The Good Ship Nettle

March 18, 2009

Nettleship’s Hardware. Photo scoffed from their website.

As you can see by the sign, Nettleship’s Paint and Hardware has occupied this piece of Parliament Street since 1920. The store was begun by Marg Taggart’s father (if you go here, you can mouse over her name and see her picture) . Although today the business is run by her son Don, Marg still continues to put in her hours. One or two daughters are still there as well, or at least they were when E.g. and I were in studying paint chips two years ago. Even Don’s Britanny Spaniel acts as greeter.

Marg shares gladly in the life of her neighbourhood, from little everyday things to bigger events. She participated as a judge in my blog’s “Name the WWF Sea Turtle Stuffy” contest. Jane and Robert tell me that one evening during one of the Cabbagetown community festivals, they saw her dance longer than anyone else in the room. She’s one heckuva septagenarian.

Yesterday evening, I realized with dismay that I would need another roll of packing tape. I headed the two blocks over to Nettleships, only to find that it was twelve minutes past closing.

Not that that mattered. A woman and a little girl pushed open the door just ahead of me. In the back section of the long, narrow store, Marg was chatting with someone. Don was serving a customer at the cash. So in I went.

In I went, and couldn’t find the tape. I’d gotten a roll here the week before, I knew where it was supposed to be; but a combination of the two-hour morning’s walkies to get mattress covers on Mount Pleasant Rd, the 90 minutes it took to disassemble our platform bed, the other hour taking apart the futon sofabed, the lack of supper, and the guilt at being in the store after hours, blinded me. Marg saw my helplessness, and came right over.

No no, we’re still open, she soothed. You’re moving? We’ll miss you, she sighed. New Brunswick? My friend has a daughter in Fredericton, she smiled. By the end of that dollar-sixty-eight transaction, I felt like one of the store’s best shareholders and closest neighbours, and wanted to shake her hand in farewell.

Toronto the Big used to have a nicer nickname: Toronto the Good.  It’s terrific to see a family-run store like Nettleship’s Paint and Hardware still contributing to this city’s kinder, gentler reputation.