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Truro’s first Home Hardware location is closing its doors

Brian Ellis, left, store manager at the Home Hardware store on Willow Street has been working at the site for more than 50 years, including when it was initially a Canadian Tire store. He is seen with cashier Paulette Mattinson, who has worked there for about 35 years and owner Les Mosher, who began working part time at the store at age 12 when it was owned by his father Walter.
Brian Ellis, left, store manager at the Home Hardware store on Willow Street has been working at the site for more than 50 years, including when it was initially a Canadian Tire store. He is seen with cashier Paulette Mattinson, who has worked there for about 35 years and owner Les Mosher, who began working part time at the store at age 12 when it was owned by his father Walter. - Harry Sullivan

A father-and-son retail operation that has been doing business in Truro since 1938 is on the verge of coming to an end.

Les Mosher, who owns the Home Hardware store at 45 Willow Street, has decided to close the till for good.

Mosher preferred not to comment on the closing, other than to say the store is more about his employees than himself and the time has come to take it easy.

Just shy of 80, Mosher has worked in the store since age 12 when it operated as a Canadian Tire owned by his father Walter.

“So, I'd come in, I'd build tricycles and package spokes and things like that, put away some of the exhaust pipes and tailpipes," Mosher said, in a story published several years ago in the Truro Daily News.

His fulltime employment at the store began at about age 20 and in January 1969 he took over the business from his father.

In 1973, Les Mosher sold the Canadian Tire franchise and reopened the store as the area’s first Home Hardware.

“It was a little shaky for a while,” said longtime store manager Brian Ellis. “Nobody knew Home Hardware then. It was a new thing.”

But thanks to old-fashioned customer service and a solid business practice, the store survived and thrived in the face of growing competition and changing market trends.

“They have been super, in every way,” said Truro resident John Greer.

As a customer for about 30 years, Greer said helpful, personal service and friendly staff kept him coming back.

“It’s a great store, they’ve got everything you need in the hardware line. And they’re great to deal with, they’re helpful,” he said.

“They are close and you don’t get the service at other places you get here. They’re great.”

And, “yes” Greer said, he will miss the staff when the store is gone.

“Not as much as we’ll miss you guys,” clerk Paulette Mattison responded.

Ringing up Greer’s sale on her cash register, Mattison returned his sentiment.

“I am going to miss the people,” she said. “Overall the customers gave been great. They really have. And, it’s not been a hard job to deal with.”

 Mattinson only works on a part-time basis now but overall, she has been employed at the store for about 35 years.

“The workers that I work with are great. And Les is a good boss and Brian is a good boss,” she said.

Although she is not sure what she will do to fill the time that she would normally spend at the store, Mattinson doesn’t plan to just sit around.

“I know that I have a lot of stuff to catch up on at home but I am going to have to find something to do so I don’t just stagnate.”

The building has been sold and the store shelves are quickly being emptied and removed as more and more customers learn about the planned closing.

Although the exact closing date has not been determined, the premises must be vacated by March 31 when the new owner, Costandi Designs, takes possession.

Currently located in North River, Costandi Designs will be relocating after renovations are completed.


Brian Ellis has had quite the run

It’s amazing how fast a half century can fly by when you’re having fun.

Just ask Brian Ellis. He’s worked for the same retail location at 45 Willow Street, Truro for almost 53 years.

“They went quick,” the Home Hardware store manager said.

Ellis, of Upper North River, was sitting in a grade 12 classroom, oh, so many years ago when he decided he simply didn’t want to be there anymore. Having no plans to continue with post-secondary education, he went home and told his father he didn’t want to go to school anymore.

“He said, ‘well, you have to, unless you have a job.’ So I had a job the next day.”

Although the store has been a Home Hardware location since 1973, it was originally opened as Truro’s first Canadian Tire by Walter Mosher in 1938. And that attraction prompted Ellis to begin his job search there in the mid-1960s.

“I liked tinkering on old cars, I was in here all the time. My buddies and I used to buy an old junker for 50 bucks and race it back at the ball field at the airport in Bible Hill,” he said.

“I was always fixing old cars and stuff, so I thought Canadian Tire would be a good place to work.”

Ellis initially worked in the automotive parts department. These were the days before computers, when everything had to be looked up manually.

“You had great big books that long then, to look up a part,” he said, holding his hands wide.

There also weren’t as many makes and models of automobiles, so searches were simpler than today.

“And once you knew a part you didn’t have to look up the number unless it was an oddball thing,” he said.

Nonetheless, you were still required to go through the motions or risk being questioned by the customer. That premise also applied to common parts he knew were sold out.

“And you knew you were out of stock, too, but you still had to go out back and stand there for a few minutes and come back out because they wouldn’t believe you if you just said, ‘uh, I haven’t got it.’”

After a few years when the Canadian Tire store began to get into more lines of hardware, the building was expanded and Ellis’s job changed directions.

In 1973, owner Les Mosher sold the Canadian Tire franchise and the Willow Street building was converted into a Home Hardware.

While technological advances and computerization improved things from an inventory/management perspective, growing competition from larger operations have provided challenges over the years, Ellis said.

When a Home Hardware building supply centre opened its doors a short distance away in 2012, business dropped by 20 per cent “right off the bat.,” Ellis said. But thanks to the support of loyal customers, including their larger commercial accounts, the store continued to survive.”

But a much larger hit came in 2001.

“The biggest thing that shook up everybody around was when Walmart came to town. You had to learn to adapt,” Ellis said.

Then meant doing away with various sports equipment lines and other areas where they simply couldn’t compete on price.

“We stopped selling bicycles right away and that type of thing.”

More recently, the biggest challenge to the retail market, has been the growing use of online shopping, Ellis said.

And even when members of the young generation do venture in, their shopping habits are considerably different from their older clientele who don’t pass the cash register at the front of the store before stopping to inquire about a particular product.

“But that doesn’t happen with young people. That’s the biggest difference I see,” he said. “Young people don’t want to socialize. They’ll come in the store and they’ll walk around for a half an hour looking for something and then leave. And never ever ask you a question. Everybody just wants to do it themselves.”

The curled and well-worn floor tiles and other fading characteristics of the old store serve as testament to its age and head office has said it would like to see the building dressed up a bit.

But Ellis, 72, and Mosher, 79, are both well past the traditional retirement age and the time has come to put their retail lives behind them.

“Well, we’re getting old and the building is getting old,” he said. “I’ve got a list that long at home … I might get the siding on my garage.”

But that doesn’t mean Ellis won’t miss his customers, his boss of so many years and fellow employees.

“There’s not too many stores where you can go in and kid around and shoot the breeze and tell a few jokes and stuff like that anymore.”

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