Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hardware co-op to expand?

Success on Main prompts Pollock's to mull new shop

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The little hardware store cannot be stopped.

Five years ago, Pollock's Hardware, the north Main Street institution, was saved by an energetic community effort.

A co-operative was formed that now boasts about 2,400 members, more than $50,000 was raised in a special equity offering with a 30 per cent tax credit, a mortgage was negotiated with Assiniboine Credit Union and guaranteed by the Jubilee Fund and the store has gone on to flourish.

It's doing so well, it has to pay the Canada Revenue Agency $11,000 in income tax this year.

There's a unique, old-timey feel to the place, attentive staff (a total of 12 full- and part-time), a full-service Benjamin Moore paint service and some semi-exclusive housewares lines.

And now it's time to expand.

The co-op is looking to open a new small store in south Osborne.

The kind of input they get from a community open house at the Riverview Community Centre at 7 p.m. Tuesday will help the board of directors determine whether or not to sign a lease on an 800-square-foot storefront at 550 Osborne St. near Morley Avenue.

Mike Wolchock, the general manager and creative director of Pollock's Hardware Co-op, said there are all sorts of reasons a store on south Osborne will make sense -- not the least of which is the belief there is still plenty of interest in small urban hardware stores.

"I have spent a lot of time looking at what everyone else is doing, and there are little hardware stores all over the place (in southern Ontario)," Wolchock said. "The big stores are all going at each other and we are left by the wayside to flourish. They don't even think of us. We are not on their radar screen."

The Main Street store is about 3,000 square feet -- almost four times the size of the proposed new one. It has about 18,000 items but not many power tools (there are, however, eight different types of manual meat grinders). The new Osborne Street store would carry about 1,000 of the most popular items.

"We think it's a community that looks like it might be under-represented," said John Loxley, the chairman of Pollock's Hardware Co-op. "This is a small store which would be appropriate. We have done a preliminary budget and if there is enough support we will go ahead. We think the risk is relatively low, otherwise we wouldn't do it."

A year ago, Pollock's opened a warehouse location to service contractors, in particular BUILD (Building Urban Industries for Local Development).

With a little more space to handle a little more inventory, Wolchock bought some additional goods and store fixtures on the cheap with the sale and closure of some McDiarmid Lumber stores.

"That was an unbelievable opportunity." Wolchock said. "If you have money and a warehouse to sort through the stuff, you can set up cheap. We bought up a store's worth of inventory for next to nothing. Now we are ready to move on it."

Jane Wilson, president of the Osborne South Business Improvement Zone, who works and lives in the neighbourhood, said she thinks it's something everyone in the area would support.

"I think the neighbourhood would definitely embrace it and benefit from that type of business on the street," she said. "It would be great to have a place where you get a few little essentials and not have to hop in the car to drive to Linden Woods to go to Rona or Home Depot and walk up and down the aisles."

Pollock's has done well in its Main Street location -- despite the preponderance of vacant storefronts around it -- but Wolchock believes they may have tapped out the market potential.

"The people who want to participate are participating," he said "Unless we want to add on to the store and get bigger, we are not going to really increase sales by much, maybe five per cent per year. But if we add another location, we can move stuff."

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 14, 2013 B6

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Updated on Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 10:44 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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