There has been a Coley’s Store in Ramea for 41 years now, with 39 of them spent in its current location. Francis Coley has been there that long too.
During that time, she figures there’s not much the store hasn’t carried at some point.
“I used to have cushion floor and things like that, carpet,” recalls Coley. “We’ve always had a little bit of everything. But we used to have clothes. I used to have a nice bit of clothes years ago.”
That changed once the road opened and the coastal boats stopped. Then there’s the selection available through online shopping. But like a lot of small town stores in remote locations, Coley’s Store still boasts a wide variety of miscellaneous items beyond the food and candy.
“I still have towels and dishrags and material and wool and stuff like that,” says Coley.
She still carries some small clothing items, like socks, and folks can always ask her to bring in bigger items.
“I had a deep fridge come last week for a customer,” says Coley, who is happy to oblige. “Whatever they want I try to get for them if I can.”
Back when Ramea boasted a population of 1,400 that was a bit harder to accommodate. But now the town is down to a little less than 500 residents.
“It’s different now than what it was years ago,” admits Coley.
She doesn’t get requests to order large quantities of lumber or flooring to build houses anymore.
When it comes to the heavy lifting, these days Coley turns to her brother, George Barter, who also works in the store.
“He delivers the groceries and brings all the freight up and puts it on the shelf. That kind of stuff,” says Coley.
Barter also lives with her, and Coley welcomes the company. She’s been a widow for the past 19 years, since she lost her husband to cancer. Her sister, also a widow, lives in Ramea as well, but the rest of the Coley family has relocated.
“I used to always say when Carolyn, my daughter, gets finished school we were going to give up the shop but then she was only in her second year of university when her father got sick and died, and then well what was I going to do by myself?” she said.
Coley decided she might as well keep the store and that turned out to be a solid decision.
“I don’t know how I would have gotten through it if I hadn’t had the shop, being among people and stuff,” admits Coley. “My husband, you know he was only five weeks — he died with cancer. We didn’t have time to prepare ourselves or nothing like that.
“With the shop it helped me a lot because I was seeing people all the time, which was a wonderful thing.”
Coley is also treasurer of the Ladies Auxiliary, and while running the store and taking care of her visiting relatives, she’s also somehow carved out time to bake desserts, peel vegetables, bake bread, make soup and cook a turkey for the music festival’s supper fundraiser. The auxiliary will feed over 100 people, and there are only a few ladies left to do the work now to feed the hungry masses, which will include some tourists.
After four decades she’s met people from around the world who have chanced upon her little shop.
“They come from everywhere,” says Coley, who tends to restrict her own travel to visit relatives in Port aux Basques or Corner Brook.
Unlike others who have left Ramea, Coley has no intention of ever moving.
“I’m contented here.” Promises Coley, “Whatever comes first, if I die or gotta go in the home, I’m not leaving.”