Categories: Local News

End of an era

Peggy Riedlinger

For more than three decades, Peggy Riedlinger has opened the doors to customers at Peggy’s Cove, a small convenience store tucked in a corner of the main floor at St. Albert Place. Though the now 70-year-old city resident is blind – only seeing some light and shadows – she has been witness to a lot of the city’s growth and history, including changes to the downtown, the Arden Theatre and public library, and mayors and staff that have come and gone.

“The people who come into the store, and the city, have been wonderful to me over the years, but it’s just time to go – to enjoy my life. I want a chance to travel, garden and spend time with my husband, who is now retired,” Riedlinger said.

Indeed, when Riedlinger signed on to run the CNIB shop all those years ago, not long after she lost all sight due to Retinitis Pigmentosa, she didn’t know it would turn into a lifelong career.

After the CNIB pulled out of the venture, closing similar shops around the province, Riedlinger took over the lease at St. Albert Place, spending the first 17 years at the shop all day, every day, with maybe a few days in the summer for a trip to the mountains with her husband and two children. Eventually, she kept it to full days Monday to Friday, and on Saturdays when the farmers’ market or children’s festival brought business to St. Albert Place.

“It used to be much busier, but with the build-up of the downtown and other coffee shops, plus coffee makers in most offices, I lost a lot of traffic. Since the City is doing building renovations in 2015, it seemed the right time to go,” said Riedlinger, whose store has often gone unnoticed by building visitors – save those who pass by on their way to the library, to pay their property taxes, or to visit the MusĂ©e Heritage Museum.

“We’ve been like a part of the fabric of the building, going through floods and windows that leak every summer, and even thefts and break-ins, too.”

Riedlinger has plenty of memories to show for her years behind the till, where she has offered the usual convenience store fare – chips, pop, sandwiches, snacks, plus coffee and microwaveable lunch-type soups and such. She remembers years ago, when then-mayor Richard Fowler arranged to put tables and chairs beside the shop, and the sign made by a local artist nearly 20 years ago that reads ‘Peggy’s Cove’ and has hung over the door ever since. “When I leave, that sign goes with me,” she said.

The determined senior said she has always relied on generous help in getting a ride to and from work, or having her husband regularly stock the shop with supplies, or taking time for a quick chat whenever city staff come in to grab a snack. “I’ve known kids that used to perform in shows at the Arden before it had a concession, and some still come and visit me when they’re back in town – I’ll miss that, plus chatting with the city staff.”

And the staffers feel the same way.

“I’d come in a lot when I was pregnant,” said Cultural Services employee Elizabeth Wilkie. “Only Peggy guessed the sex of my baby. She’s the keeper of our stories and the snacks we like – she’ll be missed,” Wilkie said.

“I never thought this would’ve been my life – but it has worked out. I would do it all over again,” added Riedlinger, who plans to close the store before the end of 2015.

Lucy Haines: Lucy Haines has been a freelancer writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2012. She writes features on travel, food, seniors, homes and gardens.