New Friday Series: ImPort Stanley

Port Stanley Beach on the shore of Lake Erie as seen through the helicopter windshield

It will not come as a surprise to you that Ms. Clever Pants, Erin Davis, came up with the title. She proposed it for the name of a side hustle I was contemplating. But Port Stanley, like many small towns, is all about local-local-local. Importing stuff, or implying it’s imported, doesn’t excite them. However, we are imports.

And that’s what I’ll write about. Moving to a small, quaint, sweet lakeside down where people flock in summer. In cold weather, as one shop-owner put it, “I get to see the locals again.” Living in a part-time tourist trap is a world away from visiting it on occasion. We came here often over the years, and if it was too busy, we simply hightailed it out. When you live here, you get the benefits of the town’s beauty. But you also adjust to certain things. Our home is close enough for a short walk into town or to the water. But it’s far enough that we can almost forget we’re in a tourism locale. Almost!

The Subject of Gossip

Poking through the offerings and chatting at a village shop, someone said, “You’ve probably heard the locals complaining about you moving here.” Um, no, we haven’t. People are unfailingly friendly. Everyone waves or says hello. What kind of lunatic would tell us to our faces that they resent us?

“Oh, they’re worried that everything will change. They don’t want changes.”

Well, then, they should have fought harder against the developers who bought up the land – including a floodplain for another build – and made it so darn attractive. Our new home development, and four others that are either underway or recently completed add a few thousand people to the official population of about 2,800. Plus, we pour money into the local economy and pay new taxes. We want to assimilate, not change the town.

While we keep their merchants busier and pay for infrastructure and the like, a minority of them can chirp amongst themselves if they so choose. We’re not blocking anyone’s view of the water or otherwise harming NIMBY sensibilities. These folks probably also complain about tourists who keep the restaurants going while enjoying the beaches. Sorry, Crabby Cathy, you can’t have the lake all to yourself even if your family has lived here since the 1800s. The merchants are happy to see us and even happier for our business.

Please, Go Changing

Change has been good for this town. Friends who remember coming here decades ago recall a scrubby little ugly village, albeit on the water. On long summer weekends, they’d come to Port Stanley to party (underage) because they knew the cops were all up around Grand Bend. This town had a reputation for vandals; bored teenagers with nothing better to do than destroy someone else’s property. It’s not like than anymore. Through careful planning, the beaches are beautiful and downtown is adorable with plenty of interesting shops. Why else would tourists come here like steel bits to a magnet every time the sun comes out? In summer, families arrive in the thousands. It’s also safe. (As safe as anywhere can be.)

In coming weeks I’ll share what it’s like for a gal who has lived in Toronto, Hamilton, London, and other cities, to adjust to small town, lakeside living. Adjustments we’ve made. The reasons why we’ve finally dug in here, and the people and places that make it unique. We’ll visit Waffle Weiney, the Little Beach shop, and a groovy ice-cream parlor that’s found its niche in unusual offerings. I’ll introduce you to Mild Bill (he used to be Wild Bill!) and other characters. It’s an escape from the city through the eyes of an import, in Port Stanley.

One ImPort Nugget

Here’s a lesson we learned the hard way. As mentioned, our home is far enough away from village action that we have no sense of what’s happening there. Occasionally we can hear the crashing waves when it’s windy. Or the faint sounds of live music from the legion lawn. So, we try to walk down through town nearly every day. And check the local Facebook pages.

On our first long weekend we thought we’d try some local fare. The Buccaneer boasts fresh perch and I called and ordered our dinners for Derek to pick up. It was loud in the background but I didn’t even think about it being Saturday night on a long summer weekend. D’oh!

It should have been a ten minute trip. It took him forty minutes to pick up our food! The restaurant was packed and only doing take-out orders. People were sitting in their cars and calling in for food. Derek had to make his way through a human curtain of lingering people to reach the counter. He came back looking like he’d been at Walmart on Black Friday. But even cold, the fish was superb.

So, yeah, we got a little caught up in the joy of moving to the lake at first. And we’re still joyful about it. But we’re smarter, too. Well, we think we are. That will be for you to decide on future Fridays.

4 thoughts on “New Friday Series: ImPort Stanley”

  1. From Woodstock, we have a tendency to visit the 11th largest lake on the planet from Turkey Point eastward and I’ve only been to Port Stanley twice. I’ve enjoyed my visit both times and have certainly read about what happens there through the London Free Press or social media posts/images of their local theatre productions, Mackie’s fries or waves crashing on the embankments by the lighthouse.
    I’ll look forward to your stories and compare them to what my wife and I enjoy from our perch just a few kilometers from Wheatley – the World’s Largest Fresh Water Commercial Fishing Port … an impressive if not cumbersome handle. I love these little lake Erie shoreline communities with their , never ending fresh fish, produce, sea glass and oh … did I mention the wine? Keep up the great writing Lisa and as always – hi to Rock!

  2. What a sweet addition to your repertoire Ms Lisa – and I’m flattered as heck that you gave our little inspiration, credit. May it fuel you as you settle in and share the stories. Your way with words is insightful and delightful. Thank you for all of it. Your biggest fan, E.

  3. I love living here and have also heard some grumbling of the newbies in Port. I have not met one so far (or maybe the just do it behind your back). One of the greatest things is doing yoga on the beach or Nia doing this makes my heart sing. The shops are amazing as well as the resturants. We have also found new friends that are amazing, our neighbors Lisa and Derek. Awesome people. Oh and they love our dog Gracie and thats a big plus for us.
    Carol

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