by Sarah Lord on Tuesday February 21 2023
For Amy O’Neill, opening the Uphill Market — currently selling groceries, household goods, candy, coffee and prepared foods — has been a dream come true.
“We live a couple of doors away. I loved having the store here. It was so positive, such a perk of living here where we could send the kids to the store when they were young to get milk; Burrell’s would always have it,” says O’Neill.
“I had a desk job for the last eight years, and my neighbour across the street said, ‘oh, you should think about doing a store.’”
The Uphill Market takes the place of Burrell's Grocery at 1224 Stanley Street, which closed up operations August 6, 2020 due to economical hardship.
The original building was built in 1901, serving as a neighbourhood grocery with a single residential unit until the building was rezoned in 2021 to add to new residential units.
O’Neill, 42, lives with her husband and two children aged nine and eleven.
Her previous job of eight years was in Geographical Information Systems, making maps. She had needed a change for a while. She moved to Nelson 20 years ago to enrol in the Fish and Wildlife program at Selkirk College.
“I’ve been here for 20 years. My kids are local. We’re big outdoor mountain enthusiasts. We like mountain and road biking, skiing, hockey, and mostly recreating and being in the mountains,” says O’Neill.
From the conception of the Uphill Market as an idea to opening day was a “roller coaster,” says O’Neill, a first-time business owner.
When she heard that the corner store was up for sale, she considered buying the building.
“It was really, really run down, and I consider myself a relatively handy person, but this was way beyond my scope.”
She even went so far as to get the building inspection and asbestos report completed.
“It didn’t work out, and I was totally devastated. I found out who bought it and approached him, asking if I could lease it. That didn’t work out because it was so rundown.”
But O’Neill didn’t let go of her dreams for a whole year. And then, well into the next year after that, she heard from the new owner.
“He texted me and said, ‘the space is done. Do you still want to lease it?’ I immediately said yes, and we worked on a lease, and pretty much that day, I gave my notice at my other job.”
Since then, O’Neill, supported by family and friends, has put much work in to make her dream a reality.
“I’m totally happy and can’t believe it worked out. You never know what will happen in the future, but I hope it stays positive,” says O’Neill.
In January, O’Neill hosted a grand store opening, where community members came to check out the new space and enjoy a cup of complimentary coffee.
“It went well. Everyone seemed so happy that the store’s back. It was really positive,” says O’Neill.
So far, she has had a great turnout from neighbourhood kids, not surprisingly, to the candy counter, which had remained similar to when it was Burrell’s.
“The Trafalgar and South Nelson kids are generally pretty pumped to have a place where they can get candy after school.”
The store sells everything a typical corner store would, minus the cigarettes and lotto tickets.
Part of the charm of the new store is its history.
“I love the idea that it’s a historic building since 1902 and has been such a community hub in the past. It was more the location than the building. Just the fact that it is a convenient corner store. It’s so cool,” says O’Neill.
But O’Neill has a mystery on her hands that she hopes the community will help her solve. O’Neill explains:
“When Burrell’s was running, they had giant pictures of this corner store in the early 1900s, with street cars running and guys with top hats. When the last owners closed down, they gave them to some neighbours. There are no other pictures. I went to the antique store, Touchstones, and different places, looking for pictures. They are in somebody’s house.”
O’Neill hopes to track them down and asks anyone who knows about this to get in touch.
“I would so love to track them down and get a copy of them and put them up on the walls. It’s a total mystery. It would be so cool to have that little bit of history.”
While she waits for word on the photos, O’Neill will keep balancing being a new business owner with being a mom and coaching her kid’s hockey team.
The public is invited to drop by the new store or learn more about the business here at this website link.
The inside view of the new Uphill Market at 1224 Stanley Street in Nelson. — Submitted photo