Historic Holyrood General Store for sale


By Barb McKay

After more than 30 years of business, the iconic Holyrood General Store, known commonly to locals as Miller Mall, is for sale.

Lucy Miller behind the counter at the Holyrood General Store. (Barb McKay photo)


Allan and Lucy Miller are looking towards the next chapter of their lives and decided last week to list the business for sale. On the weekend, the couple celebrated the 31st anniversary of the opening of the general store. Now, they see retirement on the horizon, but only if the business sells.

“Just because it is for sale doesn’t mean we’ll be going anywhere,” Lucy said prior to the weekend’s festivities. The Millers have worked too hard to establish the business to simply close it.

Allan said the couple found the century-old building, at Bruce Road 6 and Bruce Road 1, when they were looking at locations for a store. Only the post office was operating in it at the time.

“It was tough,” he said. “We didn’t have the money behind us. The in-laws really helped us out. Some people said we wouldn’t make it six months.”

The Millers started out with no stock, but soon filled the general store and they began doing a good business

“When the Mennonites first moved into the area they were a big boost to the business,” Lucy said. “But now they’ve established their own businesses.”

But when the Holyrood General Store began selling generously-sized ice cream cones word quickly spread and it put the store on the map. The Millers now offer as many as 35 flavours of ice cream during the summer and in recent years began to scoop select flavours through the winter months.

“We get a lot of people who come in and say, ‘We were told to come here,’” Lucy said. “We had people visiting from Holland last year told us we are famous there.”

Facebook has also helped to spread the word and on warm summer days the store will be lined up with patrons eager for a legendary ice cream cone. Last year was a record year, thanks to an extended summer season. The Millers went through 2,207 tubs of ice cream, each weighing more than 11 pounds. On Victoria Day, Lucy and her summer students scooped a whopping 861 ice cream cones.

“The girls got a bonus that day,” Lucy said. “They worked hard. That is an all-time record.”

There are many regulars, of course, as well as tourists who stop in because they’ve heard of the Holyrood General Store or because they are following the Huron-Kinloss Ice Cream Trail.

“Some people will come in and I won’t know their names but I’ll know they want black cherry ice cream,” Lucy said.

She keeps track of orders to see which flavours are most popular. Bolaro, a sumptuous combination of chocolate and caramel swirls with Rolo candy pieces, tops the list. Moose Tracks is the second favourite, followed by black cherry.

As well as ice cream, Holyrood General Store offers general goods and seasonal products such as plants and flowers. The store also sells fishing, turkey and small game licences. Lucy is an Avon distributor and orders can be placed and picked up at the store.

The post office, which dates back to 1856, continues to operate at the general store, but it is unclear if that service will continue if the business is sold.

“People would really miss it,” Lucy said, particularly the Mennonite community whose members regularly stop in to pick up their mail.

The couple hopes the right buyer will come along who will continue to run the store and especially the thriving ice cream sales side of the business. If the business sells, the Millers are not quite sure what they will do with their free time.

“We are so tied to this we haven’t many outside interests because we are always here,” Lucy said. “We will likely travel or pick up hobbies.”

In the meantime, it will be business as usual at the Holyrood General Store and the store will be a stop on this year’s Huron-Kinloss Ice Cream Trail.