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Trail Blazers: The Company Store

Trail Blazers is a weekly feature in partnership with the Trail Museum and Archives
Company Store staff inside the store, taken shortly before the business was formally transferred to the Hudson’s BayCompany, Nov. 1, 1951. L-R: First row; Manager J. Lloyd Crowe, Albert Hild, Al Coverdale, Tommy Alty, Hilda Phillips,Christina Wolfe, Lena Fresu, Jimmy Kinahan, Rita LePage, Peggy Royce, Ernie Andreas. L-R: Second row; DannyMacDonald, Noreen Sewell, Dorothy St. Marie, Jean Hewlett, Joan Rogers, Anna Devito, Celia D’Arcangelo, Betty Forgie-Thompson, Rose Venier, Jean York, Jim Kirker, Jack Reardon. L-R: Third row; Harry Mann, Jack Arnold, Lloyd Wilkinson,Draga Wolfe, Sheldon Craig, Tony Krause, Jim Mark, Grace Hall (?), Johnny Woods, Geoff Hinton. Back: Ernie Strudwick.Photo: Trail Historical Society

This week’s Trail Blazers harkens back to a time when department stores were fully staffed, richly designed, and offered well-made, sometimes luxurious goods, meant to fill and exceed the needs of growing families.

Also known at the Retail Department, The Company Store was a community-oriented operation first established in 1917 as an outlet on Bay Avenue by the former Consolidated Mining & Smelting Company (now Teck Trail).

The store initially sold groceries. It later expanded into selling a variety of goods for low prices, including furnishings and household goods. Back in the day, these “good deals” were said to frustrate other local merchants.

In 1919, it relocated to a larger store in the “Doukhobor Block,” located at the southwest corner of Bay Avenue and Eldorado Street in downtown Trail.

Then in 1925, a new, modern, 25,000-square foot structure was built on the corner of Cedar Avenue and Eldorado Street.

By 1931, the department store employed around 34 local men and women, who lived in the apartments above.

The Company Store was not just a place to shop, it was a part of the community. The property was decorated for special occasions, and staff participated in the city’s festive parades.

“At the time of it’s opening, this building was the talk of the town,” Trail archivist Addison Oberg notes. “It featured the first electric elevator in Trail, full men’s and women’s apartments above, and was practically fire-proof,” she adds.

“The famous X-ray machine and mezzanine that both came later cemented this memorable spot in young and old minds alike.”

The Trail retailer operated from Cedar and Eldorado until it was bought by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1951.

The last sale at the Company Store was made on Halloween morning to Mrs. D. Williamson, by longtime grocery department manager, Tommy Alty.

The building was demolished in 1954.

A new store was constructed on the site, only to become another Hudson’s Bay. Many years later the store became Zellers, and today it’s Trail Pharmasave plus office spaces.

Does anyone remember The Company Store?

Sheri Regnier

About the Author: Sheri Regnier

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