Bernice and Ron Ward have been running the general store in Centreville for nearly a quarter century, but this is only a fraction of the time the business has been open.
In fact, the general store, now in its 157th year in Centreville, may hold the record in Kings County for consecutive years of operation. Reuben Thorpe opened the store in 1850. Some of the day books in which Thorpe kept customer accounts still are in the store, and the interior still has the original tin ceiling and other accoutrements.
The general store was operated by the Thorpe family for 90 years (until 1940) with Reuben’s son Will taking over after him. Like Parker’s store in nearby Hall’s Harbour, this could also be a record of sorts for family operation of a local business. Earl Farnsworth, the next owner, took over the store from Will Thorpe. Farnsworth purchased the store circa 1940; he operated it until Clair Spinney, who married into the Farnsworth family, took over the business in 1968. When Ron and Bernice Ward bought the store from Spinney in 1983, they were only the fourth family to own the business since it first opened.
Originally the old store was three times larger than it is today and included attached stables for horses. Harold Porter, who recently compiled a history of Centreville, says it was a combination of hardware store, clothing store, drug store, grocery and what have you – “a kind of Walmart of its day.”
Centreville was literally a one store village when the general store opened. Harold Porter believes the Acadians farmed land in the area. He writes that Centreville’s Saxon Street was originally a section of the “Old French Road, and was part of an Acadian road that passed along the length of the Annapolis Valley.”
The roads connecting with this Acadian road, which run in from various directions and converge in Centreville, may explain why Reuben Thorpe selected the site for his store. Those roads converging in Centreville, and arrival of the railway line in 1890, may also explain why in its heyday the village held blacksmith shops, a cooperage, a sawmill, tannery, apple warehouses, a tavern, and according to village lore, a brick factory.