Article & Photo By: Ligia Braidotti
Winnipeg Free Press
Pollock’s Hardware has been helping people build their lives in the North End for nearly a century, and it’s still going strong.
The business, which has served many generations since its founding in 1922, is celebrating 10 years of its establishment as a co-operative.
In 2007, owners Wayne and Lois Cash decided it was time for retirement and put the store up for sale. After a while on the market, they couldn’t find a buyer, and instead sold off their inventory and closed the doors. Current manager Stephen Kirk said the surrounding neighbourhood was "shocked to see a fixture in the neighbourhood close, and so they came together and organized a co-operative that reopened the store" on June 21, 2008.
Longtime customers gathered together and came up with the idea of saving the store by establishing a co-operative business model. After many meetings held at the local Luxton Community Centre, an interim board was formed and the business model was put together. They started selling memberships at $25 and soon had enough to reopen the store.
According to its website, the co-op used a combination of capital from memberships, loan capital from Assiniboine Credit Union and a loan fund from the Jubilee Foundation. They were able to sell memberships and offer a 30 per cent tax credit to members through a partnership with the Provincial Economic Development Tax Credit Union.
Kirk has been involved with Pollock’s Hardware Co-op as a customer, member and now as the new manager. He’s only been running the store for six months, but said he enjoys seeing just how deep the store’s roots in the community go.
"Our support in our neighbourhood is three generations deep," he said. "We have people that tell us when they came here with their grandparents when they were children, so that makes them third generation customers. People have been coming here forever."
Pollock’s Hardware has been financially stable for the last decade, but that wouldn’t have been possible without the community’s support, board chair Blair Hamilton said. Today, the co-op has about 3,000 members who are customers who live in the neighbourhood, people who live in other places of the city but frequented it in the past, and even people from outside Manitoba who heard about the co-op and wanted to support it.
Pollock’s Hardware plays a significant role in the community, as the only hardware store in the neighbourhood. The iconic front window decorated with antique memorabilia collected by former manager Mike Wolchok, sets the tone for what kind of store it is. Customers bring back antique products that family members have bought in the store.
Pollock’s is able to pay special attention to its customers. It’s unusual that the store will be busy at any given time, Kirk said. That way, the staff has time to help its customers find the product they need.
There’s time for chit-chat and treats for pets. The building’s cat, Ratchet, will be wandering around the store or sleeping on the counter. Ratchet doesn’t mind a bit when customers pet her.
Aside from the friendly customer service, the store is also easily accessible for those who don’t have access to a vehicle.
"I know a lot of people if they are doing work in the neighbourhood, they will stop here first, and they have a pretty good chance of finding it," Kirk said.
"We hear from a lot of people that they will be at a big box store or at another store and if they can’t find it, the workers there will say ‘Well, try Pollock’s.’ We have the reputation that if you can’t find anywhere else, look here."
On Sept. 8, Pollock’s Hardware is inviting the entire community to attend a 10th anniversary celebration at the store’s parking lot from 2 to 5 p.m. where there will be activities for the whole family and musical guests such as Winnipeg-born lead singer and songwriter Dan Scram of The Deeds. Tickets are available at the store for $10 or $15 at the door on Sept. 8.
Hamilton said being able to run the co-op for a decade is good reason to celebrate.
"Keeping the business running is not easy. It’s a fight against every trend in the economy that you see. It’s been the support of the community largely. It’s been a lot of volunteer hours from the various people who have been on the board," he said.
"We hope people come out and celebrate on the day, but it’s also important that people come out regularly and give us their business because that’s what keeps us around. We hope people value it as much as we do."
Hamilton added that although they have expanded the store in the past, that’s not their primary goal.
"People are looking for a more human face in the economy and in our own way we do that," he said. "No one is looking to get rich here we are just trying to do business in a good way."