End of the line for family-owned Beckett’s Variety in Amherstburg

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As the lottery machine stops and the candy counter empties, it’s the end of an era for Beckett’s Variety, a fixture family-owned in Amherstburg for nearly three-quarters of a century.

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Owner Joe Beckett will retire on December 31 after making the decision to close the business started in 1947 by his father William Austin Beckett and his uncle Julian Kopacz.

When it started, the little grocery store was located on Sandwich Street South, just around the corner from its current location. But in 1952, William Beckett sold a portion of the property he owned on Sandwich and Alma streets and moved the family home a short distance east to 96 Alma St.

It’s been a great life

The living room and bedroom were converted to accommodate the store and the Beckett family, William and his wife Isabelle and their 10 children, lived at the back of the house.

Known then as the Townline Confectionary, because Alma Street was the urban line between the townships of Malden and Anderdon, the store sold fresh meat, deli, dry goods, vegetables and fruits long before large grocery stores opened in the city.

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Joe Beckett, owner of Beckett Variety in Amherstburg, is displayed at the Alma Street store on Wednesday, December 22, 2021. The business has been in the family for more than 70 years and he plans to close and retire.
Joe Beckett, owner of Beckett Variety in Amherstburg, is displayed at the Alma Street store on Wednesday, December 22, 2021. The business has been in the family for more than 70 years and he plans to close and retire. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

In 1958, there was a large Coca-Cola sign on the front and soft drinks were delivered in glass bottles in wooden crates. Children passed by with nickels and dimes to choose candy from the self-serve containers.

Eventually the store was renamed Beckett’s Variety.

The whole family worked there, the children after school and on weekends. William worked seven days a week until his death in 1975.

“I was doing my homework here while waiting for customers,” Beckett said.

In 2001, he bought his mother Isabelle out of business.

Beckett ran the store with the help of his brothers and nephews until just four years ago when he had to hire employees from outside the family.

“There was never a dull moment,” said Sister Cathy Beckett. “It has always been a very busy store. And he paid the bills. “

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Cathy recalled that a big draw for customers was cigarettes, which were priced below her father’s price.

“It was not profitable, but we had a factory right next door, SKD, and they were there before work, on their breaks, in the morning and in the afternoon, at their lunch.

“(Dad) would cash their paychecks and sell things… anything they wanted. And they got their cigarettes, of course. The cheapest in town. “

Cathy started working at the store at age 12 and continued from time to time throughout the years.

“That was just part of our lives, working in the store,” he said.

Cathy said the “regulars” have been coming for years and many customers can’t believe it’s closing.

“‘I’m really going to miss this place,’ that’s the one I hear so much about,” he said.

After 46 years of working at Beckett’s, Joe, the younger brother, made the decision to close rather than sell.

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He said his decision to close the business is not based on finances or issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but rather on a desire to retire and enjoy a calmer pace of life.

“I have done it for 46 years. Much was seven days a week. And I’m not getting any younger. Time to go, ”Beckett said.

His best memories revolve around meeting “a lot of great clients.

“Many of them are regulars. You know everyone by name, ”he said. “I am good friends with many people.”

He is also proud that the company has supported his extended family for so many years and has been a good training ground for the younger generations.

“It has been a great life. It put a lot of the nieces and nephews on the right track when it came to learning the work ethic and all that, “said Beckett. “A lot of them left after they left here and got good jobs.”

The building is where you have lived your entire life and you don’t want to live anywhere else.

“I like where I live. I have no neighbors … a great property. I like gardening, ”said Beckett, who never married and has no children. “We have always lived here. It’s the only place I’ve ever known. “

Some renovations are planned and Beckett will be spending more time on his hobbies of carpentry and woodwork.

“I’m looking forward to the change.”

Beckett’s Variety will officially close on December 31 at 10 p.m. End of the line.

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Reference-windsorstar.com

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