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Quebec family shows resilience after fire destroys beloved Lower North Shore business | CBC News


Late Sunday night, Sidnie Driscoll woke up to the news that her aunt’s store and pharmacy was burning.

The 14-year-old shot putter was hundreds of kilometres from home, in Rimouski for the Quebec Games, when she started receiving videos of a fire destroying the Uniprix Clinique Danielle Driscoll and JL Joncas Grocery Store.

Firefighters couldn’t save the family-run store and pharmacy, located in Blanc-Sablon — near Newfoundland and Labrador — that serves communities on the Lower North Shore.

“It was really, really sad that family members from home had to watch our store burn,” said Sidnie, who grew up in the store and had just started working there last year.

“I watched my aunt completely redo it and put all of her hard work into it,” said Sidnie. “To watch it go up in flames was not the best feeling.”

“It was hard to get back to sleep.”

Three women stand on a podium with medals hanging around their necks.
Sidnie Driscoll, right, competed at the Quebec Games and took home bronze in shot put the day after her family’s business burned in Blanc-Sablon. (René Levesque/Radio-Canada )

The next morning, she woke up early and focused on the competition, representing the North Shore in shot put.

“I changed my mindset of not doing good and I changed it into focusing on throwing my best for home and really it changed [things]. It made a big difference,” said Sidnie.

The result? A bronze medal.

“I was very happy with what I achieved. And it was good to bring some joy for people back home … I think it was my biggest achievement so far.”

A young woman smiles at the camera outside at a sporting event.
Sidnie Driscoll competed in shot put on Monday, a day after her family’s store burned down. (René Levesque/Radio-Canada)

Her aunt, Danielle Driscoll, said her niece’s win was “a little bit of sunshine in what we’re living.”

She says watching her store — founded by her grandmother and in her family for nearly 70 years — burn was indescribable.

“To see my aunts and uncles and all the Joncas family worked so hard for so many years at this business. It’s the part that really touches me and the emotions are really strong,” said Driscoll.

She says they don’t know what caused the fire.

Pharmacy that served 15 communities major loss

Former mayor Armand Joncas lives across the street from the store and saw the destruction.

He says the loss is two-fold.

The business was central to Blanc-Sablon, but the pharmacy was also the only one for hundreds of kilometres, serving 15 coastal communities, many of which are only accessible by plane.

“What the pharmacy does [is] they send all their stock to the nursing station in every village and everybody comes and picks up the drugs or pills or whatever they need,” said Joncas.

An organge fire destroys a building during the night.
By Monday Driscoll said she already had a plan in place to serve the pharmacy’s clientele (Submitted by Sidnie Driscoll)

He says he remembers when Driscoll’s grandmother started the business all those years ago — initially from her home.

“She took one of her rooms and she started getting some groceries and clothing,” said Joncas. “As the years went on, the room wasn’t big enough.”

He said when the grocery store was first established, it was a place to get candies and goodies in town. Decades later, Joncas and his wife were among those using the pharmacy to get their medication.

LISTEN | Blanc Sablon’s main grocery store, and only pharmacy serving the Lower North Shore, burned down:

Breakaway8:26Blanc Sablon’s main grocery store, and only pharmacy serving the Lower North Shore, burned down last night

People living on the Lower North Shore woke up to some concerning news this morning – the region’s only pharmacy was destroyed after a major fire in Blanc-Sablon last night. Guest host Allison Van Rassel speaks with a resident – and former mayor – of Blanc-Sablon about what this means for people all over the Coast.

Outpouring of support encourages family to rebuild

Just hours after the fire destroyed the building, by 5:15 a.m. on Monday, Driscoll said she already had a plan in place to serve the pharmacy’s clientele — including ordering new medication and computers.

She says that pharmacies in Sept-Îles and Havre-Saint-Pierre stepped in to help, offering to cover the coastal villages that had relied on her practice so that they didn’t run out of medication.

“The outpouring of support has been incredible,” said Driscoll. “It’s really incredible what could be done in a short bit of time.”

Days after the fire, Driscoll created a temporary space in the Brador town hall just outside town to house her pharmacy until she can rebuild. She says the community has been sharing messages of encouragement.

“It really touches us and it gives us the strength,” said Driscoll.

“I got a strong family … So we got one goal — to rebuild.”

LISTEN | Blanc-Sablon pharmacist says ‘We got one goal — to rebuild’:

Breakaway8:07“We have one goal, it’s to rebuild” – Blanc-Sablon pharmacist-owner

The town of Blanc-Sablon is still reeling from the loss of its main grocery store and only pharmacy on Sunday night. But work is happening around the clock to reopen the businesses as quickly as possible. For the latest on the story, pharmacist-owner Danielle Driscoll joins guest host Allison Van Rassel.


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