Ice, ice cream, screamers, fishing tackle, booze, DVDs, propane, toys, souvenirs, batteries, and maybe even a latte, or a pair of wooden shoes — all in one place, the summer beach store.
You never know what you’re going to need, want or run out of when vacationing — but chances are you’ll find it at the summer beach store down the road from the lake or campsite.
Two separate stores along Gull Lake have been friends to holidayers for many years. The Wooden Shoe Gull Lake is on the south end of the lake and Parkland Beach General Store is on the north end.
“Can you just give me a minute, I’m just serving up some burgers and fries,” says Parkland Beach store owner Jill Mitchell, so the interview is done between her running the till and pauses in customer traffic.
Mitchell and her husband Robert came to Canada from the United Kingdom in 2003. They eventually ended up owning store seven years ago.
“I just fancied the challenge and I’d never worked in a store in my life or used the till in fact,” the former youth worker said.
The store is unusual in that it also is able to sell alcohol, a big seller, said Mitchell. But they also sell a lot other things like ice cream and cold drinks It has a small kitchen for take out food.
“We certainly try to sell everything. … the usual things including ice cream, children’s toys, a bit of everything really.”
When summer hits, it’s batteries, dairy products, frozen meals, maggots and worms and other things in big demand.
When they took over the store, located on Parkland Beach road off Hwy 771, the community helped them with ideas on what to sell. They operate year-round and the winter is busy enough selling fishing equipment to ice fishers.
Located next to a marina, Mitchell said she has noticed a big change in activity since the Parkland Beach Summer Village posted signage at both ends of Hwy 771. A lot of people don’t realize there is a beach, said Mitchell.
Many people go to Aspen Beach Provincial Park’s day use area, on the south end of Gull Lake, but there have been occasions lately that no one can get in after 11 a.m. because they are full.
Mitchell works at the store full time by herself while her husband works in Red Deer.
As for ice sales, “Oh my gosh, now we’re talking. I bag the ice. That’s a big seller. I have an ice machine. I had forgotten about the ice on purpose.”
The store is flanked on two sides by RV parks. On hot days she sells a lot of ice cream, but sales are right across the board, and on cooler days it’s chocolate bars, chips and dip.
And because of her European background, she also sells lattes and cappuccinos.
Down south, at the Wooden Shoe Gull Lake, manager Caitlin Luymes has been busy at the store “with the blue roof.”
Luymes worked at the store — owned by her cousins Val Vanaaken and Christy Luymes — as a summer job for eight years, and has been full time for the past three. A staff of eight people work there because it also has a restaurant, which offers a buffet on weekends.
“It’s been really busy. We actually sold 25 tubs of ice cream on (June 27) in six hours. It’s been crazy, especially with the heat.” They ran out of ice — something that hardly ever happens — that same weekend when temperatures in Central Alberta hovered around 30C.
The most popular ice cream flavours appear to be tiger and Rolo but they do sell a lot of plain vanilla as well, Luymes said.
Also a year-round store, the summer is busier because the beach is open.
A lot of people come in looking for things like ketchup, camping supplies like eggs and bacon, hot dog roasting sticks, table cloths, ropes, flashlights, said Luymes.
“Fishing gear in the winter is one of our biggest sales, live and frozen bait. Lots of people ask for different kinds of hooks. We try and help out as best as we can.”
This store also has something people from as far away as Texas want.
The area has a lot of people of Dutch ancestry so the store stocks a variety of Dutch food items like licorice, soups and cake mixes.
And for something unusual and indicative of the versatility of the summer beach store, they also sell modern style, black “wooden shoes” also known as klompens.
“I just got off the phone with a lady that is taking six pairs to Texas,” Luymes said.