Williamsburg entrepreneur Sherry Mowat has spent more than a decade perfecting the recipe for running a successful country store.
A combined gas bar, convenience store, bakery, LCBO outlet, takeaway kitchen and wildly popular bakery, Sherry’s – located north of Morrisburg in South Dundas – is poised for further expansion after acquiring the former municipal building adjacent to the one-stop shop.
Already catering to customers from some 500 cars a day – even amid the pandemic – coming off County Road 31, Mowat says she wanted the parking lot that came with the old Williamsburg Township headquarters first and foremost, as well as control over what might happen next door to her business.
There are still questions over what will become of the building on the property, which Mowat purchased for $349,000. A final decision on the structure’s future is on hold while Mowat cuts through a legal entanglement with the previous private owner over taxes owing.
Mowat expects that to happen before September and is champing at the bit to clean and shore up the one-storey, 4,500 square-foot building while musing over how best to use it.
“We’re still growing and there’s a lot of untapped potential here,” she says.
Since she established Sherry’s in Williamsburg just north of Morrisburg, Mowat says she has gained a solid idea of her overall investment, which is “small compared to what the return is, and will be, not only for myself but for the community and the people we employ.”
Originally from Barrhaven, Mowat operated country stores in other communities before opening Sherry’s about six years ago.
During 40 years in retail, Mowat has learned a lot about what people want. Her experience includes a stint operating a slaughterhouse with a sales outlet at South Mountain, and a convenience store at Heckston that’s similar to her current business, but on a smaller scale.
Asked for her secret to success, she says it’s just a matter of giving customers what they want in welcoming, friendly surroundings.
A former trucker, Mowat credits her late husband, Rick, for spotting the potential in slow-paced Williamsburg that would have eluded many others. She demolished an old house-and-store combo to make way for the existing building where she is adjusting constantly to meet customer demand and preferences.
Each day, Sherry’s serves a steady stream of masked and sanitized customers who pull in for everything from gas and groceries to fresh-baked bread and buns, alcohol and full meals to go served by a baker’s dozen of staff, including the owner.
While Sherry’s has been growing, it’s been building a legion of sometimes guilty-pleasure fans across eastern Ontario. In addition to moving up to 100 fruit and cream pies weekly, Sherry’s regionally famous, store-baked butter tarts sell out virtually as fast as the store can make them.
Mowat sells five dozen tarts every day, including to one customer who gets a pack a week and slips them under his truck seat where his wife can’t spot them and lecture him about his bad dietary choices.