Stratford Bingo holding out hope as they vacate agriplex

“That’s all folks,” reads the daily jackpots section of Stratford Bingo Country’s website.

The beloved institution that has, until now, resided at the Burnside Agriplex, has begun moving out, shutting down unless they can find a new space to call home.

Jeremy Miller, who was manager of the program for the past eight months, had been working for the local bingo hall for his whole adult life, getting started with the company when he was just 14 years old.

“It sucks to see everything go,” Miller said on June 8 when Bingo Country opened its doors for the public to come and grab some items that the organization needed to part with as they moved out of the space.

Displayed on a few tables were holiday decorations, some kitchen gadgets and rows of posters.

In September 2023, the organization’s lease of the space was not renewed. Tim Wolfe, director of community services with the City of Stratford, told city council at a subsequent meeting that staff were directed to better utilize the municipality’s spaces for all of its communities and that the space, when bingo is not operating, sits empty for long periods of time.

Angie Miller, Jeremy Miller’s mother, had been the manager of the local program for the past decade before Jeremy Miller took over. She told the Stratford Times that if they had acquired a lease for a new space, the city would have allowed them to stay until they moved, but the organization hasn’t had luck yet.

“We had a place over at the Jenny Trout Centre, but then they sent over a lease and it was ridiculous,” Angie Miller said, unable to go into the specifics of the deal due to a non-disclosure agreement. “So that didn’t work out.”

Since then, the team has been unable to find a suitable spot, needing 7,000 square feet, but they are hopeful they will find something. Jeremy Miller said ownership is really keen to keep bingo in Stratford.

Angie Miller, who has been with the organization for 20 years, said there have been a lot of memories made in the hall over the years.

“We had one lady that was 95,” Angie Miller shared. “She never missed the bingo. She missed the bingo, then you knew there was something wrong.”

“I started here when I was 14,” Jeremy Miller, who is now 31, added. “When I got married, everyone took around a collection for me and we got $800 or $900 … Everyone pulled together for us.”

“It’s like a family here,” Angie Miller agreed.

Angie Miller, in particular, said Stratford Bingo Country owner John Rinn has been hugely supportive.

“He’s really about the charities,” she said. “He's from St. Marys, is a small-town boy .. and he just loves helping out the charities. He says, ‘As long as I break even, the charities are getting money.’ ”

Angie Miller estimated that when they were operating, there would be on average about $200 to $300 divided up at the end of each month to local charities.

Connor Luczka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Stratford Times