Mary Gentile Talks to Linda Williamson about the Changes in Schreiber's Retail Industry

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Mary Gentile Talks to Linda Williamson about the Changes in Schreiber's Retail Industry

Mary Gentile is a life-long resident of Schreiber, with years of experience in our town's education, child-care, volunteering and the retail sectors.

In this episode of Community Connections, Linda Williamson speaks with Mary about what it was like growing up here, the many changes to life in the town over the years, and why Mary is hopeful for Schreiber and its people.

Schreiber was always a railroad town and owes its success to an influx of hardworking immigrants during those early years. Many of them came from Italy seeking a better life and trying to escape from war. While many took up jobs with the railroad, others started businesses that often carried on for many generations. Over the last few years most of these family businesses have ceased operations or have been taken over by a new breed of entrepreneurs arriving as new Canadians. 

Mary Gentile, whose parents arrived from Italy in the late 1950’s, was born and raised in Schreiber and has held many positions in Schreiber during her working career.

She has always been involved in many charities and community organizations. Her first memorable work experience was working as a volunteer at a child care centre with mothers and children. When the centre folded she quickly applied to become a supply teacher and spent time at both the Catholic and the Public schools. She continued working with the schools for the next 30 years even while she found an additional job at the local department store.

Spadoni’s was a family run business originally started by an Italian family that had immigrated to Canada in the 1920’s. In 1987 the store became part of the Home Furniture chain. Mary recalls her experience working in the store with much fondness. Over the years retail has experienced many changes and still the store managed to survive and adapt.

During the outbreak of COVID, not only the schools were shut down but the store was forced to close to the public as well. Mary was able to still help customers during the pandemic by adhering to the required restrictions but still offering a service to customers with the only restriction being that no deliveries would be made. Customers gladly picked up their own items and in many cases not being able to service the many stoves and fridges and dishwashers often resulted in customers purchasing replacement units. 

Mary is passionate about living in Schreiber and when she met her husband to be she was thrilled that he intended to stay in Schreiber as well. Domenic had also came from Italy when he was just a young man and eventually adapted to the northern lifestyle. 

Linda asked Mary about her thoughts on the future of Schreiber and her insight into the past and present makes her feel like there is indeed a bright future for Schreiber still despite all the economic challenges facing small towns and the changing face of retail. She embraces the new people coming to settle in Schreiber and sees them as the hope for the future

On a sadder note, shortly after this interview was recorded, the Spadoni’s Home Furniture store would shut it’s doors permanently. The property remains empty to this day.


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Video Upload Date: August 29, 2023

Schreiber Community Media is a non profit organization established with the aim of providing media production services and training for the residents of Schreiber and surrounding areas.  Schreiber is located on the north shore of Lake Superior approximately two hours east of Thunder Bay. 

The Schreiber Media Centre is locating in the Schreiber Public Library and includes tools for  recording, live streaming and post production of audio and video. 

Volunteers welcome! 


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