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'It’s just time': Winnipeg hardware store closing after 75 years

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One of Winnipeg’s last locally-owned hardware stores is packing it in after 75 years.

Corydon Hardware has been a neighbourhood staple since it opened in 1949 and long-time customers said the loss will leave a hole in the community.

“It’s frustration. I’m going to be upset for a little while,” said Dean McLeod, who’s been shopping at the store for 32 years.

Store owner Robert Benson started working at Corydon Hardware when he was 15 years old. Back then, it was owned by his father. Now, as Benson nears his 60th birthday, he said he’s been thinking about retiring for some time.

“I’m done. I’ve had enough,” Benson said, adding that financial pressure “doesn’t make it that hard of a decision.”

That financial pressure includes a drop in sales and the number of customers coming in because of big box stores and online shopping. According to retail experts, it’s something many small businesses struggle with.

"They're dealing with debt that they've accumulated to keep their doors open during the pandemic, they're dealing with higher costs, both labour and supplies,” said Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce president & CEO Loren Remillard. “It's just really a perfect storm of challenges.”

Another challenge is staying top of mind as customers cut back their costs.

“I think that’s a little bit of a struggle – continuing to stay relevant while still carving out your niche within the community,” said Pollock’s Hardware Co-op general manager Kaitlyn Peters.

Now the last locally-owned hardware store in Winnipeg, Pollock’s faced a similar fate in 2007 – the last family that owned the business couldn’t find a buyer and shut down. It since reopened as a co-op – something Benson said he doesn’t want for his business.

“No interest in doing that whatsoever,” he said. “I just want to close it.”

Benson said it is possible for stores like his to exist as long as it has a focused business idea.

“This was a convenience store,” he said about Corydon Hardware. “It ceased to be that convenience store – we don't have everything people are looking for anymore and we just can't afford to stock it.”

Corydon Hardware is closing after 75 years.

According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), for every $1 spent at a small business, 66 cents stays in the community. But that number drops to 11 cents when consumers shop at big box stores.

“That money is not staying in your local community and the community is going to see the impacts of that,” said SeoRhin Yoo, a policy analyst with CFIB.

And McLeod said it will leave customers like him in the dust.

“I can go to a box store I can buy a replacement of something or other if I know what I’m looking for, but I can’t get advice,” he said.

While Benson said he looks forward to retirement, it’s not easy cutting off the community he’s come to know over the past 45 years.

“I’m gonna miss some of the local people coming in and chit chatting and whatnot,” he said. “But like I said, it’s time. It’s just time.”

Corydon Hardware is set to close its doors for good on April 27.

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