One hundred years of hardware Old-timey nighbourhood institution, Pollock’s Hardware Co-op, marks milestone; members hope it sticks around ‘for another 100 years’
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/04/2022 (313 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The wooden floor creaks as Janelle Sutherland reaches across the counter.
She grabs an application form; it’s her first step to becoming a new member at a 100-year-old Manitoban institution.
Sutherland wasn’t a customer in 1955, when thieves stole $7 from Pollock’s Hardware’s cash register after failing to break into the safe. She wasn’t around for the arrival of Ratchet, the store’s grey and white cat, over a decade ago.
Still, Sutherland said she feels the 1407 Main St. shop’s history.
“I just love the store because of the antiqueness,” Sutherland said Thursday. “If you want to find something, it’s here.”
She clutches the paper in her hands while eyeing the plant section (her usual Pollock’s haunt). She’s been a customer for about 10 years, so it’s time to fill out the membership form, she said.
“I just love the store because of the antiqueness. If you want to find something, it’s here.” – Janelle Sutherland
“I was kind of sad when I thought, a few years back, (Pollock’s was) going to shut down,” she said. “It makes me feel good to be a member here, to help out the store… Keep it for another 100 years.”
The sole reason the retailer has hit its centennial milestone is because of its members, according to Luba Bereza, Pollock’s Hardware Co-op’s board chair.
The community is why the shop can still sell paint — just as it advertised it did in the 1920s and 30s — and nuts, bolts, scrapers, cables, kitchen wares and car brushes, among other things.
“The evolution of the store has really been kind of the, ‘When you can’t find (it) anywhere else, come to Pollock’s,’ kind of reputation,” Bereza said.
The big box stores of the world don’t always keep the older items needed for repairing 100-year-old homes, Bereza said. That’s where Pollock’s steps in.
“The items that we have kind of reflect the neighbourhood,” Bereza said.
Her nearby home was built in 1908. She started buying from Pollock’s when she moved to the community in 1998, she said.
The shop hit a rough patch in 2007: Wayne and Lois Cash, the store’s owners, were looking to retire, and they closed Pollock’s Hardware that December. They’d initially put the shop on the market 13 years earlier but never found a taker.
A group of locals pushed back. They brainstormed ideas to save Pollock’s while huddled in the basement bar of Lisi’s Ranch House on Main Street, which has since closed.
Before the hardware hub’s closure, the residential group posted a sign-up sheet to gauge interest on who might get involved if Pollock’s became a co-operative.
“The items that we have kind of reflect the neighbourhood.” – Board chair Luba Bereza
“The response was very encouraging (and) a number of volunteers signed up to help,” John Loxley, the group’s leader, wrote in a document outlining Pollock’s Hardware Co-op’s experience transitioning to a co-operative.
The local group formed an interim board and held their first public meeting at Luxton Community Centre on Jan. 15, 2008. They decided to sell memberships for $25 and use the province’s community enterprise development tax credit through issuing investment shares.
Within the first year, 1,258 people had signed on, contributing $31,450 — far exceeding the board’s 200 member goal, Loxley wrote.
Members can vote on matters affecting the business, and some have investment shares in the company.
Pollock’s received a $67,000 loan from the Jubilee Fund in 2008 and another $50,000 as the years passed.
It continued to service Winnipeggers: staff would order items specifically for customers, though not all requests could be filled.
“We get some (asks for) kitchen accessories that existed, like, 50 years ago and were discontinued,” said Anna Krulicki, an employee who’s been with Pollock’s for roughly seven years.
Ratchet, the store’s resident mascot, came to call Pollock’s home while still a kitten. Krulicki estimates the feline is 12 or 13 years old, but nobody knows for sure.
“I was told that someone just opened the back door and threw her in (here),” Krulicki said.
Ratchet’s food bowl is near the window; her bed is wherever she chooses to lay. At one point, a former Pollock’s manager would bring their Jack Russell terrier to greet customers, too.
“It’s kind of like a small town vibe here, so having that in the middle of the city is nice,” Krulicki said.
Pollock’s opened a South Osborne site in 2013 but closed after five years of consistently losing money. It was part of the Social Enterprise Centre around the same time.
The primary location on Main Street came to the brink of shuttering in 2019. The board reported the company had sustained losses of around $220,000 over the last six years. It planned to dissolve the co-op.
The membership “soundly rejected that,” Bereza said.
That’s when she got involved with the board. So, too, did Aaron Steinberg, who’s now Pollock’s general manager.
“Pollock’s, as a staple in this community, (is) just so convenient for coming to buy anything for fixing up old houses,” Steinberg said. “It broke my heart to hear of a potential closing, and I wanted to be part of the movement to prevent (that).”
Steinberg — who has a 1910s era home in Luxton — said he remembers the local community centre being filled with people opposing the closure.
“That was a really tense time,” Bereza said.
A new board volunteered at the store, rebuilt relationships with suppliers and went through a lot of financial finetuning, Bereza said.
In 2020, they announced they’d paid their debts from the Jubilee Fund. But, COVID-19 hasn’t made things easy, Bereza said.
“We’re just really grateful we got to this point, considering the last few years have been just a nightmare for business,” she said.
The company was negatively impacted despite being deemed an essential business, Bereza said. They opened an online store in 2020 to boost sales.
“We see things improving in terms of the morale,” Bereza said. “The momentum’s going in the right direction, so that’s really heartening for us.”
The century-old shop has change brewing: YouTube home repair and renovation tutorials and shipping for online orders could be coming soon.
“We have members that are abroad or in British Columbia or wherever — including my mom — who would love to support the store, and if she had the option of buying online… that would be something that we’d like to see,” Steinberg said.
They’re now offering machine and tool rentals for folks who don’t want to purchase items like rototillers and pressure washers.
This April, Pollock’s will host a speaker series focused on North End stories as part of its 100th birthday celebration. It will have a weekend of markets, bands and beer gardens on June 24 through 26. A 100 year plaque will also be unveiled, Bereza said.
The company now has around 4,100 members. The exact date of Pollock’s Hardware’s founding is unknown, Bereza said.
It’s partnering with a local brewery to create a beer celebrating its birthday. The final product will be publicly available later this year.
Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.