It's closing time in La Salette

Byer’s General Store a fixture since 1951

Byer's General Store in La Salette will close Friday after 67 years in business. Owners Bernie and Debra Byer have chosen to retire and have sold the property to developers in Delhi. MONTE SONNENBERG / Simcoe Reformer

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LA SALETTE – When Bernie and Debra Byer close their general store in La Salette Friday, the lights will go out for good.

Byer’s General Store on La Salette Road has been a landmark in the village since the late Wally and Genevieve Byer started the business 67 years ago.

Their son Bernie and wife Debra have maintained the store since the mid-1980s. But Friday evening, the pair lock up one last time and head into retirement.

“We’ve been looking forward to this for the last couple years,” Bernie Byer, 65, said Thursday. “When the time is right the time is right.”

The Byers initially put the business up for sale as a going concern.

However, prospective buyers concluded they couldn’t generate enough income from the store to pay for the mortgage.

Plan B involved selling the six-acre parcel for housing. A Delhi couple who are trying their hand at development have bought the property and intend to build new homes.

Bernie Byer says there is a possibility the new owners might sever the business and sell it separately. He added, however, that these matters are out of his hands.

When asked what they intend to do with their retirement, Debra Byer said “Not a damn thing.”

“We’re free now to do anything we want,” she said. “We haven’t had a vacation since 1989. Bernie says he’s owed 99 weeks of vacation – three years for every year we’ve been here.”

The Byers will remain in La Salette.

Bernie Byer is superintendent of the La Salette Cemetery behind the former Our Lady of La Salette Roman Catholic Church. He is also chair of the La Salette Rural Roots committee that maintains the former church property as a community facility.

Whatever happens, Byer will remain busy.

“I’ve never been without a job,” he said. “I was born when my parents were working here so — in a way – I was working in the store before I was born.”

It is difficult to overstate the importance of the store to the hamlet.

It served as a Canada Post suboffice up until two years ago. When the mail came to the store, Debra Byer said she and her husband would see most everyone in the village on a daily basis.

And like general stores in small communities everywhere, Byer’s was a place where everyone re-connected and shared the events of the day.

The store’s closure is the latest in a series of changes related to the ongoing evolution of La Salette into a bedroom community.

Big changes in recent years include the closure of the church and the parish hall and the closure last year of Our Lady of La Salette elementary school.

The congregation was folded in with Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Delhi. The students in La Salette were welcomed at St. Frances School, also in Delhi.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com

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