When Mackenzie and Leanne Carter opened the Elgin Country Kitchen and General Store on February 26, 2020, there hadn’t been a store in Elgin for over three years. The community responded with overwhelming positive support. The first Saturday featured a music night and people lined up to get into the dining area.
To showcase the history of Elgin, the Carters asked for photos from days gone by and worked with digital designer Eric Goggin to create a wall collage dating back 100 years. This stunning wall display is, in itself, an excellent reason to take a drive to Elgin!
When you approach the building, you can’t help but notice the sign. The logo includes a colourful rooster atop the store surrounded by the rolling hills of Elgin with the rising sun in the background. Once you step inside, you’ll see the large dining area at the front of the building. The country kitchen boasts an on-site smoker and provides “small-town fine fare,” with home-style comfort food such as smoked meats, fresh salads, desserts made in-house, and dishes flavoured with pure maple syrup.
At the back of the building, you’ll find the general store, supplying convenience items, as well as local maple products and Elgin T-shirts.
“Cubby Corner” is an indoor play space for children containing toys, a floor-to-ceiling chalkboard and a children’s lending library. A volunteer-based story time for children up to age eight is scheduled once a week.
General Manager and Chef, Josh Jones, oversees nine temporary staff, offering courteous, friendly and helpful service.
The first few weeks were very busy, with staff adapting their strategies daily to keep pace. Then the pandemic arrived. The goal of the business is to function for the people of the Elgin area. The Carters agreed to keep the doors open, providing products and services for all, especially for those who felt unsettled leaving the community during the pandemic. They then decided to offer take-away fine food in compliance with government regulations; this has been very well-received.
As of mid-June, the restaurant is once again open to the public for dining in, as well as offering take-away. Also, picnic tables are now available for eating outdoors.
The Carters say their biggest challenge so far has been keeping up with the demand. They are very grateful to the community for the ongoing support and are pleased to be able to offer local employment opportunities.
Their vision for the future is growth with plans that include gas pumps, their own brand of local products, a farmers’ market to sell fresh local produce, and a liquor licence to permit serving wine and beer in the restaurant. They envision a whole range of events, such as kitchen parties, music nights, dart evenings, outside gatherings, car rallies, carnivals and activities for children. They aim to provide the community with events that people will enjoy.
Mackenzie grew up in Elgin, just up the road from the store. Leanne, who is from Alberta, has a background in human resources, hospitality and the restaurant industry. Together they have four young boys, all named after beloved family members on both sides. Owning a store in Elgin is a Carter family tradition. Just across the road from the Elgin Country Kitchen and General Store is the site of the former Carter’s Esso, which was owned by Mackenzie’s grandparents, Jean and Lionel Carter, for almost 29 years.
The store in Elgin was a meeting place for many years; local people and visitors alike are delighted that this community hub is up and running once again. Opening hours are 9am to 8pm seven days a week (with reduced hours during the pandemic). To learn more about this exciting new venture, follow Elgin Country Kitchen and General Store on Facebook and Instagram.