Brighton Clover Farm

Otherwise known as “Norman’s,” Brighton Clover Farm is a small, well-stocked grocery store tucked in the Brighton, the patrician residential area of Charlottetown.

My patrician friends have been waxing eloquent about Norman’s for as long as I can remember, but until Sunday I’d never done anything more than purchase a Globe and Mail there.

On Sunday, in preparation for Catherine Hennessey’s “Grocery Crisis Downtown” meeting (Coles Building, 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 6, everyone welcome), Don the Dentist, Catherine and I took a short tour of the grocery stores downtown, and one of our stops was Norman’s.

The most important thing to know about the place is that they sell six varieties of Montreal bagels, direct from the Fairmont Bagel. This fact immediately sets them ahead of any grocery store on the Island. Add to this a decent selection of Haagen Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, a credible assortment of Lebanese ingredients (including an good assortment of olive oils, always important in our slightly eponymous family), fresh produce, a meat counter, Lebanese coffee, magazines, video rentals, and an assortment of useful things like confetti, can openers, playing cards and shampoo, and I can’t see a reason for shopping anywhere else.

Norman himself is a very nice man, in my limited experience. Makes shopping at the “Super” Store feel all icky and impersonal.

Only downside: it’s just far enough out of our neighbourhood to be too far to walk, especially in the frigid cold we’ve had here recently.

Comments

Ken's picture
Ken on March 5, 2003 - 01:56

You can judge a neighborhood by it’s shops.
That’s why I don’t like cookie cutter subdivisions and giant chain stores — it leads to a global village of boring people. It also takes the fun out of travelling to other places only to discover the same stores and subdivisions.

Will's picture
Will on March 5, 2003 - 02:37

Having lived in Brighton for 14 of the last 16 years, Norman’s (as we regulars call it) has been my first choice for the purchase of food and toiletries.

As a young lad, a kind Norman sans grey hair would give me free candy anytime I stopped by. I saw his daughter and son go from teenagers to adults. Many trips were made upon my bike to provide the missing ingredient to a meal being cooked. If I arrived after closing time and he was still at the counter balancing the cash, he always let me in to make that late night purcahse of Cool Ranch Doritos and chocolate milk. He even let me open up a charge account and sign my name to anything I wanted when I didn’t have cash on hand.

Norman’s will forever be the standard against which I judge the neighrborhood corner store. None I’ve seen since have been able to surpass, or even match it.

Alan's picture
Alan on March 5, 2003 - 14:52

BAGELS!?!?!

Oh, well. I am still movin’

Rob's picture
Rob on March 5, 2003 - 19:18

I still remember the day Norman took over the Clover Farm from “Mr. Lord”. Having grown up in the area myself, and knowing the Saheli family virtually my whole life, I wouldn’t know where to start in describing how important Norman’s is to the neighbourhood and community. Great people, great store!

Matt's picture
Matt on March 6, 2003 - 13:12

Norman’s is almost a daily stop… to the point that when we do go to one of the big grocery stores (Superstore for instance), my son still calls it Normie’s. It’s the benchmark.

The man is a treasure and his son is carrying on the tradition of friendly, efficient service.

Andrew Chisholm's picture
Andrew Chisholm on March 7, 2003 - 22:54

The downtown needs a web site to state issues and promote it. I was hoping when the city got all that smart community money that they would boast the downtown on-line with it’s own web site, but that never happened. In fact, they don’t even give the downtown it’s own section on the city’s official web site.

Jerry Fay's picture
Jerry Fay on March 8, 2003 - 04:00

I like what you had to say about the Brighton Clover Farm. I find it ironic that you say it is to far from your neighbourhood to freqent. What have you been using since the co-op has closed in early February? Fast food delivery must be a staple in your family diet these days. If you think that the Brighton Clover Farm is too far; I guess we will never see you at the Super Store Or Sobeys.

Rob Paterson's picture
Rob Paterson on March 8, 2003 - 12:36

Everything that I have read tells me that trying to energise the downtown by a focus on the retailers fails. What does seem to work is to make it more attractive for folks to live in high density downtown. More residents = more shops etc. We will only walk a short way. Hence if you live in Peter’s House, Norman’s is too far away.

Toronto along Queen is a great example. Where my son lives at the foot of Atwater in Montreal is another. A Developer converted the old Dominioin textile building into lofts. This lead to others also developing the remaining industrial buildings. Now the area is jumping with the Attwater Market, a mass of shops plus one of the best Liquor Stoes in Canada. Cafes have opened and they are cleaning up the railine by the Lachine Canal and making it usable as a track and the canal as a boating byway.

The jump start was the factory reno and maybe 300 new residents.

Andrew Chisholm's picture
Andrew Chisholm on March 8, 2003 - 15:41

Downtown Charlottetown has no major residential complexes. The city should have addressed this issue before the Atlantic Tech Center was complex but they still have till 2005 before the new GOCB building will open downtown. One way of attracting a big boom of residents to a specific area of a city is jobs, them two buildings are creating lots of jobs. The city needs to press this issue and get a major apartment building on the rise soon.

Alan's picture
Alan on March 8, 2003 - 16:15

Isn’t that a fresh thought — to make business suceed you need to put people first! It is true but too radical for this province. Next thing you know, fixing problem of the open industrial use of chemicals to ensure safe rivers in the country might revive the flagging tourism industry.

2-el's picture
2-el on March 8, 2003 - 19:58

Is that your parting comment? Safe journey!

Alan's picture
Alan on March 8, 2003 - 20:30

Nope — the parting shot is the sound of me eating the bagels I got this morning…

Rob Paterson's picture
Rob Paterson on March 9, 2003 - 14:07

Hi Andrew
I think your point on the potential of the new downtown jobs to help with the residential issue is a good one.

Think of all the commuters to the downtown jobs now. Would not some middle-aged folks (like me) not prefer to end the round of outdoor chores such as shovelling snow etc and give up one car and all the related expenses and live downtown. I recall that a car costs between 4,000 and 10,000 (depending on whether you still finance it) a year to run. It cost me $45 to fill up this week! What about the time issue as well? Living downtown means a gentle stroll to work — maybe come home for Nooners? Going to the movies a minute walk to City Cinema. Dinner a minute to Sirenella

Not just office workers but students could be involved. All the students at ATHI are from away. Where do they live? I bet that they have to have a car — but if they lived downtown maybe they would not. The Ghetto that surrounds McGill is a great place with masses of cafes and shops.

Andrew Chisholm's picture
Andrew Chisholm on March 10, 2003 - 01:03

Rob, housing is definitely a major issue downtown. I was apartment shopping for downtown before I moved to Halifax and any apartments I could find in the core were either a) dirty crap holes or b) not worth the high price tag.

I have on several occasions addressed this issue in The Guardian and directly to city hall. I don’t understand why the city does not get a loan to build a major residential complex downtown and allow a third party company to manage the building. The city would make its money back eventually but in the process it would put life back into the downtown. The more people who have living in one area the more business opportunities there is.

If you owned a big company and were shopping around for a new city to open your world HQ would you pick Charlottetown? Of course not! To run a big company you need employees, your employees need a place to live. Downtown Charlottetown does not offer that.

Charlottetown is the cheapest capital in Canada in witch to do business, city hall is not taking advantage of that. Charlottetown, well PEI in general, would rather milk the hell out of the past (Confederation and Anne) and not build for the future.

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