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Ernst Becker and the Smallest Store in Newfoundland

Black and white archival photograph. Street view. Exterior view of E. Becker. Man to the left of photograph taking a picture, woman stands in doorway, group of six men in suits walk towards the shop, and a boy rides his bicycle past shop.

Becker’s jewelry, Main Street. Circa 1965.


As John Connors remembers, “Becker had the smallest store in Newfoundland. He met you at the door when you came in.”

Born in Germany in 1924, Ernst Becker studied watchmaking before moving to Newfoundland in 1951. He initially moved to Corner Brook, where he knew fellow Germans working in a cement plant.

Audio clip with transcript: Dolores Becker discusses her husband’s move to Newfoundland.

Ernst moved to Ontario after a fire destroyed businesses in the Broadway district of Corner Brook in 1952, but eventually returned to Newfoundland, working first with Alteen’s Jewellery in Corner Brook and then in Grand Falls. After a short time in St. John’s, Ernst and his wife Dolores returned to Grand Falls. He worked with Riff’s in Windsor before establishing a watch repair and jewellery store of his own.

Dolores (McCarthy) Becker recalls:

“He rented a little place a little further up the street. It was just an old, barn-like place, a big drafty old place and the kids were right tiny then and Mr. George Stewart said to him one day, ‘There is a little tiny spot next to my store,’ he said, ‘You don’t need to be in this drafty old place. Why don’t you come up here?’ It was 8 feet by 32 feet. So he went up into it and Mrs. Basha and the Cozy Chat next door, she owned that bit of land and George owned a little bit, so he got the land from Mrs. Basha and built this little 8 feet by 32 feet shop.”

Corey Sharpe says:

“I can remember going in there and you almost had to turn side on to get in around the counter. I guess Ernst Becker – we knew him as Ernie Becker – he’d be there, and I can remember he would always have the jeweller’s loupe in his eye. He would look up from something and look at you with the jeweller’s loupe and when I was a kid that was pretty intimidating to look up over the counter and see this guy looking at you with this one jeweller’s loupe in his eye,” describes Corey Sharpe.

Ernst did watch and jewellery repairs and sold diamond rings, wedding sets, gold chains, and clocks in his Main Street shop until his retirement in the 1980s.