Young’s General Store has been welcoming visitors through its front doors for over 40 years. When Bill and Anita Young first opened Young’s Gift & Bait Shop in 1971 they knew that their store would be a special place offering visitors and residents alike a one of a kind shopping experience.
Even after a devastating fire in 1979, Bill Young was reconstructing in no time. Today, Young’s General Store is a beloved part of Wawa’s unique cultural landscape and a must see for tourists travelling along Lake Superior’s Circle Tour.
Bill Young was a Sault Ste. Marie businessman who came to Wawa after the construction of the Trans-Canada Highway to operate the Steel City Coach Lines. Along with providing Wawa residents with a regular bus service to Sault Ste. Marie, Bill became an active member of the community. He fell in love with Wawa and was a strong advocate of promoting tourism and recreation in this remote northern town.
Bill was a long-time member of the Wawa Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce. He was responsible for inspiring the Wawa Winter Carnival which has become a legendary annual weekend event celebrating winter fun and activities every February. Bill was also one of the first local businessmen to recognize the value and importance of promoting snowmobiling trails between Wawa and our neighboring communities.
Bill loved people and had a keen sense for knowing what tickled their fancy. Bill could sometimes be found sitting on old milk cans next to one of the pot-bellied wood stoves which used to heat the store. Young’s store was packed inside and out with items that made everyone want to browse and enjoy the store. Animals were always a big hit. Bill’s goat and donkey made headlines when complaints resulted in the local police force confiscating both animals. With the sudden disappearance of Bill’s latest attractions, Bill published an advertisement in the local paper which read LOST & FOUND – SOMEONE got my GOAT and took my “ASS” (donkey). Anyone knowing where-abouts of same please notify BILL at YOUNG’S GIFT & BAIT SHOP. Suspect believed to be driving Police cruiser.
Although he never admitted it publicly, one of Bill’s most legendary promotional antics was painting goose prints on Highway 101 directly behind our famous Wawa Goose. Rumours had it that the Goose was sometimes seen walking over to the airport to spread his wings and on the return flight would land on Highway 101 before stepping back up on its cement base. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Transportation could not permit any unauthorized markings on the Queen’s highway and painted over the goose prints. Twice!
Bill died suddenly in 1988. Anita and her three sons have continued the Young legacy. Young’s General Store continues to attract tourists from all over the world. If you look closely, you will likely still be able to see the pot-bellied wood stove in the middle of the store with an old milk can sitting next to it.
At 4:30 a.m. on a chilly April morning in 1979, the Young’s husky named Tonka woke the family up from a dead sleep with his anxious barking. Minutes later Young’s Gift & Bait Shop, and much of their attached home burned to the ground. Bill and Anita Young and their three small children lost almost everything. They were however alive and thankful for Tonka and the Michipicoten Volunteer Fire Department for saving their lives and doing all they could to fight the fire.
Within months, Bill and Anita were rebuilding and starting anew. In no time at all a brand new bigger store was open for business and has continued to be one of Wawa’s most popular tourist attractions ever since.
Henrietta the Moose
Wawa has its famous Wawa Goose….and Young’s General Store has its famous Henrietta the Moose. Henrietta first wandered onto the porch at Young’s General Store in the mid 90’s. She was an immediate hit with residents and tourists alike. Everyone wanted to get their photo taken with Henrietta the Moose!
In May 2001 just as the Young family was preparing for their busiest tourist season, Conservation Officers came to the door requesting Henrietta’s assistance in an important court case. Henrietta was carefully transported to Sault Ste. Marie with a promise that she would eventually be returned.
Henrietta the Moose was immediately missed. One year passed and still no sign of Henrietta. Understandably distraught residents initiated a yellow ribbon campaign and posted Moose Crossing signs in their front windows in support of bringing Henrietta home. Local politicians and residents wrote letters to the Minister of Natural Resources demanding her return. Members of the Provincial Legislature even wore yellow ribbons to help promote Wawa’s growing appeal to the M.N.R.
Exactly two years after her departure, and after much media attention, Henrietta was finally sent home to welcoming arms. Young’s General Store is happy to have their famous mascot back on the front porch to welcome guests and have her photo taken with hundreds of visitors every year.