Customers lined up during Slocum & Ferris’ last day Saturday as the business closed after 129 years in operation at the Saint John City Market.Andrew Bates, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Slocum and Ferris owner Corey Dugas said he was “overwhelmed” by the reaction as the business closed its doors Saturday after 129 years in the Saint John City Market.

“The love I felt from this amazing city was amazing, it was perfect.,” he told Brunswick News. “The comments, I just didn’t realize how many people we touched, it was nice to hear. We sold out by like 3 p.m.”

Dugas announced in a social media post Friday that the business would be closing the following day after three years at the helm, citing the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and declining traffic due to consumer costs. Dugas bought the business with Joanna Killen in January 2021 from Dave Forestell and Sherrie Boyd, who ran it for 32 years, and took over as sole owner in September 2022.

The business was started as a vegetable fruit and wares stand, Dugas said, and was owned by two farms that would bring items to market. For years, it was operating as an eatery serving breakfast and lunch, along with coffee and baked goods.

“I’m going to miss the people,” he said. “The customers, the market families, the people you work with the other stalls become your family. Some of the regulars, that’s what makes Saint John, the characters of these people.”

Dugas said he’d always loved the city market, growing up in Rothesay, and coming in for breakfast or snacks, and “always loved Slocum’s,” saying he’d wanted to be “the owner for the next 30 years” when he bought it.

“You can’t make people to come in, if there’s no people uptown, the office towers are not full anymore. The business people who worked in the towers are the people who ate lunch,” he said, also saying affordability was an issue, making lunch “an easier thing to cut.”

Killen said Saturday she was “feeling sad but not surprised. Unfortunately, it’s been a long road that we’ve been on.”

The city councillor’s first job was in the market at age 16 at the Wild Carrot and buying the business with Dugas was “full-circle” for her, according to the 2021 announcement. It’s been “Corey’s baby” since she exited in 2022, she said.

“I think he’s done everything in his power to make this work,” said Killen. “With the state of the market and the state of the economy and restaurant industry in general, it was too overwhelming for him to manage – not without trying, though.”

In addition to Dugas, there were two “phenomenal” staff, including one who’d been there 23 years, Dugas said.

“We made this into a safe place for Saint John,” he said. “I had someone tell me that whether you had a home or no home, no matter what your choice is of who you are, you were safe here. You could come in, always they would have a smile and a chat with you. That felt good to hear that, because that’s what I wanted to project.”

Dugas said they donated leftover food twice a week for Chroma NB’s lunch program, feeding 15-20 kids each day, and he said he’d “miss that.” The business displayed several pride flags prominently, and Dugas, who is bisexual, queer and polyamorous, said he was glad he could offer the eatery as a safe space for LGBTQ+ people.

“I didn’t understand the meaning of what that would be there until people were telling me,” he said. “I’m proud of who I am and I’m glad I could give that space to other people … people who see the flag and know everywhere they see the flag, they’re going be treated well, can ask questions and not be ridiculed.”

Killen said the business will leave a hole for “a lot of people who care a lot about this place and the mission of it.”

“I think when Corey came in and made it its own, he made it a place that was so welcoming, especially to the queer community,” she said. “There’s been so much community work done around the business … a big hole will be left in the market without it.”

The now vacant space beside Slocum & Ferris was Sagrati’s until it closed up last year. At a meeting March 4, Saint John Common Council voted to approve Charlotte Street Bakery and Jo’s Samosas, who had been a temporary vendor, to other spots in the market.

“The City Market continually works to welcome a variety of new and unique vendors to the Market space,” communications manager Erin White said March 5.

A request for comment on Slocum & Ferris’s closure has been made, and Brunswick News is waiting for a response.

Dugas said he’s optimistic for the market’s 10-year strategic plan unveiled last year, that he’s hoping for a good summer and said there’s “so much positive” going on in the city.

“I believed in the city, I still do, I believe in the City Market,” he said, later adding, it’s going to come back … you’re going to see this place turn around again. I just won’t make it.”

Dugas previously owned a management consultancy and worked with startups. He said he’ll take time “to heal” before turning the page on his next chapter.

“I’m excited for my future knowing I gave everything I had to this place,” he said. “I’ve got no regrets, I wish it didn’t end, but, y’know.”

By Andrew Bates, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 12, 2024 at 21:05

This item reprinted with permission from   Telegraph-Journal   Saint John, New Brunswick
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