The Corn Brooms of St. Jacobs, Ontario

For the past many years, Andrew and I have taken vacations wherein we fly off somewhere very far away. But I think this Mennonite stuff is beginning to creep into our vacation planning, because this past summer, we decided to use some of our vacation to visit and learn about Mennonites in Ontario. And that is how we came to explore the village of St. Jacobs!

This is not the land of the Mexican Mennonites. (That’s Leamington, I believe. Or at least, that’s what everyone tells me. I still have a lot to learn about that!) This is the land of the Swiss Mennonites who came to Canada in the 1700’s, far ahead of the Russian Mennonites (which is what most of us Manitoban Mennonites are).

It’s both strange yet familiar at the same time. And, the village is really charming.

We were strolling the main street of the village when a particularly old building caught our eye:

Hamel Brooms. It’s been in operation since 1908! We were drawn into this place. Inside, we encountered this fellow:

According to this website, his name is John Davenport. He was making corn brooms! It was pretty mesmerizing.

It was pretty interesting to watch these ubiquitous brooms being created by hand-and-machine, just like that, in this very old shop.

Andrew told him that we wanted to purchase one of his brooms, but we were in the midst of traveling and didn’t think a broom would travel well, so we figured we’d have to ship it home. He asked where we live, and we told him Manitoba. He said that we could simply purchase one of his brooms at any Home Hardware in Manitoba — we just had to look for the “Mark’s Choice” broom. He assured us that those were all made here in this broom shop!

Well! That seemed much easier than buying and shipping a broom. We thanked him and left.

I feel like there are a lot of Home Hardware locations. I expected this to be really easy. But upon googling it, we discovered that the nearest HH location was in Lorette! (And there are precisely zero in Winnipeg!) We don’t often drive out to Lorette… but on this occasion we certainly did. And thus, we obtained our very own corn broom made at Hamel’s in St. Jacobs, where we had just visited.

We wanted to get a broom like this because we feel like every house needs to have one. If you too would like to purchase such a broom, here are the details: