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THEN & NOW: Rice’s Cigar Store and Bath Rooms

Over the years the store has changed hands, but the cigar store, founded in the 1890's, used to serve as a place to get a smoke, bath and shave

This ongoing series from Barrie Historical Archive curator Deb Exel shows old photos from the collection and one from the present day.

A bath, shave and a smoke…you could get it all at R.L. Rice’s cigar store, at 108 Dunlop Street, conveniently located between the Barrie Hotel and the Queen’s Hotel, in the Brown Block.  

Mr. Rice, originally from Whitby, was known to carry the finest brands of cigars, tobacco and cigarettes as well as the largest and best stock of pipes and smoker’s accessories north of Toronto. In 1896, his shop had four hot and cold baths, and the water was always hot! He was said to be a popular fellow, an enthusiastic volunteer fireman and a prominent citizen.  

Meanwhile, also in the 1890’s, two brothers married two sisters.  

James and Edward Shrubsole of Oxford County in southwestern Ontario, came from a large farming family of 11 children, according to the census of 1871. Records show that in 1891, the brothers were millers in Oro Township. In 1895, James married Laura Drury of Crown Hill, daughter of Thomas Drury, the former Deputy Sherriff of Simcoe County. In 1896, brother Edward leased the Cookstown Flour Mill, and in 1898, he married Wilhelmina Drury, Laura’s sister.  

By the early 1900’s, James Shrubsole had bought out R. Rice. The shop continued to maintain its reputation for exceptional domestic and imported cigars and smoke-related products. By 1908, Shrubsole’s store was quite popular, attractively appointed and increasingly well stocked with premium cigars and tobaccos. The on premise barbershop was considered modern and comfortable, and to the rear of the barbershop, customers could enjoy an invigorating bath.  

James Shrubsole was deemed a capable businessman and sportsman … but he was also a fireman. Acting Chief Shrubsole of the Fire Brigade was frequently in the news – commenting on incidents and events or reporting to town Council on the state of fire equipment he had tested. In July 1915, headlines in the newspaper proclaimed ‘Fire Brigade Efficient’ based on a test conducted by Acting Chief James Shrubsole. “The run was four blocks to the corner of Simcoe and Bayfield Sts., and the time from the first stroke of the bell was 1.42 minutes, and excellent tests were made in coupling and uncoupling hose. Eighteen firemen, three of whom are new men, turned out. After the hydrant tests, the steam fire engine was tested out and found to be working satisfactorily, except for a few minor parts which will be replaced or repaired. The four beds at the fire hall are all full now and frequent practices are held there, especially for the new men.” By 1917, he was Chief Shrubsole.  

Over the years, the store front and the occupants of 108 Dunlop have changed, but its upper floors are still recognizable from the old Rice cigar store days.