During the past 14+ years Judi and I have visited over 300 Ontario community festivals and events. The majority have been planned and managed by dedicated community volunteers. As a salute to these wonderful communities and their hard-working residents, I will be writing a series of blogs entitled “Great Ontario Communities”. These blogs describe the communities we have visited and will tell you about some of the interesting things we have experienced and the people we have met. The twentieth article is about St. Jacobs, located in the heart of Mennonite country.
ST. JACOBS - St. Jacobs is a quaint village located just north of Kitchener-Waterloo. It is a place that Judi and I love to visit whenever we are in the area. To me, the present-day St. Jacobs, although very interesting and still quite quaint, does not have the same feel as the St. Jacobs I visited so many years ago. The first time I visited St. Jacobs (about 1975), I was dazzled by the uniqueness of the village. St. Jacobs sits in a hollow, with both ends of the village slopping down towards the thriving village centre. Picturesque shops and restaurants line both sides of the main street. I first discovered St. Jacobs when I was living in Waterloo. A number of the people I worked with liked to go to St. Jacobs for lunch at the Stone Crock Restaurant. Back then it was visibly run by the Mennonites and the food was always fresh and lots of it! It wasn’t unusual to see Mennonite horse drawn carriages sauntering down the main street or tied up at one of the many hitching posts. The products, back then, seemed to be a little different in the types that they offered now. Most then, seemed to be hand made. Over the years I have continued to visit St. Jacobs and have noted the subtle changes. The Stone Crock became more commercial and I believe it is now owned by a corporation. The facility has been expanded and renovated, and the atmosphere and food remain warm and inviting. Judi particularly loves the restaurants fresh home-made raspberry pie, thick veggie soup and newly made sandwiches. St. Jacobs still is the home of picturesque older buildings. The Old Gristmill has had its silos converted into interesting shops offering a large variety of unique products. We were fortunate, years ago to acquire hand made pottery coffee mugs. We still use them today after all these years. Another addition to the village is the Benjamin Inn. Judi and I had the pleasure of staying there one weekend and enjoyed it immensely. South of the town, closer to Waterloo, is the fabulous St. Jacobs Farmers' Market. When I started visiting St. Jacobs, the Market was quite small and not that well attended. Now it has now grown and become one of the premiere attractions for the area. The Market grounds include not only the Farmers' Market but Factory Outlet stores as well. Close by a Best Western Hotel was built and now offers luxury accommodations for St. Jacob and Farmers' Market visitors. Other new businesses have come to the community and it is always fun and interesting to discover them. St. Jacobs is one of the many communities in Waterloo county and plays an integral part in attracting visitors to the area.