After 100 years serving as a cornerstone of the Dorset community, Robinson’s General Store is changing hands.
Effective at the start of May, the Robinson family will no longer be the owners of the venerable shopping destination and community hub.
“My daughter took over 29 or 30 years ago and now she’s ready to get out. I’m 85 years old now and I was ready to get out,” said Brad Robinson, who took over the store from his father and has worked there for most of his life.
Brad said there was initially some trepidation among his regular customers and the community at large about the sale but the reassurances of the new owners have set people’s minds at ease.
The new owners are Mike and Katie Hinbest, who formerly operated a NAPA Auto Parts location in Orangeville. They recently moved to Huntsville with their two children and purchased Robinson’s along with the Old Mill Marina, also located in Dorset.
“We’re very excited to be a part of the Dorset community,” said Mike when he was officially unveiled as the new owner last week. “We want to let everyone know that the store is 100 per cent here to stay. The staff are here to stay and most importantly the traditions Robinson’s has in the community for the last 100 years are what we look to build upon and hopefully be a part of our family for the next 100 years.”
Robinson’s General Store actually consists of a menagerie of different departments sprawling over some 14,000 square feet. The store sells everything from footwear and clothing to gifts and souvenirs, and incorporates a Food Town supermarket and a Home Hardware location.
It’s a far cry from the original Robinson’s which was 25 ft by 50 ft and mostly catered to the needs of loggers in the area when it opened in 1921. The store was originally opened by Brad’s parents Harry and Marguerite Robinson, who both worked in the store right up until their deaths in 1975 and 1976 respectively.
“When I was 20 years-old I wasn’t sure what I was going to do,” Brad recalls. “I was offered a job working for the Hudson’s Bay Company because I had so much experience at the store buying and selling from fur trappers but my wife really didn’t want to go any further north.”
Instead, his father offered him the general store and suggested a process of gradual expansion. After World War II the number of cottages in the area had exploded and his father could see which way the wind was blowing.
“That was really the way to do it,” said Brad, in reference to the 14 additions they made over the years. “You don’t build a church for Easter Sunday.”
In 1991 Brad’s daughter Joanne returned to the store after having moved away for a period and this time brought her husband Willie and their son Ryan, who would go on to be the fourth generation of the Robinson family to work in the store when he started part-time.
Brad said the process of selling the business was a diligent one as they worked with their real estate agent to find just the right buyer.
They now feel like they found a good match and Joanne will stay on beyond the official ownership change for the next five months to help with the transition.
As for Brad, he plans to spend time working on his cottage in the Haliburton region this summer and, “maybe even go for a canoe ride.”
Nonetheless, he’s still been invited by the new owners to pop in whenever he likes and keep in touch with the countless friends he’s made over a lifetime spent at Robinson’s General Store.
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