By Brian Cromie
When Mary and I participated in the Manotick Messenger Shop Local Challenge 10 years ago, the battle was lost for want of a watch battery! In one of those V8 moments— “Wow, I could have bought it at Office Pro!”—I realized we lost the Challenge for no reason. I should have known Jim and Sheila at Office Pro would have a suitable battery and could expertly get the back off a watch and pop in a new power source. Such is the resourceful nature of this husband-and-wife team who serve Manotick faithfully from their Main Street location. The good news is that many people have been in for watch batteries since learning about them in this paper.
Office Pro carries all manner of stationery supplies, artists’ materials, gifts, cards, and an excellent selection of wool for knitting and sewing supplies. Most gifts are priced under $50. Jim and Sheila are members/shareholders of Guild Stationers, a Canadian owned Cooperative, from sea to sea to sea, which means quality products at fair prices. If they don’t have what you need, they can have it for you the next day. Services include laminating, binding, scanning, copying, fax transmission, engraving, preparing business cards and letterhead. You name it and they do it. And if they can’t, they will refer you to someone who can.
March 1 marked the start of their 39th year here in Manotick. Jim graduated from Queen’s University in 1965, then met and married Sheila later the same year. Following careers in teaching and accounting for Jim and for Sheila, the Health and Welfare Department Library, they purchased the Gift and Variety store in 1983. During the 80’s, Jim served as Councillor of Rideau Township, then as Mayor from 1991-1997. He was the Founding Member of the former Manotick Kinsmen Club, and serves the community now through Kiwanis. As well as co-chair for Dickinson Days, Jim manages the Saturday morning Pancake Breakfast, while Sheila shares responsibility for organizing 80 or more craft booths and is one of the faithful planners of the annual celebration.
Jim is currently Treasurer of the Manotick BIA and was for many years, Treasurer of the Manotick Curling Club as well as Treasurer of the Ottawa Valley Curling Association. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ontario Curling Association in recognition of his efforts.
The Stewarts also use their business to support this community. Their growing collection of works by local authors allows customers to purchase unique gifts they won’t find anywhere else. And have you noticed that if there’s a local fundraiser or concert coming up, Sheila always has tickets for sale? They do this free of charge as a community service.
Built as a home in the 1880’s, the Office Pro building has seen a succession of businesses but still retains the feel of an old house. It was used as Gamble’s Chevrolet dealership in 1918 when Main Street was a dirt road with more horses on it than cars, and has been a series of gift-related shops since the late 1950’s. The Stewarts have renovated a couple of times, most recently to make room for Nick’s Barbershop at the back. Jim says that one of his favorite business moments was when Nick’s, previously in the building two doors down Main Street, faced closure due to major renovations by the owner. Jim was able to find space for the popular barbershop to stay in the village. Yet one more form of community service for this incredibly special Manotick couple. Nick and his son Gino subsequently purchased the property from Jim and Sheila meaning that they will be able to operate the store for many years.