THEN AND NOW: Canadian Tire changed the dynamics of downtown
In 1938, Hamp Fralick opened Barrie’s first Canadian Tire store at Dunlop and Mulcaster streets, but it was “Mr. Canadian Tire’s Arch Brown that really left its mark on the city
This ongoing series from Barrie Historical Archives curator Deb Exel shows old photos from the collection and one from the present day, along with the story behind them.
Canadian Tire — Dunlop Street West
In the early 1900s, the north side of Elizabeth Street (now called Dunlop Street West) between Toronto and High Street was not too busy or densely developed. That wouldn’t always be the case.
At the east end of the block was Lowe’s Furniture, housed in the former Royal Hotel, an elegant establishment popular in its heyday. The Lowes had moved west from a small store on the northeast corner of Mary Street to the much larger hotel premises.
The Lowe family were not only known for their generational furniture store, but also for the beautiful Shetland ponies they kept on their Lo-Land ranch, now at the west end of Wellington Street.
Across the block at Elizabeth and High Streets, well set back from the street, was the charming home of Nathaniel and Annie Dyment – Rowanhurst.
And between these two important buildings was the grocery by James Cheesman.
Cheesman, tailor, was born in 1851 in Tunbridge Wells, England. When he arrived in Canada in 1872, he spent time in Toronto, Collingwood and Rome, NY, before settling in Barrie in 1874, working for the tailor A. McNab on Dunlop Street.
While still working as a tailor, James established a grocery store with his brother, John, on Elizabeth Street, with a house next door on a narrow strip of land.
In 1879 James returned to England to marry Naomi Crowhurst, also from her home town of Tunbridge Wells.
Back in Barrie the same year, James bought out his brother’s share of the grocery store. James and Naomi had three children together before his death in 1891. James remarried in 1893 to Sarah Hunter and together they had six children.
In 1921, James sold the grocery business to his son, James.
Years later, a new company will appear on this to blockwhich would radically change the city center.
In 1938, Hamp Fralick opened the first Canadian Tire store in Barrie at the corner of Dunlop and Mulcaster streets. He soon moved the business west in 1940, to the corner of Dunlop and Mary streets, where WD Minnikin’s the funeral home had operated.
Ten years later, Fralick built his new modern store — specifically designed to sell and service Canadian Tire products — right between Lowe’s Furniture and Cheeseman’s grocery store. In July 1953 Fralick sold the franchise to Roy Ronald of Fergus. That same year, Archibald (Arch) John Davidson Brown became the Canadian Tire Associate Dealer in Barrie.
Arch Brown had extensive business experience before landing in Barrie: managing a travel agency in Toronto, overseeing Trans-Canada Airlines in Malton and Nassau, General Motors Canada’s youngest district sales manager before become sales manager of the Canadian Tire dealership. Company.
In 1955, only five years after the “new” canadian tire store open, it was expanding and would soon cover most of the block. Rowanhurstthe old Dyment house, was demolished and a gas station would stand on this corner as part of the huge new Operation Canadian Tire.
The downtown hypermarket parking lot stretched where Kembla Grange, the home of Deputy Warden Fletcher and the former Barrie General Hospital, once stood on High Street. But, in the face of increasing parking and traffic problems, in a bold move, Arch moved its Canadian Tire business to the former Savette store on Bayfield Street in 1976.
Many doubted Canadian Tire could survive the move to the wilderness of Bayfield Street, but by 1988 the store employed 180 workers and Bayfield Street became the Golden Mile of business.
When Arch retired from Canadian Tire in 1995, his store was the best-selling store in Canada. And the little store that brought him to Barrie is still standing.
Arch Brown wasn’t just known for his success as Mr. Canadian Tire. His accomplishments, beyond the Canadian Tire organization (did you know he was responsible for the corporate deployment of Canadian Tire Money?) would require many more words than my kind editor would allow. The list of Arch Brown’s many conferred titles, awards, advisory positions and boards of directors is long.
But if I had to mention a few, I’d start with Arch’s idea to use the Huron (Ouendat) word “chay” like “aloha” from Simcoe County to Barrie’s first FM radio station, CHAY ; his generosity and deep involvement with Georgian college; his extensive involvement in numerous service organizations, local military establishments and community volunteer initiatives; and the naming and copyright donation of Barrie’s own sea monster, Kempenfelt Kelly.
Arch also received the Governor General’s Commemorative Medal (1992), was invested into the Order of Canada (1995), received a Golden Jubilee Medal (2002) and was invested into the Order of the Ontario in 2004. Arch Brown’s caring and commitment to the community was quite legendary.
I think that’s the story of Canadian Tire that most people remember.