LITTLE CURRENT—No, Turners of Little Current is not giving up on 136 years serving Manitoulin Island in their landmark Little Current location on Water Street, but Manitoulin’s first family of retail has been recruited to help anchor the new mall slated to be built in Elliot Lake.
“We were approached by folks putting the new mall together,” admitted Jib Turner, whose family has operated a dry goods general merchandise retail store in Little Current since family patriarch and the store’s founder, Isaac Turner, first settled these shores in 1879. “Apparently they have a grocery store to act as an anchor but they needed a general department store to come in as well.”
The new store in the yet-to-be-built Elliot Lake Mall will be larger than the 5,000 square-foot ground floor of Turners of Little Current at 7,000 square feet, but will operate on much the same sound mercantile principles set down by Isaac Turner that have sustained Turners of Little Current for over 135 years.
There are no plans to substantially change the Little Current operation, beyond those nuances of responding to the demands of the local market. “The product mix is determined by the community’s needs,” said Mr. Turner. “As an independent retailer you have constantly got to have flexibility.”
The key differences between their Little Current operation and that planned for Elliot Lake will be “that we will not be operating an art gallery or selling marine charts in that location,” said Mr. Turner. “Our product mix in Little Current is more nautically oriented than it will be in Elliot Lake, for obvious reasons.”
The upstairs location on Water Street in Little Current is home to an art gallery, a high-end clothing store and a gift shop. The Elliot Lake location is envisioned as more of a general dry goods merchandiser. “You need to cater to the needs of the community,” said Mr. Turner. “The mall would certainly have a considerably different look without a general merchant.”
The naturally taciturn Mr. Turner admits to more than a little bit of excitement as he looks forward to the new opportunity. “The advantage that Elliot Lake has is that they have a terrific marketing strategy for growth,” he said. “They have a lot of amenities to offer people who are looking for a place to retire, with golfing, fishing opportunities and plenty of activities for seniors.”
But the community also has one very important asset that is unusual in a small Northern community. “They have a transit system,” he said. “They will be delivering people to the bus stop right at our door. That is a terrific advantage for a business like ours.”
Mr. Turner said that his family has received “terrific support” from the City of Elliot Lake and the economic development corporation ELNOS and its development team.