It’s sometimes difficult to imagine where we all were just before the pandemic shut down our life routines. Perhaps you were at a bar dancing with your friends or jetting off to far away places. I know for many people, St. Patrick’s Day weekend marked the end of normalcy. For myself, last Valentine’s Day, I was sitting in an airport, about to journey to Germany for a Service Learning Trip. I remember the pandemic being a minor concern and the excitement of travelling being a newly discovered love.
As most of you will come to realize, if you have not already,St.Francis Xavier prides itself on being a community. Some jokingly call it a cult. Others fondly reference the people thatthey connect with here as family. In some literal families, the ties to St.FX run deep, and sometimes attendance runs generations. In searching for Xaverians with strong X-men ties, I got an email from a family that has more X-rings than one can count on both hands.
For those of you who may not be familiar, last week (October 18-24) was Small Business Week. This week serves as a friendly reminder for people to buy local. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had given a statement regarding the resiliency of small businesses during the global COVID-19 pandemic, in which he said,
"I also encourage everyone to buy local, order take-out, and show as much support as you can for our small businesses. Only together can we defeat this virus and build a more resilient Canada".
The true heart of a town like Antigonish is the quality of the small businesses, cherished for bringing something special to the community. I have recently fallen in love with a local establishment just past the corner of College Street and Main Street – The Townhouse. My first Townhouse experience was a few weeks ago. The interior was a picture, with the walls filled eclectic musical instruments, and eclectic array of plants to bring life to the wood features.
During the pandemic, many people have taken the time to work on passion projects – things they may have never had the time to work on before. In many such cases, we are just now seeing the work and the effort that have been going on behind the scenes since the pandemic began.
Now, more than ever, I have been thinking about buying locally. Of course, normally at this time I would be attending Farmer’s Markets, seeing all the wonderful vendors, and enjoying the summer sun. Although Market’s in the conventional sense are not currently possible, I have been wondering what some of my favorite vendors in Antigonish have been up to. Here is some of what I learned in my conversation with Michael Overmars, who has adapted his business, “Overmars Gardens” to better serve his loyal buyers in the ‘Nish.
Narratives of the Nish started with a very simple thought. How have businesses here in Antigonish been dealing with the pandemic? This is a simple idea that came about while scrolling through Instagram, viewing the many businesses who were forced to shut down. The shutdown, however, did not always mean that business owners remained stagnant in their work. Some took the time to help others, to get creative with their work, and to adapt their businesses to the new reality.
Some people may go there every day, and others may have overlooked it. No matter how little or how much you know about the Tea Room, I think it is well worth a visit. Owned by Danny and Bonnie McInnis, the Myers Tea Room located on Main Street in Antigonish, is the small town restaurant everyone needs in their life. Not just a family owned establishment, it has been passed on through two generations! Originally, Bonnies’ mother, Kaye, owned it with her husband Chester. It was Bonnie who recalls that her mother came up with the name the Tea Room.
As Summer sweeps by, we are faced with having to make difficult choices. Some of us may not be returning to school come September. Some of students may join our community through online course, and others may brave in-person classes. No matter the choice, or lack thereof, we all will be facing this journey together. As a history major, these stories feel necessary - your stories feel important.