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Manitoba grocer's Remembrance Day gesture generates goodwill

Bigway Foods decides to hold off decorating for the holidays

Ginette Maynard may be the manager of the Bigway Foods store in St-Pierre-Jolys, Man. But she says the real boss is head cashier Aurise McFarlane.

"When she talks, we listen," Maynard said from the independent food store in the town of 1,100, a half-hour drive south of Winnipeg.

It was McFarlane, she said, who decided on Tuesday to hold off on stocking the store's shelves with Christmas candies, decorations and other holiday products until after Remembrance Day.

Instead she set up a makeshift memorial at the front of the store and pinned poppies, a "Lest we forget" sign, and photos of her husband's parents, both of them Second World War veterans, on a peg board next to some empty shelves.

"It was really nice," said Maynard.  "Everybody who came in was impressed (and) we invited people to add their own pictures."

Since then, about a dozen more photos of local veterans have been placed on the empty shelf, as well as letters from their families.

The initiative took on a life of its own on Wednesday, however, when a local journalist dropped by, took photos of the memorial, and posted them on social media.

"It went viral," said Maynard.  "Oh my gosh, we've been getting calls from journalists all over Canada."

All the attention hasn't been lost on veterans' organizations.

"I've read with interest the remarks people are making on Facebook and Twitter about (the store's memorial)," said Bill Richards, a retired RCMP officer and president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 190 in the nearby town of Steinbach.

"People are very humbled by it, and support seems to be growing for the idea that businesses should put off Christmas commercially until after Nov. 11 as a sign of respect," he said.

For her part, Maynard said she and the store's 19 employees, as well as its two couple-owners –Luc and Corinne Peloquin, and Derek and Carol Chubey–are all for making it a tradition.

"If Aurise lets us," quipped Maynard. "But I think she will.  She's ecstatic about how this has turned out."

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