British owners of Gull Lake general store found Canada hard to resist

It is a safe bet to say many foreign travellers fall in love with Canada.

Jill and Robert Mitchell own the Parkland Beach General Store.

Jill and Robert Mitchell own the Parkland Beach General Store.

It is a safe bet to say many foreign travellers fall in love with Canada.

One could even say these same wistful travellers often daydream about moving to the Great White North.

Britain’s Jill and Robert Mitchell did more than just daydream.

After two holidays in the Canada, the couple moved to Ghost Lake, west of Cochrane, in 2003 for a simpler life than the one they lived in the fast-paced city of Manchester.

As professionals who had both worked in the nonprofit sector for many years their dream was to one day go into business for themselves. And what better place to do it than in the country they had fallen head over heels in love with?

Robert found contract work in the not-for-profit sector while Jill delved into their newly acquired home-based T-shirt promotions and imprinted apparel company.

But after a few years later, the couple realized they were living the same old fast-paced life just in different country. It was time for another change.

A bit of research brought them to the Parkland Beach General Store, on the northwest end of Gull Lake, about 40 kms north west of Red Deer.

The business was not exactly thriving but the couple thought it had the potential to do well. So in the summer of 2008, the couple became the sixth or so owner of the shop on 11 Parkland Beach Road.

The small shop sells the typical fare for residents near the lake and the seasonal campers.

There’s a rental bunkhouse on the property and the Mitchells live in a small house within a few feet of the store. It’s the only convenience store within 15 km of Rimbey and 18 km of Bentley.

The couple stock the basics like milk, eggs and load up on the seasonal goods like ice cream in the summer and hot meals in the winter. There’s a daily menu including breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Now in their fourth summer season, the Mitchells are slowly turning the store around which they said was “on its knees” when they found it. But like any new shop owner, the Mitchells have had their ups and downs since they took over the shop. This included deaths in the family in Europe and the challenges of keeping the shop afloat in the slow winter months.

Jill said when they lived in England, they lived in areas that would be considered rural and they watched little stores come and go because of lack of community support.

“It’s just this vicious circle of trying to understand that once these little places go, they go probably never to return,” she said.

Robert added they do not want to see this happen to the community and store they have come to love. In February, the couple became Canadian citizens so they likely will not be fleeing back to England soon.

Store hours can be found at Parkland beach on www.parklandbeachstore.com

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

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