Saskatoon

Duperow general store says goodbye to tiny Sask. community after 75 years

For 75 years, the Duperow Co-op has been a staple in its community and a hub for residents in the area. But what happens when the store is no more?

Ted Craig has been the manager of Duperow Co-op since 1978

Ted and Marilyn Craig have worked at the Duperow Co-op for the past 41 years. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

For over four decades, Ted Craig walked to and from work every single day — sometimes four times a day. It was easy for him because during that period, his work was right next door to his home in Duperow, Sask.

His routine will soon change when Duperow's lone general store shuts down after 75 years of service and shifts its business to the nearby town of Biggar, just over 25 kilometres away.

Ted Craig keeps a collection of old letters in his office at the Duperow Co-op. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

There's not much to Duperow — a hamlet just over 100 kilometres west of Saskatoon. Only about five people currently live in the small community.

"You could compare it somewhat to Corner Gas," laughed Lindy Gabriel. She and her young family live on a farm nearby.

"[It's] a lot of, you know, community and friendships and there's a long history of … knowing everyone and families and generations."

Collin and Lindy Gabriel visit the general store in Duperow from their farm nearby. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

Along the main gravel road are a handful of buildings. The one that stands out the most has a green-and-red hand-painted sign that reads "Duperow Co-op." The co-op acts as a hub for people living in the area, residents say.

"It's always been a place where you can come and have a coffee and a visit and get what you need," said longtime customer Jerry Muc. He's been visiting the store for the past 37 years.

"And if they don't have it, they'll order it in for you."

Jerry Muc, pictured here with Marilyn Craig, has been a customer of the Duperow Co-op for the past 37 years. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

According to Craig, the Duperow Co-op originally started across the street from its current location in 1944. It moved in 1957 to the building where it currently sits.

Soon it'll be shifting once again — but this time to a different town altogether.

"It just doesn't make sense to expand in Duperow," said Craig.

"There's a lot of co-ops that have gone by the wayside in towns that are bigger than we are and I have no reason to think that if we continued, if we invested here, that we wouldn't become another one of those."

For 75 years, the Duperow Co-op has been a staple in its community and a hub for all in the area. But what happens when the store is no more? 8:11

Since Craig and his wife, Marilyn, moved to the community in 1978, they have seen the steady decline of Duperow's population. When the town's main hall and curling rink disappeared, they had a feeling the local general store wouldn't be too far behind.

Ted Craig accepted the manager position for the Duperow Co-op in 1978. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

"To survive, we can't be in the middle of nowhere anymore," said Marilyn. "If you want to compete against big businesses you have to become a big business, and you just can't be a community general store anymore."

For now, the Craigs are staying in Duperow. They'll commute to work at the store in Biggar.

But Marilyn says without the store there, people will stop coming to Duperow. 

"One day, it will be our turn to leave, and after that it's just kind of a ghost town — because the one other family that's here, they won't be here for much longer either."

The general store displays old receipt books near the front of the building. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

About the Author

Victoria Dinh

CBC Saskatoon reporter

Victoria Dinh is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon. Get in touch with Victoria by emailing victoria.dinh@cbc.ca

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