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Remember This? How Vic and Wib jumped on a great opportunity

Opening a store during the Great Depression was a leap of faith, but it resulted in a long-running business
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Canadian Tire - Remember This
Courtesy of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library

From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:

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Remember This . . . Canadian Tire 

Canadian Tire was founded in 1922 by two brothers, John William Billes and Alfred Jackson Billes. 

They bought their first store in Toronto for $1,800 and by underselling their competition they went on to create a company that would be a wholesale distributor of automobile accessories.  Their success led to the first franchise store opening in 1934 with many more following throughout Ontario and Eastern Canada before spreading into Western Canada.  

Locally, two brothers, Vic and Wib Muncaster recognized that there was a great opportunity to bring Canadian Tire to Sault Ste. Marie. 

They opened their store in the fall of 1938 at 368 Queen Street East with about 1,900 square feet of floor space.  Opening a new business during the Great Depression was certainly a leap of faith! 

At one point the Royal Bank called to tell them that they were overdrawn by $25.  They immediately called the Boychuk Brothers, operators of a taxi company on King Street, and told them that they were having a sale on tires – only $12.98 each when you bought a pair.  The Boychuks immediately bought a pair of tires and the Muncasters ran straight down the street to the Royal Bank to deposit the money! 

With this kind of ingenuity, the business thrived and they rapidly ran out of space in their first location.  In 1940, they moved their store down the street to a larger location at 344 Queen Street East, increasing to about 21,000 square feet of display space. 

When Wib Muncaster was called up to join the Navy in 1940, he sold his interest in the store to his brother Vic.  The success of the local store was recognized by the Canadian Tire Corporation organization in the late1940s and held up as an example of one of their finest stores in the CTC family.  In 1958, the Sault store was ranked 4th in total volume of sales for all of the CTC stores.  

Introduced in 1958, the ‘cash bonus coupons’ commonly known as ‘Canadian Tire Money’ rapidly became a unique and favourite perk for customers.  Every dollar spent in cash in the store gave the customer an added three-per-cent discount which is returned to the customer in the form of Canadian Tire Money.  Technology has changed the way that customers receive their Canadian Tire Money today with customers having the option to have this discount loaded onto a card which records their discount digitally instead of saving the actual paper money.  

Initially the inventory consisted of automotive parts, hardware, farming equipment and other products that appealed primarily to men.  While these are still important products that are available in the store, new product lines were added throughout the years so that they widened their target audience to include all members of the family.   

Vic Muncaster managed the store for about 26 years until his retirement in the spring of 1964 and many people became loyal and faithful customers throughout the years.  When Paul Dalseg bought the store in 1971 he realized that the store had outgrown its current site.  Due to the limited space in the store, merchandise was stored in about five warehouses and brought to the downtown store as needed. It was clear that a larger retail space was needed.  So a new building was constructed and in 1974 the store was relocated to its current site on the corner of Great Northern Road and McNabb Street.  With an additional expansion in 1984, the store grew to about 28,500 square feet of retail floor space.  In 1998, a $6.5-million expansion increased the retail floor space to about 52,000 square feet plus increased storage space and additional space in the automotive centre.     

Matt Lawless purchased the local store in 1994 and remained as the owner until his retirement in 2012.  During this time he added a new element to the shopping experience of our residents by instituting the “Night to Remember” shopping event on Black Friday.  Shoppers swarmed to the store to take part in this event with their drastic discounts and timed sales.  

Starting with Vic Muncaster and continuing with each successive owner, the local Canadian Tire store has weathered many storms over the years by constantly coming up with innovative strategies to make it a popular shopping destination for the whole family.  

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Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provides SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

Find out more of what the Public Library has to offer at www.ssmpl.ca and look for more Remember This? columns here