Shrinking community, growing business: Why a Mary's Harbour store is optimistic

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Shrinking community, growing business: Why a Mary's Harbour store is optimistic

Simms Cash and Carry in Mary's Harbour is celebrating one year since expanding to a new, larger storefront — a move the company's owners believe will pay off even though the small Labrador community has been getting consistently smaller. 

"This is the first big building that's been put up in a few years," said Jason Simms, who co-owns the business with his wife, Connie.

The southern Labrador community is small, and has been shrinking. The 2016 census found the population had dropped  to 341 from the 383 residents counted five years earlier. 

The population trend is seen along the south coast of Labrador, in the surrounding communities where Simms Cash and Carry customers live.

"It's an aging population and it is decreasing," said Connie Simms, who is nonetheless optimistic about the community's prospects.

"We have the tourism coming in and you just don't know what the future is going to hold," she said. 

Paving the way to success

A big part of their decision to build a new 5,200 square foot building was their "pretty certain" feeling that the Labrador South Highway would be paved past Mary's Harbour.

Having asphalt would make travel easier for locals and visitors alike, according to the owners.

"A lot of tourists come as far as Red Bay and go back because of the gravel road," Jason Simms said.

"And you can't blame them, 'cause the road is really rough at times."

Battle Harbour, a National Historic District of Canada and a popular summertime tourist destination, is just off the coast of Mary's Harbour.

Visitors leave for the island from the community.

Store history

The Simms bought the former store from a relative about 20 years ago when it carried strictly groceries.

The couple added meat cutting equipment, a bakery and a dine-in area in the old location before expanding all three elements in the new space.

"It's been a great move for us," Connie Simms said.

Inventory has also grown to include everything from glassware and toys to liquor and shampoo.

"We find everything we add is bringing in different customers," said Connie.

Those patrons who come in from surrounding costal communities enjoy the more comfortable shopping experience, according to the Simms, who have been kept busy in the time since cutting the ribbon a year ago.

"We had hoped that our sales would increase [and] we've been really pleased with the way it's turned out," said Connie. 

"This past year has gone past so quickly it's not even funny."