Pollock’s Hardware days numbered? Facing mounting losses, co-op board calls special meeting seeking authority 'to wind down affairs... proceed to dissolution'

There are some things you're going to miss about Pollock's Hardware store when it closes, besides the old-timey tools and galvanized nails and personal service.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/02/2019 (1454 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There are some things you’re going to miss about Pollock’s Hardware store when it closes, besides the old-timey tools and galvanized nails and personal service.

Like the cat that always seems to be sleeping on the counter or at the end of a blind aisle in one of those round, fluffy pet beds.

Or the dog you may not see but you can always hear by its tag jangling around its neck as it beats a path along the well-worn wood-plank floors.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES The original Pollock's Hardware at 1407 Main Street, became a co-op about 10 years ago when the private owners tried to sell.

Capitalism, Schmapitalism, they seemed to say, sleepy-eyed and part of the story about how a small neighbourhood hardware store morphed into a co-op and fought back against the big box stores.

Their last stand seems to be over after the board of directors issued a circular on Wednesday recommending the store be closed.

“Sustained losses have demonstrated the co-op is no longer economically viable,” the board of directors said in a message to the membership.

A special meeting has been called to act on a resolution authorizing the board “to wind down the affairs of the co-operative and proceed to dissolution.”

A year ago, Pollock’s closed its Osborne Street outlet. This last store, the original, is at 1407 Main Street. Pollock’s became a co-op about 10 years ago when the private owners tried to sell.

Pollock’s chair Blair Hamilton and store manager Steve Kirk declined to comment until they meet with members on Sat., Feb. 16, at the Luxton Community Centre, 210 St. Cross St., from 2 – 4 p.m.

But the report from the board of directors paints a bleak picture.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Besides the old-timey tools and personal service, Pollock's was home to a cat that always seems to be sleeping on the counter.

The co-op has sustained losses the past six years of about $220,000, more than the value of all investment shares issued.

Losses were $32,549 in 2014; $76,199 in 2015; $59,710 in 2016; $30,600 in 2017; and $22,888 in 2018.

While losses are down the past couple of years, so are sales. Sales were down 24 per cent in 2018, on top of a 12 per cent drop the previous year.

The co-op raised about $50,000 five years ago through a provincial tax credit program, but apparently, that’s not an option that can be utilized again

“Despite everyone’s best efforts, the co-op has been struggling to pay its bills for a number of years,” the board said. “Unfortunately, the losses have mounted over the years, and it is time (in the judgment of the board) to liquidate our assets and pay as many of our obligations as possible.”

It sounds like a fait accompli but not so fast, said Anna Krulicki, who has worked full-time at Pollock’s for three years. Krulicki received her termination notice a week ago.

She is hopeful the community will rally again to support the store. “It’s going to be interesting to hear what the members say” at the special meeting, she said. “I’m here every day and there’s a lot of community support and I think people will be really upset.”

MARTIN CASH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Pollock’s Hardware Co-op general manager Steve Kirk will meet with co-op members on Sat., Feb. 16, at the Luxton Community Centre.

The co-op has about 3,000 members.

However, if members vote to defeat the resolution for dissolution, the board will resign. Krulicki said that may not be as insurmountable a problem as it sounds. “There is a slate of candidates ready to step up,” she said.

The board said making payroll has been “touch and go” and a year ago board members paid out $4,500 from their own pockets to see that staff were paid “but are unwilling to continue to do so.”

Unaware of the impending closure, customer Wayne Simpson walked into the store looking for a three-pronged plug for his extension cord. There’s been a run on the plugs, he’s told, from people forgetting and driving off without unplugging their block heater.

As if on cue, Simpson began waxing poetic about the hardware stores of his youth. “My first job was at the hardware store at Hartford and Main. I was 12-years-old. This store reminds me of that,” reminisced Simpson, a retired letter carrier. (Store personnel said they hear customers reminisces like clockwork.)

When told Pollock’s now faces the same fate as all the hardware stores of his childhood, his sentiment hardens. “This store has been a landmark in this community forever,” he said. “You’re not spending $10 on fuel to buy a $5 item” like at big box stores located at shopping centres.

Another customer, Richard Kennett, confessed to what may be the greatest advantage for customers but the bane of hardware stores like Pollock’s. He only buys small things at the hardware store like a new plug, a cord, a few screws, a small bag of nails.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Pictured in 2018, former co-manager at Pollock's Co-op Anna Krulicki, centre, received her termination notice a week ago but is hopeful the community will rally in support of the store.

“I know when I come here it’s usually for small things and I understand that’s problematic,” he said. “I come here and I feel guilty, spending 25 cents here, $1.50 there.”

The message from the board said the co-op lasted 10 years and shouldn’t view that as a failure. That’s twice the average lifespan of a retail store.

“The last decade of Pollock’s Hardware has been an act of resistance — resistance to a globalized and automated economy that doesn’t value local neighbourhoods or the social capital the contain,” it said.


Updated on Thursday, February 7, 2019 9:18 AM CST: Corrects that board members paid out $4,500

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