What, exactly, is a “general store” in this day and age? They went out of style many years ago. You need to go to Mo’s at 51 Lonsdale to find out, probably at the end of January when they have their Grand Opening to show off their stuff. You can discover for yourself all the unique items for sale that make this outlet so hard to define.
An entire wall of the store is covered with a giant photo of a former general store in Lower Lonsdale from a century ago. That general store sold basics like flour, sugar, nails and toothpaste. Mo’s sells small food items like coffee and candy but you aren’t likely to find any hammers and nails. It’s more of a gift store. Then again, Mo’s also sells furniture to people, which you will find on the upper floor at the end of a small staircase.
Mo’s is found on Lonsdale at Esplanade in the heart of the emerging new Lower Lonsdale neighbourhood (or LoLo if you prefer). The original building dates back to 1903, but somebody has done a splendid job of renovation. Mo’s features huge windows and high ceilings that make the store look much bigger than it is. With wooden floors and a stairway to the second floor, it also makes the store look like a replica from 1917, not 2017.
Apparently owner Mithra Sawyer has combed the city looking for cool stuff that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Here and there around the premises you’ll find packages of Beta5, apparently a type of chocolate bar. There are other candies wrapped up and tucked into old fashioned jars. Knick knacks like candlestick holders, glass bowls, wooden backgammon boards, wooden yo-yos, packages of cards, teacups, “Barkeepers friend” (a polish for enamel), wooden spoons, Grandma’s secret barbeque sauce, green and other teas in strange packages, spinach and onion, garlic and country vegetable party dips, various artworks, the dried skull of some ancient bird-like creature, clocks, small houseplants…. The only thing missing is a Morse code telegraph set.
Mo’s is perfectly made for browsing, which is why Ms. Sawyer is going to install a coffee bar with snacks. It’s not a store; it’s more of a shopping experience. As Lower Lonsdale becomes a walking destination with the opening of the new Polygon Gallery and the upcoming museum, the farmers market at the Shipyards, new restaurants, cafes, boutiques, spas and beauty parlous, Mo’s is poised to capture a lot of foot traffic looking for that “shopping experience” the store certainly provides. For now, the phrase “general store” will have to suffice. Best to go see it for yourself. Phone 604-928-7827.
Photo: Owner Mithra Sawyer and sales assistant Bryn Cartwright stand in front of a huge wall photo showing a general store of a century ago.