Fenelon Falls Remembers Randy Meredith
September 18, 2022
Randy Meredith at Grr8 Finds, 2021
Friends and family gathered at Grr8 Finds for a special Wacky Wednesday on September 7, 2022, to remember Randy Meredith. It was an emotional and heartfelt event, manifesting how much he meant to his community. His friends shared many tears, happy memories and outrageous costumes in memory of the man who made Wacky Wednesdays a main street event.
In 2009, Randy Meredith opened Grr8 Finds Markets with the help of his parents Ellison and Janey. Like many new businesses, opening the store was a great commitment. Putting in long hours, together the Merediths managed to staff the store 364 days a year.
While it was a family business, in common with many others on the main street, before long it became apparent that Grr8 Finds was a store unlike any other. Randy had a flamboyant side and a style all his own, “hectic-eclectic” in the words of Athol Hart. Randy loved decorating, making spectacular displays in his store window, and he loved antiques. Grr8 Finds truly was a one of a kind store— “because it was Randy’s. He tried to do everything a little bit different,” his father explains.
In the business community of Fenelon Falls, Randy Meredith stood out. In many ways Grr8 Finds had the feel of an old general store, even down to having candy at the front desk—in memory of Randy’s soul mate, Andrew. As in an old general store, people often dropped by just to check in with Randy, “he was always a cool guy to chat with,” remembers Gord Percival. But with Randy’s larger than life personality, passers by couldn’t help but notice the store. At first some Fenelon Falls residents were not quite sure what to make of this new business, but before long it seemed that practically everyone had been won over by Randy’s kindness and friendliness. “He was so colourful, had so much spirit, so showed so much love,” remembers Mike Perry. From the time he was a little boy, he was always a go-getter, audacious, and also child who loved to collect things.
Randy was not afraid to be himself, and Grr8 Finds became an expression of his unique ideas. “It had a vibe,” explains Julia Taylor, “of warmth, acceptance, and being yourself.” For a community that at times could come across as being staid or conservative, Randy brought new life to the community. “I don’t think that Randy’s work is done here.”
Randy probably did more than anyone else to make the LGBTQ community feel accepted in Fenelon Falls. Secondary school students and youth who needed someone to talk to knew that they could open up with Randy and that, whatever they needed to talk about, he would understand. It was a welcoming place, somewhere where anyone could go, be themselves and be accepted.
From the time that he was a little boy, Randy loved Halloween, “it was the best day of the year, better than Christmas” recalls his father Ellison. Rhonda Watson, who for many years operated a neighbouring store, remembers, “I was always anxious to see what the heck he was wearing on Halloween and how he decorated his window.” With Randy, it sometimes seemed like Halloween lasted all year round. He loved shopping for clothes and had many memorable looks, including plaid pants with chains and leather jacket.
Randy loved fashion and put a lot of thought into his next outfit that he would wear for Wacky Wednesday—many of them lovingly made by Rylee Ray. “He would give me blank canvas overalls and say I want this look.” And Rylee would go to work creating the latest unique outfit for the next Wacky Wednesday.
“I will never forget when I played duelling closets with Randy,” recounts Athol Hart. They got together to see who had the most outfits. Having a wardrobe from a lifetime of public performances, “I gave them all to him, so he won.” And before long, some of Athol’s outfits started making an appearance at Wacky Wednesday.
Randy always was a people person, from the time he was a child. He had a unique ability to make people feel welcome and accepted. Four years ago, when Rylee arrived in Fenelon Falls from the city, she didn’t know anybody. But Grr8 Finds was a place where she felt at home, as she watched the second store on Sundays. Before long, Randy was teaching her all about the business and she came to manage the store, which gave him the time to do all of the renovations needed to make the store into the one of a kind place it is today.
Many of Randy’s friends agreed that, today, as Randy is looking down on us, he is busy decorating and making something spectacular. “As the book would say,” explains Athol Hart, “’In my Father’s house are many mansions,’ and the mansion that he makes will be spectacular.” Rylee elaborates, “He is sitting up there in a beautiful garden in front of a beautiful castle, and I know it is decorated perfectly.” Many of his friends remarked that when they get to heaven, they will be sure to drop by and see what Randy has created.
Randy was predeceased by his best friend Andrew. Being together for about 9 years, after work they spent every night together, and really understood each other—they were kindred spirits. Randy would often say that “I will never find another, but I will see him again someday.” And his many friends hope that they are now together again.
Candice Milroy recalls, “When I came in the store, he always had a twinkle in his eye, you could see he was up to something. I was always trying to figure out what it was.” Randy was often silly and playful, “he reminded you to stay young and not take anything too seriously,” recounts Rylee. One year at Easter Eggstravaganza, Rylee arrived at the store and saw the Easter Bunny out front. Thinking it was Randy, she went up and pinched the bunny’s backside. Then when she got in the store, “there was Randy, just killing himself laughing. I was mortified, and to this day, I don’t know whose butt I pinched.” Rylee fondly remembers spending many days together belting out favourites from the musical Rent at Grr8 Finds.
When he was away from work, Randy loved to read, garden, shop for clothes, antiques, and toys. He had a keen interest in mythology. He loved children and was great at befriending them, though he might jokingly say, “I don’t really like kids, I just like to sell them candy.” But as many small business owners can relate, Grr8 Finds was his life, and a vehicle for his self-expression. This devotion came naturally to him, as his parents had owned the Lorneville Store, when they lived in Woodville. Before going into business himself he had managed many stores, including the Disney Store in Scarborough, Randy River on Yonge Street, a Gap and Roots.
For many years, Randy had carried on in spite of a heart condition, but this last week he seemed to know that something was different. On Monday he started arranging his funeral, but he didn’t have the time to make it to the lawyer to complete his will, because he had to look after the store. His devotion to Grr8 Finds lasted to the end. For everyone who worked there, Grr8 Finds was like a family.
Often called the Unofficial Mayor of Fenelon Falls, Randy “was the soul of Colborne Street,” remarks Diane Englestad. “He showed our best side. He was always welcoming and kind.” Fenelon Falls is shocked by his sudden passing, and as Athol Hart observes, “he was an anchor and he will be missed.”
Randy Meredith’s Celebration of Life took place on September 18 at the Grove Theatre.