Handshakes and goodbyes filled the French Creek Harbour Store Tuesday, as its shelves emptied of the fishing tackle, groceries and outdoors gear it has sold for decades. From back when the thriving fishing community serviced fishing fleets and guides up and down the coast.
“Has to be the hardest working people that I’ve ever seen. Put their whole hearts and souls into the boats, the equipment,” said Cameron Wheatley, co-owner of French Creek Harbour Store. “The mom-and-pop model just doesn’t work anymore in this industry.”
But according to Cameron, the good times in fishing feel like a long time ago now, as fishery closures pile up one after the other amid struggling stocks, and seasons are drastically reduced.
“We had about six months to make enough money to squeak you through the cold Vancouver Island winters and now we’ve been in essence given six weeks,” said Kari Wheatley, co-owner of the store.
So after 40 years of serving the coast, the French Creek Harbour Store will close its doors on Nov. 30.
“It’s kind of the end of French Creek, the way it was. You know all the Lasquetians came here to buy stuff,” said Don MacLean, who has been a customer of the store for 18 years.
“The end of an era, yeah and we’re all friends. It’s a very friendly community,” said French Creek resident Rod Quick.
Longtime customer Don Enockson is a commercial fisherman and wonders what the future holds for the fleet.
“It’s kind of sad in a lot of ways. For sure,” said Enockson.
“Well I’m staying in till the end whatever that is, that’s all there is to it. It’s a little late to change ball games for me. And whatever happens happens.
As a landmark on the coast closes up for good, and takes with it a friendly place that helped fishermen through years of rough waters.
READ MORE FROM 2020: French Creek tackle shop adapts to COVID-19, remains open