Cooper's Red & White, a family run business
By David MacDonald
Cooper’s Red & White in Eldon is a great example of an old-fashioned, family-run country store that has survived and thrived thanks to the support of its many valued customers.
The store, owned by David and Glenda Cooper, will mark its 50th anniversary from December 3 to 9, with a week of celebrations.
"There will be great sales for our customers, with unbelievable buys," Mr Cooper said.
There will be a number of draws and giveaways including a chance to win three $100 gift certificate, as well as a draw for a hockey bag, golf bag, ipod shuffle and numerous other prizes.
The store has a lengthy history of serving the residents of the Belfast area, since opening back in 1960 as Cooper’s Lucky Dollar store under the ownership of David’s parents Max and Marion Cooper.
Mr Cooper said his dad purchased the business from area resident Dave Ross, who was a POW during the Second World War and went into the grocery store business upon returning from overseas, operating it as a Clover Farm.
"There used to be five stores in the Eldon area when Dad bought it," Mr Cooper said. "Over the years they never had anyone take over those stores. Once the owner died, so did the business."
When you walk into Cooper’s Red & White today, you’ll see a framed copy of a page from the November 15, 1960 edition of The Guardian which provides a blast from the past in a number of ways. The page includes a large grand opening ad alongside headlines on Vietnam, and on former US President Richard Nixon when he was leader of the Republican Party, as well as an ad promoting a pre-built home for $3,739.
Glenda Cooper is astonished at some of the prices advertised in that grand opening sale. Ten pounds of sugar cost 79 cents, two pounds of Eldon Butter were $1.35, while six tins of milk were 85 cents.
"On that first day, the first 50 male customers got a souvenir ashtray. I imagine you wouldn’t do that today," Ms Cooper said.
There have been many changes and expansions since the Coopers took over the store in 1960. The store included a two-bay garage when Max Cooper bought it from Mr Ross, but over time both bays were removed in favour of expansion of the grocery store, with the final bay being removed 30 years ago. There was another large expansion 12 years ago when new gas pumps and a canopy were installed.
Cooper’s has been a family-run business from the beginning. While Max ran the business for many years, David quit school in 1966 and began working in the store himself, learning the ropes from his dad. In 1969, David married Glenda, who worked as a teacher at the Provincial Vocational Institute in Charlottetown before the Coopers began to raise a family and she started working at the store as well. Max retired at the age of 70 and passed away several years ago at the age of 85.
And now a new generation of Coopers is involved, with David and Glenda’s children Bobby and Debbie who are part of the day-to-day business at the Eldon store. Bobby is currently assistant manager and takes care of the hardware and fuel while his father handles the grocery end of things.
The plan is for this generation of Coopers to keep the business going for many years to come.
"We’ve got a great thing going here, and we want to hopefully hold on to it," Bobby said. "Hopefully people will still enjoy the country store as opposed to the bigger stores."
Many things have changed over the years including the move from small country stores to large grocery chains such as Sobey’s and Superstore, but Coopers Red and White is still a popular destination for locals and visitors. The store gets a lot of support from residents of the Belfast area during the year, and it’s also in a prime location for tourists departing the Wood Islands ferry and driving up the Trans-Canada Highway.
The Coopers attribute some of that success to keeping up with the times and supplying customers with a diverse selection of products, including a full line of groceries, gas and fuel products, and hardware. The Coopers support Island producers, supplying the store with PEI potatoes, and the produce department with local vegetables when available. The Coopers also pick up locally-produced meat every week from McQuarrie’s in Winsloe.
"If we don’t have it, we’ll get it," Mr Cooper said.
The personal touch has also been very important in the success of the store, as customers keep coming back not just to shop but also to say hello to the Coopers.
"We try to provide good service and look after people the best we can," Mr Cooper said. "We treat everyone as a customer and not a number."
Alycia, Carolyn, Mia, Halle, Beth, Randy, Milla, David, Glenda, Marion, Bobby, Quintin and Debbie. Missing Dylan Cooper.
Sharon Riley photo
A framed copy of a page from the November 15, 1960 edition of The Guardian announcing the Grand Opening of Cooper's Lucky Dollar is proudly displayed inside the premises of Cooper's Red & White. David MacDonald photo