auntie Crae's. Her longtime buyer, Judy Whitten, will continue to carry Auntie Crae's products at a new store scheduled to open in a nearby location next year. ((CBC) )

The woman who has run one of the best-known stores in downtown St. John's is closing her doors permanently Friday, and she unabashedly has a smile about it.

Janet Kelly, who started the specialty food shop in 1977 and has been running it for the last decade from a large building on Water Street, said she always planned to retire at this stage of her life.

"A lot of people told me I didn't have a right to retire. They've been bare-faced about it," Kelly told CBC News earlier this week.

"But really it shows me that all that we did was meaningful to people, and you like your work to be meaningful. And it was."

Kelly started Auntie Crae's — which got its name from a relative who made and sold her own food products generations ago in St. John's — as an outgrowth of Bridgett's, a neighbourhood bar that her family operated.

For many years, she ran the shop in Churchill Square before relocating it downtown, selling a mix of coffee, breads, cheeses and other specialty foods. The downtown store has been a hub on Water Street, with musicians playing free concerts in the lunch area.

"Thirty-three years is a good part of your lifetime, and that's what I've been doing all that time," Kelly said.

Brand will continue

While the store is closing, the Auntie Crae's brand will live on. Kelly will maintain a coffee roasting operation in St. Philip's, and will continue to make Auntie Crae's jams and gingerbread.

She is also planning to publish an Auntie Crae's cookbook. "I'm not a great cook, but I'm a pretty good teacher, so I think I'll probably do all right," Kelly said of the project.

Meanwhile, Judy Whitten —whom Kelly describes as "the one I depend on entirely" — is opening a small food shop of her own in the new year.

As well, a new business is planning to open in the Auntie Crae's location within a couple of months.

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