Iconic Robinsons General Store abruptly closes after 100 years in business

Exterior of Robinson's General Store in Dorset, Ont. Photo Courtesy of Robinson's General Store

On January 8, employees of Dorset, Ont.’s Robinsons General Store were told they no longer had jobs starting the next day. After 100 years, the store would close, with current owners, Mike and Katie Hinbest, no longer operating the business. No reason for the closure was given.

By January 9, the store had pulled down its Facebook page, emails bounced back, and its phone rang endlessly, unanswered.

Online, among the Dorset community, there’s speculation that the store ran into financial trouble and had to foreclose. But this is unverified as the Hinbests did not respond to comment.

The Hinbests bought Robinsons General Store in April 2021, after it was reportedly listed for $6 million. Previously, the Hinbests operated a Napa Auto Parts store in Orangeville, Ont. As part of their new ownership, the Hinbests expanded the store by adding a café and upgrading merchandise.

Prior to the Hinbests, the Robinson family owned the store. In 1921, Harry and Marguerite Robinson opened the 1,200 sq. ft. general store meant to service the logging industry and a few locals. After the Second World War, when money once again rolled in, Harry proposed building an addition. Harry’s son, Brad, who took over the store in the mid-1950s, helped oversee the addition. Since then, the store has gone through 14 more additions and now sits at 14,000 sq. ft. of retail space, including a grocery store and a hardware store. The Robinsons also opened a nearby marina.

In 1991, Brad’s daughter, Joanne Robinson, and her husband, Willie Hatton, took over the store. Brad still helped on the day-to-day, working into his 80s. Joanne and Willie ran the store for 37 years, with their son, Ryan, helping part time. In the winter of 2020, the family put the store up for sale.

The Robinsons did not respond to comment on the store’s current situation.

The store’s closure has drawn concern from the community, both for historical reasons and convenience. Robinsons is the main source of groceries in the Dorset area. With the store closed, many residents are having to drive half an hour to Huntsville, Ont., for groceries and other supplies, which is problematic for residents who can’t drive. But the community is rallying with a flood of offers on the Dorset Facebook page to pick up groceries for those who can’t make the trip.

Online, Robinsons General Store says it’s “temporarily closed,” but there’s no word on future plans for this iconic cottage country store.

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