Childhood Memories of Stefan’s Store – Chocolate, Candy, and Old Cornflakes

Credit – Tammy W. Karatchuk

There’s a small white building at the corner of Hwy 8 and Provincial Road 222.

Kitty corner from the Hnausa General Store.

When I was a child, that white store was Stefanson and Son General Store, however, people referred to the store as “Stefan’s.”

I grew up close to Hnausa and Hnausa Beach Provincial Park and the dock. It was a 10-minute bike ride from my house. The cold from Lake Winnipeg often left a chill in the air until May – and sometimes June. It depended on the chunks of ice. People would dunk their nets or cast their rods wearing either heavy jackets or t-shirts. 

One constant was Stefan’s store. The only thing that changed was the colour of the store. Until the early-90s, the store had a Walmart blue door, which matched the bottom half of the building.

Stefan Stefanson was the owner, a gruff and tough man with a heart of gold. While tallying my Mom’s purchases, he’d allow my older sister, Jenn, and I behind the counter to choose from an array of chocolate bars, bubblegum, and novelty candies – such as candy necklaces.

During the summer when Jenn and I were in Hnausa Day Camp, my Mom would make a morning pit stop so we could get a little treat. We’d arrive at camp with lipstick candy and lollipop rings. Stefan’s store used to have a go-cart track behind his store. As camp was winding down, the older kids were could be heard for miles zipping on that track. Stefan shut those go-carts down soon after, deeming them a liability. Stefan’s was the only place to buy gas in Hnausa, but those tanks were more of a hassle. He let them run dry, and then kept them up for decorative purposes.

The freezers would’ve been a nightmare to defrost with at least six-inches of ice around the sides. Mom would whisper, “We’ll get ice cream at Orzeck’s.”

Ah, Orzeck’s. The other store in Hnausa – on the Hnausa-Finns border. Where you could purchase fresh bread, milk, chunks of Old Country bologna, and drumsticks and Fudgsicles from a frost free freezer. The Orzeck’s were a kind couple and their home was connected to their house. Whereas Stefan lived in a small house less than 100 feet from his store. Orzeck’s was spotless with the smell of a grandmother’s house.

But it wasn’t Stefan’s store.

Stefan’s had everything the ’80s could offer. The back of the store was a 25-cent arcade video games with pinball machines – plus a one-dollar per game pool table. 

I remember on cold winter nights when my older sister and I were bored, we’d beg Dad, “Please take us to Stefan’s.” We would spend hours playing video games, buying 45-cent bars and 50-cent pops. My Dad and Stefan would talk and talk and talk, until my sister and I begged Dad to take us home.

Mom would take us to Stefan’s if she needed bread or 7-up, and Stefan would let Jennifer and I behind the counter and pick out a treat – one that Mom would buy us and one that he would. That always make us feel special. And imagine the difficulty of picking out a chocolate bar when there are over 25 choices. Aero; Mint Aero; Mr. Big; Four Flavours; Cherry Blossom; Wunderbar; Twix; Sweet Marie; Oh Henry; Mars; Snickers; Laura Secord French Mint; Jersey Milk; Bounty; Crunchy; Zero; and more. Plus, flavour upon flavour of gum. Even the short-lived chocolate flavoured Hubba Bubba. 

And Stefan had a strange chocolate bar called Palomine, which we loved until one day my Dad found worms. There were boxes of cornflakes that never sold on the top of a shelf. Decor, since they were from the late-60s or early-70s. Grab bags for 50-cents. I remember buying one the day of my Gigi’s funeral. It had a piece of stale Bazooka Joe gum and four leather couch buttons. That made me even sadder.

During summer break, Jennifer and I would bike the two miles/three kilometres to Hnausa Beach, and we would stop at Stefan’s for bars, chips, and pop. Maybe a little counter-productive. We would always ask, “Can we put it on Dad’s tab?” We could and: 1) it was polite to ask, and 2) it gave us leverage when dad received his tally.

The words, “But Stefan said we could,” always worked.

Stefan had a bizarre diet. It wasn’t unusual to find him at 8 a.m. eating a chocolate bar, drinking a pop, and relaxing as he looked sat on the window ledge. My uncle remembers a bucket of chicken on that window ledge. This wouldn’t have been unusual, except the sun was streaming through the window onto the chicken. But Stefan was so tough, he could walk off salmonella.

One night, there was a break-in at Stefan’s. The thief took a couple guitars and some cash. It was an open secret that Stefan hid money under the store’s floor boards. It seemed whoever broke-in wanted to prove that secret. Stefan thought the thief would return, and the next night – they did – only to be greeted by Stefan, holding holding a .22 calibre rifle.

Stefan’s was the place to stop in the summer on the way to Hnausa dock. Minnows, fishing lures, small rods for young kids.

Stefan died on May 11, 2000 – a year after he retired from the store. His nephew kept the store open for awhile, but the doors closes a few years later.

Today, that white building stands with chipboard over the windows. The paint is fading and flaking off, and the gas tank is rusty and eroding. Grass grew over the go-cart track decades ago. There’s nothing tangible inside the store. 

I hope no one will tear down that white building at the corner of Hwy 8 and Provincial Road 222. Eventually, I know someone will, as change is inevitable. 

However, no one can erode the childhood memories. 

Or those stale cornflakes. 

4 thoughts on “Childhood Memories of Stefan’s Store – Chocolate, Candy, and Old Cornflakes

Add yours

  1. He was quite a guy from stories your Dad told me and Hughey as well. They told me about the strong box under the pool table that held money etc.
    It was said that he would cash a company check if you had one and hadn’t got to the bank. Heard also that the bank once ran out of money and went to Stefan who supplied them with cash. A local legend to be sure who satisfied the cottagers in summer and everyone else the rest of the year.
    It reminded me of Mrs Summers store in Burnaby where I grew up.
    Bob Wilson
    Sherwood Park, Alberta


    1. Yes, Stefan was quite the character. You’re right about that cash box. I’m sure that thief caught wind of it too. Stefan would cash cheques from my babysitting days. Counterproductive on my side because I’d “invest” in candy since tabs were fazed out. I never heard about the bank story though. I’m not surprised. No doubt many grew attached to Stefan, especially our family. My family lives on the same highway as Stefan’s store and home. In his later years, whenever an ambulance would pass our house, we’d worry it was for Stefan. You’re correct: he was a local legend!


  2. Ah, yes! Thank you for bringing back those same memories! It was a huge part of my summers from 1980-1990!! 👍🏼😊


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