Something to crow about
Wilkins Mercantile harkens back to Loyalist roots
In 1794, Robert Wilkins arrived in Carrying Place after being awarded 5,000 acres of land for his service to the Crown. Wilkins was a United Empire Loyalist who had fought and been wounded at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775 during the American Revolutionary War. He had subsequently set up a business in New York before returning to Britain and then ultimately to Carrying Place. His son, also named Robert, was the first commanding officer of the Picton Regiment and established a thriving crockery- import business after the war of 1812, supplying the area between Ottawa, Montreal and Quinte. Another descendant, Robert Wilkins III, supplied clothes, including overalls, to the Canadian Pacific Railway. He was Lizanne Donnelly’s great-grandfather.
When Donnelly was developing her business in Wellington, she decided to pay tribute to her ancestor’s merchant heritage. Wilkins Mercantile is the latest shop to join the vibrant cluster of stores and services at the southeast corner of West and Main Streets in the village.
Its logo, borrowing from her great-grandfather’s company, is a stylized rooster with the slogan “I Crow OverAll.”
Donnelly’s new store provides gift items for the home and garden, hand made from either new or repurposed materials. Her suppliers are mostly Canadian, but she does stock a line of Swiss handbags made from recycled Swiss army materials. She also carries a number of local, County-sourced products: Nyman Farms maple syrup, hand-turned bowls from Paul Ross of Bloomfield and fabric products from both Pat Sztuke and Heather Case. “These are gifts that are unique, that are practical, and some that are bespoke with a little bit of customization,” says Donnelly. “We have such a large component of visitors to the area. I certainly want to give them a nice broad selection of things to bring home so they have a great memory of Prince Edward County, but I also think the local people are looking for nice, affordable gifts.”
Donnelly has lived in Wellington for about 15 years and has been involved in marketing and public relations, as well as introducing visitors to the many County wineries. This is the experience that has led her to this venture. “I’ve always been very interested in the local tourism sector,” she says. “I’ve enjoyed introducing [people] to the wineries and learning more about visitors coming to the area, and that information and interaction has certainly helped me get excited about opening up a retail store. I know that people are coming here and looking for fabulous things to take home.”
The store had been open for a few weekends in the early spring as a test run for its official opening on the Victoria Day long weekend. Donnelly expects to be open five days a week through the tourist season and plans to remain open year-round, although as an avid skier she will take some downtime in the off-season to indulge in her passion.