Nfld. & Labrador

'Bittersweet': After 54 years, Jackman & Greene owner sells to Marie's Mini Mart

For more than half a century, Frank Kelly has been waking up early, turning on the lights, unlocking the door and serving customers at Jackman & Greene, a mom-and-pop convenience store in St. John's.

Frank Kelly's family has been with the St. John's store since 1928

Frank Kelly will hand over the keys on Wednesday morning to the business's new owners. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

For more than half a century, Frank Kelly has been waking up early, turning on the lights, unlocking the door and serving customers at Jackman & Greene, a mom-and-pop convenience store on Cookstown Road in St. John's.

On Wednesday, that will all end, as local convenience store chain Marie's Mini Mart will be taking over.

"I'm looking forward to it. We'll see what happens," Kelly told CBC Radio's On The Go during his final hours of ownership of a business that has been identified with the Higher Levels neighbourhood of St. John's for over five decades.

"[It's] bittersweet. I know I'm going to have moments that I'll be looking for things to do, but I'll also have moments that I'll have plenty to do. We just had a new granddaughter, so we'll be spending time with her."

Kelly's ties to the neighbourhood shop runs much deeper than his ownership. 

Kelly says if weren't for his staff and customers his store would be nothing. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

Toby Jackman was one of the original proprietors, over 100 years ago, according to Kelly, whose father, Harry, began working in the store in 1928 when he was 14 years old.

Later on Harry Kelly would open his own convenience and grocery store in a familiar space on the corner of New Gower and Queen streets, a few years before buying Jackman & Greene in 1957 and selling his own shop to Lar Crocker, whose Lar's Fruit Market would go on to become one of the most fondly remembered shops to have existed in St. John's.

Family business

Jackman & Greene became a meeting place for the neighbourhood, and sold everything you would see in large grocery chains today.

"At that time it was more than a convenience store and more of a grocery store, because supermarkets weren't here," Kelly said.

"A lot of home deliveries in those days."

Tuesday is the last day Kelly will stock the shelves of Jackman & Greene. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

Kelly began working for the family business in 1965. Twenty years later he took the reins.

He made some changes to the business to keep up with the times. Beer and lottery tickets were among the first things to hit the shelves under his leadership.

He then changed the layout.

In the 1990s he brought in items for the families of the area. The custard cone machine, a slushie machine and a cappuccino machine.

"We had a fire here in '92 and we were closed for 35 days. That's when I took in some of the extra things," Kelly said.

"We found our niche, and we supplied the needs of the people of the neighbourhood."

Don't go anywhere

Those who know Jackman & Greene will likely know them for their custard cones — one of the best in town, Kelly said, his voice cracking.

But, there is some good news coming from the change of ownership. Marie's Mini Mart will be keeping the staff on board, and the custard cones will continue to be pumped out, beginning near the end of May, Kelly figures.

"Nothing is going to change. The name stays the same, the same staff is going to be here, most people won't even realize that it has changed hands," he said.

"The store is thriving. In the rest of the town stores are failing, but, I don't know why, we're thriving."

But, for his parting words Kelly thanked his staff, some of which have been with him for 15 and 20 years, and of course his customers.

"Without these people coming back and forth, this would be nothing."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Malone Mullin

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