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'There were lots of tears' Tony DeMarco

Tony Demarco and his daughter Lisa stand outside their store this morning. Photos by Jeff Turl . Ninety-four year old Tony Demarco pulled me gently aside and whispered, “I want to tell you about the hardest part.

Tony DeMarco and his daughter Lisa stand outside their store this morning. Photos by Jeff Turl.

Ninety-four-year-old Tony DeMarco pulled me gently aside and whispered, “I want to tell you about the hardest part."

Tony's eyes were watering as he talked about closing a family restaurant that he had worked at for most of his life.

“The hardest part was getting notice papers ready for our employees,” he said in a voice that carried the pain of hurting people he considers family members.

“There were lots of tears over that. It was very, very hard.”

The iconic store will close for good Sunday, November 30, after 85 years of creating friendships and memories.

"We're sad, it's very emotional," owner Lisa DeMarco told BayToday this morning.

“I’ll miss my friends. My customers are my friends, these people are family to me” she said.

“My customers and my family, we celebrate birthdays in the store. It’s just that feeling---that homey feeling that is by far my favourite.

“Everybody is welcome in our store. Everybody got to know each other, and you can always come into the store and find someone to talk to---there’s always someone you know in here.

“We have customers that sit in the same seat every day.”

Lisa has been working at the store since she was 15---she’s 55 now, and her mother Joan passed away this year.

Her grandmother Antoinette opened the store back in 1928.

But she has her aging Dad Tony she is caring for, and “times are changing”.

“People go to the big stores now. In the old days, people came and got all their groceries here. Sunday was our busiest day of the week, but those things have changed,” she said wistfully.

“There would be so many kids sitting outside that the police would come along on Friday and Saturday nights and clear them away, but they’d all come back.”

But those days have faded into memory.

“We’re going to take some time off and re-assess where we’re at. We’re feeling our way through it right now.”

The DeMarcos will put the space up for rent.

Customers stop by every morning to chat and everyone brings their own individual coffee mug. Photo by Jeff Turl.

Her loyal customers agree that the closing will leave a big hole in their lives. Numerous groups gather for coffee and chats every morning.

One group of friends has been meeting at DeMarco’s for over 25 years.

“It’s a North Bay tradition,” says Marty Brown. “I’ve been coming since the sixties.”

Loyal coffee club member Stella Caicco isn’t looking forward to that final day.

“We’re all gonna bring a box of Kleenex,” she said.

Tony DeMarco, deep down, knows the time is right.

He calls it “freedom 94” and as he looks at the pictures of celebrities hanging on the wall that have paid a visit to the store, the memories come flooding back.

“We had all kinds of people---different celebrities up there, lots of sports stars and mayors. Bob Wood (former MP) comes here every day.”

As the end approaches, Lisa DeMarco has a special perspective on the life that she and her Dad have enjoyed there.

"It’s been unbelievable. Who gets that chance in life? We’ve spent every day together. It’s an amazing experience.
“I’ve learned from that man every single day. Every day he teaches me something, whether it’s how to live, or how to run the store, or how to treat people. He teaches me every day.”

Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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