Passmore’s Grocery Store

I grew up in Northern Ontario (capitalized for my own political statement) in the 70s and 80s in a small city named North Bay. Look on any map and North Bay will be there, winking at you.

When I was a boy, my parents bought groceries from our neighborhood shopkeeper, Mr. Passmore, who had a small store at the corner of Ann and High Streets.

You could buy vegetables, meat and more or less anything you needed to keep your family fed. Mr. Passmore worked at the counter, and it wasn’t uncommon for customers to charge their groceries and pay for them at the end of the month.

In so many ways, Passmore’s was a typical small town store, and I’m sure some of you did your shopping or watched your parents do their shopping in similar stores across Canada or the U.S.

Then BIG showed up…

When they built the mall in North Bay, it killed downtown, and downtown has never come back. Big “super markets” took out the small grocery stores like Passmore’s who couldn’t compete, not when the super market had more variety and better prices.

The mall was exciting. There were all kinds of stores, an arcade, food court and a giant grocery store. These big grocery stores were exciting too. They had all kinds of merchandise, and while Passmore’s was quaint, the appeal of the big store was that it made shopping feel like an event.

Everything BIG is SMALL again…

Now Mr. Passmore’s grandsons, whose names are Reed and Ryan (I went to school with them) could re-open Passmore’s grocery store if they wanted to.

Because of the Internet and Fedex, they could stock all kinds of great stuff that the bigger stores don’t carry. They could order jam (for instance) from Poland and have it delivered via Fedex. They could order cheese from Italy, or they could source their own organic meat and vegetables from local farmers.  They could stock wild meats like deer and moose, which are available easily enough and not carried by the big super stores.

Not only could they stock their store with different products, they would not be limited to their local market. Who is to say that they would not have clients in Toronto, who buy online and have their specialty items shipped to them in southern Ontario? This was impossible 35 years ago, but it’s simple today.

Passmore’s Grocery 2.0

What if they had a Facebook page to build some connection and community? Imagine videos showing how to prepare Mrs. Passmore’s famous chicken, or better yet, a recipe from another customer. How about cooking classes or wine tasting?

All of this was impossible and unexpected when I was a kid, but not anymore.

We have scale all screwed up now. Scale isn’t about getting bigger; scale is about getting connected. Scale is about mattering more to fewer, dedicated patrons.

In the 70s, Passmore’s couldn’t compete because of the price, but in the experience economy of 2014, Passmore’s would easily find clients willing to pay a premium for something special, something personal and something different.

Vive la révolution!

Comments (8)

Hello Dennis….
A guest was just asking about the funky old sign that hangs alongside our cottage, “Passmore Foods.” When we bought it at auction a few years ago, we assumed it referred to Passmore Butchers, here in our local town of Gravenhurst, where my mother grew up. But my Aunt told us that the sign more likely came from a Passmore relative who had a grocery store elsewhere. We’re wondering now if that could be the Passmores you’re talking about. Gravenhurst and North Bay would be far to travel in the early 1900s, but people made the effort in those days, so it’s not impossible that a Passmore could have moved on to another town.

How much fun is this? Thanks for emailing Diane. I can certainly find out the origin of Mr. Passmore – who was also our neighbor across the street until he died in the late 70s or very early 80s. A very nice man who was kind and generous to curious kids.
Can you send me a photo of the sign? I’ll share that with y brother Bradley who can literally remember everything he has ever seen, and can probably confirm it for us.
I’m happy you found the blog – I stand by what I said then – Because of technology, we no longer need someone else’s permission to create and share our work. Anyone can do (almost) anything that they couldn’t do 25 years ago. The world is amazing.

My Grandfather was James Barlow Pasmore and lived in North Bay. My Uncle James Bruce owned the Glenwood Motel on the Lakeshore. I would be interested to correspond with Reed or Ryan. As the Passmore name is not common I would be interested to see if their family is part of mine.

Hello Ralph. That can be arranged. Email here, [email protected] and I will put you in touch with the Passmore clan. I have secret connections in the underworld.


Hi Dennis
I appreciate any assistance you can give me to connect with the Passmores.


Hello Dennis:
My husband Del was the youngest of the Passmore children. His father Tom was born in 1900 as well as his mother Florence and he died at the age of 91 and her at the age of 99, which makes it 1991 and 1999. The Passmore’s Red and White Grocery Store was on the corner of Ann and High Streets and closed around 1976. The oldest son George was a butcher with his father, Bert ran most of the rest of the store with brother Allan, who died young. There are four children left, Elsie 90, Joy 89, Jerry 80 and Del who will be 79 next month. I would have to really check other information out as I am married to Del. The store was sold and the back end of the store was bought by Robert Ricci who ran a butcher store for some time, went back and forth to Italy for a while and passed away. I think the store is now apartments. I had family information but when I moved over 2 years ago, it got mislaid/thrown out.
I will hopefully contact Ralph Passmore today/tomorrow. I do remember Pasmore’s with one s, not related, living in North Bay. Also, Emmanuel United Church, Lakeshore Dr., has named their Common Room/Meeting Place for Del’s brother Bert, who was involved in Emmanuel for several years.
My brain is still asleep so I will close for now…..Take care….Blessings…..Brenda Hill Passmore

I sent your details along. Thanks Breanda. My best to your lads. DMW

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