When we went to the Westfield Heritage Village, one of the most interesting buildings was the original country general store. The aged wooden floors, authentic lace clothing, original catalogues spread open on the wide wooden counters. A shopkeeper stood behind the counters ready to address your individual needs. You could smell the raw materials everything was made of. There was nothing mass-produced about it, and it was glorious.
Fast forward 200 years, Black & Smith is the contemporary equivalent. We had heard nice things about the store but finally made the trip because we needed a special present for our friend Chris and Francine’s wedding (way to go, you guys!). We knew immediately we’d come to the right place. Everything was placed just so, with each wall of items more interesting than the last. The building is small, but it doesn’t feel crowded; there was even a table set with flowers for visitors to enjoy their coffee, which Black & Smith also serves.
We loved how everything was clearly handmade, with the inconsistencies that make a piece unique. 90% of the store’s items are made in Canada. We were particularly fond of the bags and purses, the handmade wooden toys, the large whimsical stamped pillows, the compostable and reusable party supplies (wooden forks and glass straws), and of course – Emma’s pottery, which we ultimately chose for our wedding gift.
Emma’s work is all wood-fired, so every piece is absolutely unique, the colour and patterns determined by the heat and path of the flame. We had a nice conversation about the logistics of selling her pieces, since her designs are never guaranteed and sometimes difficult to identify as a large set. But one artist’s challenge can be an attractive proposition – the individuality of her pieces make them all the more special and desirable. She has quite the range of pieces too, to begin a collection – trays, bowls, vases, glasses, mugs and serving dishes.
If you have any measure inside you at all of being an artist or a designer or a DIY enthusiast, you will leave this shop feeling as inspired as having left a fancy art gallery, and as capable as having left the home of an encouraging old friend. Needless to say, we’ll be back here to buy our next gifts, and recommend you pay a visit too!
A final, wonderful thing about the Black & Smith Country General is its proximity to nowhere. Situated in Jerseyville, people often find the store simply by driving through on their route to avoid traffic on main roads. But if you head to Jerseyville intentionally you will find it on the path of the rail trail, perfect for long walks and bike rides. Heading east from the main road in the direction of Dundas is a lovely swath of forest, and back west toward Brantford there are miles and miles of country roads.
On this day, we chose the full sun of the farmland walk to avoid bug bites. We thoroughly enjoyed the vast emptiness of corn fields just beginning to grow, an interesting divergence from adjusting to our new family life as four and the chaos that sometimes entails. We look forward to returning in a few weeks to see how the landscape has (and we have) changed in just a short time.