Garrett Juurlink, the new owner of Snow Queen Leisure World in Lower South River, Antigonish County, is excited to be able to keep it open, and keep it the great place where people from all over Nova Scotia can make fond memories.
The amusement park, which started out as a simple ice cream parlour, officially opened on July 20, much to the approval and excitement of many locals, happy to see an entertainment staple remaining.
“All weekend, there was a lot of excitement. A lot of people came up to me with smiles on their faces,” Juurlink said. “That helped justify my decision, for sure.”
Although he knew about the business being for sale well before he made the decision to purchase it, Juurlink said, “I didn’t take any action for a while. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it would go well with my existing business.”
“I grew up in St. Andrews so, for sure, it was a part of my childhood,” Juurlink said. “As a kid, we used to go there in the summertime, and we made a few trips to Snow Queen when the relatives came home from away – it was a happening spot.”
The response from the public to Juurlink’s purchase of Snow Queen Leisure World has been overwhelmingly positive. On its opening day, he noted that he lost track of the people expressing their gratitude that he’s keeping it going.
“I was a bit surprised by how positive the response was. It made me realize that it’s a landmark in Antigonish. Similar to the Wheel Pizza and Sub Shop or places like that,” Juurlink said.
Don MacPherson, former owner of Snow Queen Leisure World, is enthusiastic about Juurlink’s purchase of the business.
“I was starting to have thoughts that if I didn’t sell it, I’d just start selling things off,” MacPherson said. “Even if you’re not doing something, you still have to pay taxes, and insurance – it costs money.”
Another emotion MacPherson said he felt as a result of the purchase was relief, noting, “I’m basically retired now. I was away this past weekend for the first time in what must have been 45 years. I didn’t have to worry about equipment breaking down, or staff showing up.”
“It’s really good to know someone else is trying to make a go with it, and keeping it the same as it was.”
When asked if reopening Leisure World will help bring traffic to businesses along the old Hwy 104, now that the new highway is in place, Juurlink said, “from my perspective, it certainly helps.” Juurlink said the more activity there is in the Lower South River area the better.
“It wasn’t my goal, but for me the Shine Factory is more of a destination business than a drop-in business. People don’t see it as the drive by and drop in; they look for services and find us,” Juurlink said. “It’s a bit of a different business than Snow Queen, which is very much a place that people will pop in while driving by, see a crowd, see the go-karts and say, ‘we should pop in.”’
MacPherson said he thinks it’s a good idea to come up with new ways to get people into the area, but maintained that Snow Queen Leisure World has a niche as a place to stop for fun, since “either you’re going to Halifax or Sydney, otherwise, if you want to go for a go-kart ride.”
“The ice cream you can get at other places isn’t the same, either. Nobody else sells soft-serve ice cream like you can get there.”
Juurlink also plans to move his other business – Shine Factory – from its location on Post Road, out to the same property where Snow Queen Leisure World is located. He plans to do that this coming winter.
In addition to moving his business to the area, Juurlink is also planning to rent out a building on the property to another business.
“More business creates more traffic, and that’s good for everyone.”
Snow Queen Leisure World has been in the MacPherson family for a while. MacPherson said his mother, Marie MacPherson owned the business before him. She purchased Snow Queen when it was still just a small dairy bar in Lower South River, from Dr. Carmen MacIntosh and John MacKinnon.
After MacPherson purchased the business from his mother, an expansion took place under his watch. This expansion lead to the Snow Queen Leisure World we know today, with a larger building, rides, an arcade, mini-golf, bumper boats, bumper cars, go-karts – among many more features.