Thursday, December 18, 2008

They built this city

It was back in 1921 that what eventually would become the Philpot Evitt company first opened up shop in the city, beginning almost ninety years of commercial services to the Prince Rupert area.

The long time fixture on the local scene closed its doors last week, bringing to an end that chapter in the history of Prince Rupert. The Philpott Evitt store, will soon take on a new name and the keys handed over to a new owner as Kamloops based Rick Kurzac will reopen the location under the Home Hardware Building Centre banner sometime in 2009.

Kurzac will take possession of the operation and renovate the store as of January 1st, with the plan of keeping on the current staff and perhaps later on adding to the employment rolls in the city.

The new store will offer a new business plan, different way of doing thins and a different line of stock and services for the city, providing for changing times in the building supplies industry.

The Tuesday Daily News took a look back at the history of the company that was there almost from the city's very beginning days, growing and retreating as the city's economy went up and down over the years.

Business icon that helped to build the city closes
By Monica Lamb-Yorski
The Daily News
Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pages one and three

One of Prince Rupert's longest established businesses, Philpott Evitt Building Centre closed on Saturday.

The business has been bought by Rick Kurzac of Kamloops who owns two building supply and home centres and he plans to reopen it as a Home Hardware Building Centre.

Kurzac takes over on Jan. 1, 2009, and plans to renovate the store. He has indicated he is going to offer employment to the existing staff.

Speaking inside one of the upstairs offices overlooking the store on Saturday morning, Bruce Forward, one of the main shareholders and managing directors of Philpott Evitt, said the business has gone through some good times and some difficult times.

"As you can appreciate, the owners are getting older and we felt it would be good to find a buyer," he said.

Opened in June 1921 by Hugh A. Philpott and Charlie. Evitt, general agents, insurance brokers, auctioneers and coal dealers, the business has always been supportive of the community, said Forward.

Both Evitt and Philpott were pioneers in Prince Rupert who were sent overseas during the First World War.

When they returned, their interests were in the future development of the city and its future development.

The business had a few different locations before settling in to the Rupert Square Mall in 1975.
It started off in the Hays Building on the corner of Second Avenue and Second Street and expanded to include a large storage facility on the waterfront beside the tracks and wharf.

After the Second World War, a large building at 906 Second Avenue erected in 1942 for the U.S. Engineering Department, was taken over by the business.

When a new shopping centre was being built in Prince Rupert, the business owners wondered if they should rent a space in the building to use as a warehouse.

"But the more we looked at it the more we thought about making a store. We did the lease holding improvements to open a store in May of l975 before the mall opened in August. We could open because we weren't part of the mall," Forward recalled.

Forward, now 71-years old, started working at Philpott Evitt in 1964 as an accountant/book keeper.

His father Don, was the general manager of the store at the time, and Forward's brother Rick, who had been in the navy, also came to work at the store as a clerk.

Don had arrived in Prince Rupert during the Second World War to work as a director at the YMCA, responsible for the recreation of US and Canadian armed forces.

After the war, the YMCA sold its gymnasium, located at the corner of McBride Avenue and Second Street, to the City and Don became the first manager.

During his stint as Recreation Manager, Don was appointed by the BC government as a coroner and magistrate, and some of his duties involved going to Kitimat.

Alcan was building the new town of Kitimat out of the wilderness at the time and asked Don if he would be interested in opening a building supply store there.

Don told Alcan he didn't know if he could afford it but said he knew some guys in Prince Rupert at Philpott Evitt that might be interested in putting something together.

As a result of Don's efforts, Kitimat Builder Supplies, with a whole bunch of owners, opened in 1953 and Don was the new store's manager.

In 1963 Don became general manager of the Rupert store as well.

When he retired in 1974, Bruce became managing director and Rick went on as manager first at Kitimat and later in Prince Rupert.

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