It has been 30 years since Malcolm Firkser and his father took over Sunnybrook Home Hardware, but he still hears tales about Mr. Scott and Gibby – two of the previous owners.
When Sunnybrook Plaza was developed as the first strip mall in Canada, one of the tenants was a hardware store. That will no longer be the case after Malcolm and his business leave, probably around the end of the year. The signs in the window say the business is closing. A letter by the cash offers details – Malcolm is not retiring, since he has three other Home Hardware locations in the east end of the city, and HomePro Pest Control servicing mostly apartment buildings, but he will no longer be at Sunnybrook. The business losses at this location during these last few years made the decision to leave a practical one, if not a particularly easy one.
Originally from South Africa, the whole Firkser family came to Canada to start a new life after Malcolm had completed his compulsory military service in the air force. He took two and a half years of a three-year small business course at Seneca College, then decided the time had come to run a small business. His father ran hardware stores in South Africa, so continuing with one in Canada seemed a good idea. It was strange, though, that just down Bayview, also in Leaside, was another Home Hardware store, also owned by a South African, Raymond Gork. The two businesses always acted in a friendly, not competitive manner towards each other. At one time, various BBQs would come with different coloured lids – and Malcolm and Raymond would swap lids as needed to keep their customers happy.
The one treat Malcolm intends to give himself when he leaves Sunnybrook is to take Saturdays off. He figures he has only missed working a handful of Saturdays over the years, except when he was on vacation or for a religious holiday. He and his wife intend to pursue more weekend road trips, as long as they can bring their English bulldog with them.
Malcolm’s three children all grew up working in the store, but have since moved on. Both sons are in B.C. and his daughter is in Israel.
In the small world department, the teenager who babysat our daughters when they were young, Bill Vincent, grew up and worked for Malcolm at Sunnybrook until his health forced him to leave at a young age. Malcolm and Bill allowed me to share an excerpt from the note Bill wrote to Malcolm recently: “You may have had smarter staff, and those with better memories and muscles, but you had no employee more honest, caring and dedicated to a profitable store than me. I do hope that you know that inside, because it comes from within my heart. That, Sir, was solely created by you, and only you deserve the credit for that amount of dedication.”
As a further example of that loyalty, Malcolm’s longtime employees, Heather, Ruthann and Andrew, have all been offered jobs at Malcolm’s other stores.
While Malcolm expected to feel sad about the closing, what has surprised him has been the sadness of his customers who have become friends, who now wonder “what am I going to do?” without their familiar store and staff.