Pauline Kelly is breathing new life into the Cardigan train station with a community-oriented business called Celebration Station PEI.
She recently signed a three-year lease with Three Rivers, which owns the building. It will host a gift shop, cafe, community gatherings, family parties, group meetings and classes for activities such as yoga and crafts.
“It can be whatever people want it to be,” Ms Kelly said. “Everybody loves our beloved station in the village. We’ll see if we can make it a vital place again.”
She has spent many hours, with the help of family and friends, getting the place ready for operation again. It hasn’t been used since 2019, the last year of the Cardigan Farmer’s Market.
It’s an ambitious project with much yet to be done, like hiring staff and erecting signage, but Ms Kelly’s motivation comes from her son Ryan, who died from cancer last November at the age of 30.
Ms Kelly spent some time figuring out how to move forward and deal with her thoughts when the town began to seek a new tenant for the train station. She jumped on the opportunity.
Ryan loved to celebrate, she said, and there are small things every day to celebrate. Memories of Ryan have helped her push through the many steps in getting the business up and running.
“I feel a nudge that this is the right thing to be doing. This is my purpose.”
The goal is to keep the interior of the building as authentic as possible. The cargo room has a large table that can be used for crafts or group meetings. The ticket room will host Just the Ticket Gift Shop, while the passenger room is large and can accommodate 25 to 30 people for gatherings (the number would meet Health PEI guidelines). One example of its use would be a family lobster or mussel dinner.
“It’s nice when everybody can be together rather than being stuck in the kitchen. So they can be here and we can cook the lobster out on the deck,” she said.
There’s also a boxcar room that can be used for events such as birthday parties.
Eventually Ms Kelly hopes to have a catering setup for off-site events. The plan is to have a farmer’s market again next summer and perhaps some yard sales.
She plans to have two or three staff on a daily basis and up to 10 for special events. That includes kitchen staff to provide daily lunches, coffee and snacks.
Ms Kelly also wants to stay open in the winter to serve snowmobilers, since the Confederation Trail runs nearby, as well as some Christmas events.
“There’s all kinds of potential in this little building. What we can do will depend on the ideas people bring forward and requests from the community.”
Celebration Station has already hosted two events. On September 26, about 110 people took part in a walk from the train station to Montague as part of Fall Flavours. Breakfast was served along with a live string band performance.
Last Thursday, Ms Kelly’s niece Lori VandenBroek-Séguin held a book signing for her self-published children’s book, With Eyes Like Yours. She is from Cardigan and now lives in Montreal with her husband and three children. More than 60 people attended throughout the morning.
This is Ms Kelly’s third business venture after running a yarn shop and children’s wear store before her kids were born. She also worked as an educational assistant for 26 years.
“Everybody really wants to see this work for me and for the village,” she said.
The train station was built in 1874 and closed in 1972. Three years later, it was moved across Station Road and became a craft shop. In 2008, it was added to the Canadian Register of Historic Places.