Ron and Bonnie had a great team helping them make the Winchester Service Centre a success over the years. Left to right are Emma McRostie, Kayla Nagerl, Ron Blanchard, Bonnie Holliday and Kenzie Baron. Absent from the photo is Alia McNoughton. Morin Photo
WINCHESTER – A landmark Winchester business is closing its doors.
The Winchester Service Centre at the south end of the village of Winchester closed its doors on Sat., Aug. 6.
The family business managed and operated by Ron Blanchard also sold gas and tires, featured a convenience store and also had a car detailing section.
The property and business are for sale and the owner is hoping the business can carry on with a new set of owners.
Blanchard and his late wife Gaetane started the Winchester Service Centre in 1998. Gaetane passed away in 2008. Years later, Bonnie Holliday met Ron and the two continued on the business.
Blanchard explained, “In 1998 I had the chance to work for myself. A car mechanic, Lawrence Young came to me and said this place was for sale. [I thought,] if I can work so hard for other people, why can’t I work for myself.”
Back then there were five gas stations in and around Winchester.
Blanchard remembers that Winchester was a lot smaller than today. Everyone knew everyone and business was done on a lot smaller scale than today.
Over the following 24 years, the Winchester Service Centre grew and changed. A convenience store was added and in 2001 a chip wagon was included in their operation.
By 2000, Blanchard and his family had renovated the service station and built living quarters on one side of the business and gave the other side to a convenience store operation. A separate building housed the service area, tire sales and car detailing operations.
The chip wagon, service station and centre, gas pumps and detailing section form a cluster of buildings on a lot at the south end of Winchester right where County Road 31 exits into Winchester.
“I ran the gas bar and service centre, my wife ran the chip wagon, and my son ran the garage,” said Blanchard.
Blanchard said when business was slow, the chip wagon helped them out.
“The chip wagon helped us out a great deal,” he said.
The couple had a change in fortune in 2016, when just before Blanchard’s birthday he won a million-dollar lottery from Heart and Stroke. The good fortune allowed them to buy a hobby farm in Elma, Ontario in 2017. The hobby farm is something they both are looking forward to being able to spend more of their time on once their Winchester business is closed.
Despite the lottery win, the couple still enjoyed coming to Winchester to work each day.
“It was not unusual to work 12-hour days,” said Blanchard. But now the couple feel it is time to move on.
He says he will miss his many customers who became his friends.
“Some of them have been coming here for the past 20 years,” he said.
He feels he has been very lucky.
Retirement on the hobby farm means doing more gardening and spending time together said Blanchard.
Bonnie and Ron are still hoping they will find someone to buy the business, or at the very least the property it is on.
Joseph Morin is the Editor of the Eastern Ontario AgriNews, and the Record. He is, despite years of practice, determined to eventually play the guitar properly. He has served the Eastern Ontario community as a news editor, and journalist for the past 25 years with the Iroquois Chieftain, Kemptville Advance, West Carleton Review, and Ottawa Carleton Review in Manotick. He has never met a book he did not like.