Charlene Belsher

Owner, The Old General Store

Guernsey Cove

Charlene was born in Nova Scotia, with family roots in PEI. Raised in an Air Force family, she's lived in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. She and her husband fell in love with a century farmhouse in Guernsey Cove while visiting over 30 years ago, and settled in the next year. Decades later, with two grown daughters and careers, they're still in love with the house, the Island and each other. Charlene's store has been twice awarded the Kings County Hospitality Award.

Were you born in PEI or are you an Islander by choice?
I was born in Nova Scotia but my mother is from the Island, so I have the important Island connection. I recently found out that my family lineage (Gallant) goes back to the year 1660 in the region. My father was in the Air Force so the family lived in 4 provinces, ending up in Alberta.

How long have you been living in PEI?
I moved from Alberta to a big, old PEI farmhouse 39 years ago and hope to add many more to that total.

Where do you live in PEI?
I live in Guernsey Cove in the south east corner of PEI, 20 minutes east of the Wood Islands ferry. It is beautiful!

Describe what an average day looks like for you?
During the tourism season, a day at the shop is busy but fun. First I get the store ready for the day. When guests arrive, I welcome them and chat a bit to find out something about them; I provide information on the 70+ artisans whose product we present; and ring in and package purchases. In the run of a day, I am often asked about the history of the store or about local restaurants, accommodations, attractions, festivals and events, the ferry schedule, where to buy fresh fish, etc.. My greatest reward in any day is when customers leave the shop with warm smiles. That is when I know I have done my job well. The day winds down by 6pm, then it is off to home for dinner with the family and maybe a bonfire while watching lights flickers across the Straight and the stars twinkle overhead.

What is your favourite thing about life in PEI?
I love the realness of living here. You know your neighbour. You have a connection in the community. There is solitude if you want it or a community to enjoy at a local event. And there is always someone ready and willing to help when you need it.

What is something people wouldn't know if they're not from the island?
I think people would be surprised at the number of world class musicians, and singer-songwriters that come from here. Lennie Gallant, Vishten, Richard Wood, Irish Mythen, Ten Strings & a Goatskin, Catherine MacLellan, Meaghan Blanchard, The East Pointers and Gordie MacKeeman are a few of Islanders that regularly perform at festivals and events around the globe.

What are you passionate about personally? What do you really enjoy? What can't you stop talking about? 
Personally, I am passionate about the breadth, depth and variety of artisans and cultural entrepreneurs on PEI. Every year, I expand the selection of handcrafts in my shop. Quilts, pottery, cutting boards, knitted goods, cards and prints, jewellery, windchimes, candles, soaps, jams, jellies, hot sauces, even Rum Cake! It amazes me that at every buying show or craft show I attend, I find four or five new producers with creative and innovative products.

If you had to choose one spot on the island to take someone who has never been here, where would it be?
That is a hard question! I am going to break the rules and suggest a day, okay? We would start the day in Murray Harbour with a hearty breakfast at one of the local restaurants. Next let’s go to the Cape Bear Lighthouse to climb to the top for a great view of the cliffs and the Northumberland Strait. Then down the road to the Rossignol Winery or to Newmanns Winery for a taste of local wine. We might stop in Murray River at ‘The Old General Store’ or ‘The Magik Dragon’ for a little retail therapy. Lunch on the waterfont in Montague would be lovely for the extra nutrition for the energy to walk to the dunes at Greenwich Park. We would wind up the day with another great meal at one of the many incredible restaurants on PEI before finding a Kitchen Party! My favourite musical experience would be Richard Wood on a Saturday night in Stanley Bridge. A spellbinding show every time! Make the drive to your bed safely and tuck in for the night. Phew! What a great day! If I do have to narrow down to one spot, I would have to say the Kitchen Party listed above!

Any funny facts about yourself or factoids about the Island that you think people should know?
The Island, though small, has some words and phrases unique to this place. For example, ‘slippy’ is a well known term for something being slippery. As in ‘Careful on that wet step. It could be slippy!’ Then there is, ‘She is as thin as the Monday Guardian.’ to describe a very slender woman. Lots more Islandisms abound. Talk to Islanders during your visit and listen for more!